You have no idea how bad I want you to catch this disease.
We usually have a negative connotation to the word disease, but not in this instance. I believe entrepreneurship is a disease – albeit a good one – that can positively affect entire societies.
I recently ran across this statement on PandoDaily and it sums up how I feel about entrepreneurship:
I believe the key to creating a new Silicon Valley is to make entrepreneurship a cultural and societal norm for the region you’re trying to affect. Once it becomes a norm, it spreads like an infectious disease. If you believe entrepreneurship is what’s expected of you, it’s highly probable you’ll go after it regardless of how many VCs are nearby or whether or not there’s a local tech happy hour.
More and more often I am reading articles touching on a new norm in our society – college grads and people looking for jobs should prepare for a life of ‘temporary jobs” “part-time positions” and “a lifetime of ever changing job markets.”
Sounds promising, huh?
If you are a life long employee this is not good news. The traditional employee mentality will not cut it anymore.
But if you are an entrepreneur, or someone who views the world as a multitude of opportunities just waiting to be jumped on, you are embracing the times like there’s no tomorrow. You know that like it or not, your future is 100% dependent on you and you alone. The world is now your oyster and it requires you to think more like an entrepreneur than ever before.
So how do we spread the entrepreneurship mentality like a disease?
There was a time when jobs were secured and a lifetime in one profession or trade was the societal norm. Times have changed, yet we are still educating our children with the assumption they will have one job when we should be preparing them for a life of uncertainty. We need to adequately educate them on how to evaluate markets, find problems, build solutions and market services to the masses. We also need to prepare them for failure, and how to appropriately navigate around it when it inevitably hits.
Formal education such as Entrepreneurship courses and qualified majors are starting to pop up at universities around the country. This is a great first step but not at all good enough. I am encouraged with the movement of accelerators and incubators in the technology space, such as Founders Institute (which I experienced in 2011) as well as YCombinator, TechStars, 500 Startups and many others. Although great organizations, the challenge with these is the fact that they put the cart before the horse at the expense of many would be founders. One must enter pitching their product/service idea, already have a highly talented team, and previous successful experience in-so-much that they can pass the admittance interview. Unfortunately, it’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to get into YCombinator.
What about those who are too early in the process to gain acceptance to these elite programs? I believe entrepreneurship needs to bleed deeper into our society, influencing our youth at an earlier age. Hopefully, junior high and high schools will start to focus on entrepreneurship just as we previously focused on wood shop and auto shop. Also, more media attention and resources can help permeate the spread of the disease. This is where resources like Founders RAW (selfish plug), Under30CEO, Coursera, Udacity, entrepreneur.com and others must continue to focus on educating the early stage founder on a daily basis and in an easy to access virtual environment.
The stories need to be told. People need to be able to learn about other founders and realize these successful people are no different than the rest of us. Yet, I see a disturbing problem creating an unfortunately negative influence on our society. The stories of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg have become folklore to the point where they are unrelatable to the common man. The story of a Harvard dropout becoming a billionaire doesn’t help most people who are just trying to get to the next level in their newly started company.
The reason is we tend to compare ourselves to the other people, so stories about a billionaire doesn’t necessarily help a college grad taking their first step in creating their own startup. They need to hear realistic and relatable stories from people closer to their viewpoint of society. We need to do a better job of showcasing and publicizing early stage founders stories. We need to celebrate smaller wins, rather than wait till a founders sells their company for hundreds of millions of dollars. Again, this is one of the primary reasons we are starting Founders RAW, to share the truth about entrepreneurship and illustrate how founders can be relatable to others wanting to start their own business.
Startup events like meetups, sponsored events and weekend gatherings are paramount to community engagement. We need more! The already established startup community needs to be able to open their arms to newbes who are shy or unwilling to open up in new environments.
Why? These are the places where people can get acquainted with their local startup communities, where they can meet other founders face to face, and possibly even meet their next co-founders. Also, events like Hackathons are a great way to grease the wheels of creativity, sometimes these are seminal events where an individual hatches first project. More events create more connections, which create more opportunities for innovation.
Encouraging entrepreneurship is great, but simple encouragement misses the point. We need to infect our family, friends and neighbors with the “go getta” disease if we are to survive the next century in the U.S.