Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Entrepreneurship

Last Monday I invited a number of local entrepreneurs to come share their experiences with my students.

The goal of the session was not to "promote" entrepreneurship. Rather like most of the other lectures, the goal is to provide students with a better understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of entrepreneurship.

My personal view is that the entrepreneurship cannot be taught (though some students vehemently disagree with me - but that's fine. It is certainly possible that the prof is wrong :-)).

The following sums up my view: "Entrepreneurship is an attitude, not a product".

Personally, I thought the session was really good and there are many lessons for the students to take away. However what they learnt would ultimately depend on how much attention they paid to what was said. What I will do is however to highlight some of the points that I think the students should take note and to respond to some of students' blogs.

1. Sales Matters (A LOT). I was glad that this point was emphasized several times by several speakers 'cos this is something that I have been stressing for most of the semester. Technology is not the key to success. What matters is to identify problems that people care about (pain points). If people will pay for the solutions, we will get rich; even if they don't, it's a public service.

2. Don't Try to be a "One-Stop Shop". There are not many problems that really matter. Once we identify one of these, just focus on solving it well instead of trying to solve every single problem under the sun at the same time. By being too ambitious, we likely end up solving nothing well at all.

3. It is not ALL about money. A question was asked and some of the speakers said that they are doing what they are doing for the money. Some students therefore interpret entrepreneurship as something that's all about one. I really don't think that's true. These folks actually LIKE what they are doing. The fact that they have the potential to get obscenely rich in the process doesn't hurt. At the same time, what they highlighted is that folks who want to be entrepreneurs better have an eye on the money 'cos if not, it's easy to go bust.

4. People Matter. One of the stories that students tend to cite is that one of Ash Singh chatting up some woman at a Starbucks and selling his business to the husband. Yes, networking is an important skill and aspiring entrepreneurs better get to know more people.

5. Be Ready to Seize Opportunities. Opportunities arise from time to time. Some amount of courage is required to seize them. :-)

6. It's not a Bed of Roses. Some of the students commented that the session seemed to emphasize too much on the good and not enough of the bad. As it turns out, most of the speakers are relatively successful in what they do. I guess it's hard to invite people to come share about what a loser they are.... then again, some of the speakers, especially Marc, talked about the pain of nearly going bust. Even HungryGoWhere wasn't profitable until recently.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my friends for taking time off their busy schedules to come share their experiences with my students. :-)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that entrepreneurship is something that cannot be taught and that it's an attitude rather than a product. The way entrepreneurship is promoted here gave me an impression that entrepreneurship is about starting a company, knowing how to sell yourself and seizing the opportunity. To me, it's not.
    To me, entrepreneurship is a spirit that urge you to bring up the best solution.
    To me, all the fancy formal clothes, colorful slides, busy networking sessions where everyone tries to expand their networks... are awkward without a good solution.
    Don't start something you don't believe in. And I believe only the "real" entrepreneur survived. Things like dot-com bubble proved that.