I’ve been in the entrepreneurship education and facilitation business for over a decade, reaching perhaps over a million people around the world. Here are the five most important things I have learned:
While most communities tend to focus on the tired old branch-plant importation strategy and external investment to solve their economic challenges, communities that focus on fostering a culture of entrepreneurship will be the winners in the long run. Entrepreneurship creates jobs, high-knowledge skills that are transferable, and wealth that is reinvested locally.
Instead, entrepreneurship is a mindset that empowers an individual to take control of his or her own future and helps them realize personal goals and objectives. Most often, this takes the form of business ownership. But, it can also be about about freedom, lifestyle, self-confidence, family, community, and more. Entrepreneurial thinking is not limited to business owners, and not all business owners are necessarily entrepreneurial thinkers.
Sure, there’s something that can be said for the energy and try-anything attitude that comes with naivety, but the single most important factor for future success is past experience. Everything an entrepreneur does today, whether a success or failure, will build on the experience that ultimately leads to success, either in the entrepreneur’s own business or one in which she is participating in some way. Experience is the epitome of “pay it forward.”
There are two ways to gain experience: in the real world through our daily activities; or, virtually in an activity, game, simulation, or virtual world. Intuitively, we might automatically believe that there is no substitute for gaining experience in the real word. But, I’ve learned that this is not true. Rather than listing the specific benefits of virtual experience, consider this: How much time, money, risk, and heartache does it take to start and run a business before an entrepreneur gains sufficient experience to improve success? How much would it take to create 1,000 entrepreneurs? The answer is “too much.” Facilitating entrepreneurship through real-world experience is not scalable (it’s quite painful, in fact). Virtual experience is the only solution, and it’s the reason why I’ve been in the business of delivering such experiences for many years (see www.GoVenture.net). Further to our efforts to bring entrepreneurship to the world in a highly-scalable way, my team is about to launch a global multiplayer online game that will deliver authentic entrepreneurship experience, virtually, to potentially millions of people (see www.GoVentureWorld.com).
You have to work at it using a specific and holistic strategy with determined execution. Contrary to popular thinking, entrepreneurs are not created through education, startup seminars, networking events, business plan competitions, incubators, or lots of “talk”. They are created through life experience and the perfect timing of events, often beyond our control. Discovering a future entrepreneur is like finding a needle in a haystack. Sure, you can try all of those common strategies and you will find a few, but the real solution is to let entrepreneurs discover themselves and each other. This is accomplished by exposing entire communities to entrepreneurship and facilitating all of the activities that contribute to the creation and success of entrepreneurs. Many of those activities may not even appear to have anything to do with entrepreneurship, but they are all part of the magic process. Think about how professional sports teams foster talent from sports camps for kids to farm teams and the big leagues. From elementary school to our adult life, we are exposed to and impacted by sports in some way, and much of that activity is driven by the local community. Mobilizing entire communities is what makes the magic happen. (Creating a community-based tool for fostering entrepreneurship as part of a hyper-local community economic development strategy is another solution my team is working on).
My hope (and personal mission) is that entrepreneurship will become part of our culture with children and adults exposed to its power to change lives, communities, our nation, and the world.