You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.
The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.
Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:
- Providing inspiration
- Providing tools and techniques to start
- Providing methods to sustain
- Providing approaches to scale
Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.
If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.
Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!
Having been involved in ‘entrepreneurship education’ for close to a decade, I can tell you one thing — the weakest part of any entrepreneurship program is the ‘opportunity’ piece. Let me illustrate with a recent experience.
I met up with a few students who had undergone a complete year of entrepreneurship education. They had to do a two month market research on a product / service and write up a report. Based on the discussions with their faculty, they narrowed upon two ideas: (i) food distribution and (ii) nutrition bars. After worrying about how to go about doing a market research, they walked up to me (not sure why!), and asked ‘Sir, can you help us choose one of the two ideas?’ I did what I normally do – asked how they arrived at these two ideas / opportunities? They said many things but ultimately accepted that it was through ‘imagination’. So what they basically now wanted to do was ‘validate’ (which meant) ‘prove’ that their idea / opportunity was worth creating a business on. I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to them why this was wholly wrong. The surprising part – the two kids quickly latched on the idea of searching for opportunities, rather than spending two months validating one. My belief that students are really smart was proven once again.
How do you (aspiring entrepreneurs) find opportunities?
Opportunities can be either created or discovered. Discovery means going out to the world and identifying gaps. Creation means coming up with a need/want that is not yet felt. As an entrepreneur you got to choose which route you wish to take to finding opportunities. My rule of thumb is – if you are trying to figure out which route, take ‘discovery’.
Discovering opportunities means finding out gaps. The easiest ways to begin is to start out by identifying gaps in the industry side or the market side. On the industry side one can quickly draw out the value chain and start looking at ways to fill / improve / disrupt / etc what exists. On the market side, one can identify which needs are not fulfilled, which are underserved, and what can be better delivered. While none of these are exhaustive ways to locating opportunities, it is a good beginning.
My advice to these students was – identify a sector of your choice (interest); look at it deeply from either the industry side and/or market side; use all available secondary information first; identify and speak to at least 30 people involved in the sector; analyse all the information; and create a list of 25 hot opportunities in the sector. Create the report.
Do you think they will have spent their summer usefully?
Do you think they will have located more opportunities than they knew off before?
Do you think this is a better way to deliver entrepreneurship education than quickly fixing the idea and evaluating / validating it?
Share you thoughts! It matters!
- Build something that ‘someone’ wants / needs
- Talk to a lot of people who look like that ‘someone’
Startups ought to do this, but most don’t! I am not the first person to say this. Every worthwhile investor says this. Every successful startup seems to have done it. Every unsuccessful startup says they should have done more of it. At times failed startups thank ‘step 2’ to have failed quickly and learned a lot from it.
But even these days when I talk to founders, I find that they simply get distracted by the variety of inputs they get and lose focus on the above two actions. They make assumptions and build on imaginations. These kill startups.
So, if you are an entrepreneur – ensure you and your co-founders do the above two things religiously. It will help you and your startup in more ways than what a mentor or investor can do for you.
Don’t Think! Just Act now on the above two things.
If you are not, its still ok! But, if no one around you is catching them, it signals a problem! While I have not caught Pokemons yet, many of my students are clearing them out from the Virtual World. They got me exposed to this!
No, I am not asking you, ‘teacher’, to play ‘Pokemon Go‘ but I am suggesting that you must keep yourself abreast of the quick developments taking place in the world of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Be around people (students) who are catching Pokemon. Figure out what they are doing and help them decipher the deeper trends behind the fun. They will value it forever. Here is something that you can do as an entrepreneurship educator.
When you are teaching entrepreneurship, one of the key things is to help aspiring and existing entrepreneurs identify emerging trends / be alert to changes. This helps them either find opportunities or create them. All of this is futuristic. And one of these futuristic trends is – VR / AR.
To help your students / participants appreciate and explore this new world, you need to be exposed yourself. Even if you don’t catch Pokemons, you need to understand a little more of this emerging trend.
Here is a nice article to get you up the curve: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/07/13/despite-hype-virtual-reality-still-years-away-making-difference-higher-ed?
Remember that this article provides you numerous pointers to identify opportunities around which million (possibly billion) dollar businesses can be built:
As an aspiring entrepreneur are you going to build one?
As an educator are you going to help one of your students build one?
Happy Reading, Happy Playing, Happy Imagining, Happy Entrepreneuring!
I asked one of the students who wanted to be an entrepreneur this question. He tried convincing me that there are innumerable factors (outstanding student loan, family pressure, peer pressure, social needs, etc) around him that’s stopping him. All of which seemed logical. But a personal experience this weekend gave me a strong response to his answer.
I usually like to jog every morning. Since the time I shifted homes, I have for some reason not jogged. For the first week or so, it was all about setting up. Then we had parents, in-laws, the weather was too cold, and then there were too many dogs around the apartments, inability to sleep on time, and so on. All reasons seemed fair and logical. So although I felt bad once in a while for not feeling as fit as before, I could not convince myself to run. This feeling had been welling up inside me for a while now. So, yesterday (Sunday) i got up a little earlier than usual and decided to go jog. It was a lot of pressure getting out of home. There was someone inside me saying ‘Why not sleep? Its Sunday, after all’ but somehow I had decided to step out. That was all that was needed. I loved it. The rest of the day I felt the pain in my body. This morning when I got up my legs were paining like hell. But I told myself, I loved it. So, there I was, jogging again. I think it is difficult to now stop getting out in the morning. Its the same mind at work. Isn’t it?
In this little (rather silly) episode lies the answer to the above question. ‘Who is (really) stopping you?’ Its ‘you’. All others are reasons that this ‘you’ is giving to you. So if you want to start a company, ‘start’, don’t find reasons to delay. As they say ‘life is too short’, why delay to live the life you have wanted. Entrepreneurship is the life that every wo(man) always wants to live. Entrepreneurship is not just starting a company, it is more than that. It is living life to your potential. It is exhausting yourself. It is experimenting. It is joy in the action. It is joy in doing. I have written this in earlier blogs, I have taught this in classes, I have written it in my books, I try to live it in my life.
Try it for yourself. For there is no one stopping you, except ‘yourself’.
VR as it is popularly called, Virtual Reality is a trend to track. Even if you are not an entrepreneur who is attempting to become the Google or Facebook of the VR revolution, you will be caught up in this world within worlds.
As though the existing levels of ‘maya’ are not enough, VR is adding another level of ‘maya’ to our lives. As with all things in life, it comes with immense possibility to make lives better. Just imagine sitting at home and watching the Wimbledon, or spending a day at Disneyland, or actually living in space for a day or just being in a story instead of reading it. Many functions such as marketing, many industries such as entertainment and education may be changed forever when VR goes mainstream. And all of these opportunities comes from very little imagination in very little time from one little mind. Just imagine the possibilities.
Google and Facebook are already on it. And so are the many startups around the world. Start reading to know where this will take the world. At least the possibilities are promising!
Here are two links to start reading:
Keep tracking and Keep reading!
While today we speak of companies such as Flipkart and Zomato, most of them seem to be running a ‘valuation’ game. But according to my understanding entrepreneurs must run a ‘value’ game. While the two should be related, there is a huge difference between the two.
Value – is what is created by the entrepreneur for a consumer. In the process the entrepreneur gets rewarded. All of this if done in a sustainable way, the business runs for a long period of time. Rare, but examples exist.
Valuation – is when an entrepreneur attempts to create value for themselves and their investors. They provide consumers services to make this happen. If the business makes through the difficult mathematical puzzle of numbers, it exists, else death is certain. Examples are a plenty, but exceptions exist.
If a startup create value for its customers, over time it is rewarded by valuation too! But if valuation is the focus, value is at times compromised, industries undergo turmoil and there is a shakeout of good players too. This is not very good for the long term.
Last week when I was speaking at a panel discussion I was reminded of this: why creating business models and identifying value are more important than raising money.
I hope entrepreneurs and startups understand this and live it. It is important considering the fact that, even if all the Venture Capital money flows in and gets invested, the number of startups getting funded will be a minuscule portion of the startup population. And more importantly, entrepreneurship is a career, a journey, not just a race or a competition.
Think and decide to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Its fun and fulfilling! I can vouch for it both from my personal experience and of having groomed many.