Archive | November, 2009

What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

1 Nov

An article written by my wife, Bhawana Srivastava.

What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

There are thousands of people in the world who come up with thousands of great ideas every day, ideas that could potentially solve many of the small and big problems faced by us. Many people are very enthusiastic when they talk about their ideas, when brought to fruition, would change the world.

However, not all ideas see the light of the day; some for a very long time while others never. It’s not that those ideas are poor and should not be developed. Rather, the people who think of these ideas lack certain qualities that prevent those wonderful ideas from getting executed. Although those people have a vision for a great product or service or business model and they have the skills required to develop that product or service, they lack the attitude of an entrepreneur and the conviction of a believer.

I believe that entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It, more often than not, takes all a person has, at the professional as well as personal level.

Some of the primary qualities of an entrepreneur are listed below.

The most important quality of an entrepreneur is the attitude. The attitude to take risks, lead, listen, plan, execute, and last but not the least, the attitude to accept failure, learn the lessons, and move on. Entrepreneurship cannot be a part-time vocation; it requires a person to make the sincerest form of commitment and 100% of his time, effort, and dedication.

An entrepreneur must have a vision — of a product or a service – that he is willing to work on to develop from scratch or improve. He identifies a problem that he sees around him and devises a solution that addresses this problem. He envisions a solution, clearly communicates his ideas to others, and brings his ideas to completion. It can be a new idea, or a better implementation of an existing idea.

There should not be an iota of doubt in the entrepreneur’s mind regarding whether his ideas will work or not. There are always moments of self-doubt, which every successful entrepreneur overcomes, driven by conviction. If he doubts his ideas and vision, he will not be able to devote all his energy on the venture, and will start to lose focus on the first signs of difficulties. When Google launched in 1998, it was the thirteenth search engine in the market. Yet, it became a phenomenon because the founders believed that it was the best search engine available at that time.

An entrepreneur must have the skill to lead a venture — whether the skill is technical (for example, software programming) or business-related (for example, forecasting revenues and growth). Most of the companies’ founders possess expertise in their area of endeavor. Many research projects in graduate school result in successful products; for example, Research In Motion and Google. The co-founders usually have complementary skill sets, the most popular example being Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Enthusiasm oozing from an entrepreneur is the most visible sign of his attitude, confidence, and conviction, which helps the team members trust their leader’s vision and show their enthusiasm towards the work they are doing.

All initial ideas are not always the best ideas. An entrepreneur develops an early version of his product or service, takes it to the users, listens to them to collect feedback, and makes appropriate modifications to the product or service. An entrepreneur who is rigid about his ideas and unwilling to adapt will lead the product or service to fail. An example of flexibility is the founders of Flickr. They were developing an online game when they realized that the photo sharing feature on the Web site was being used more than the game itself, so they focused on developing the photo sharing feature.

Business Plan
A sound business plan is almost always part of an entrepreneur’s initial strategy. Developing a prototype, getting angel and venture funding to develop the product and scale or manufacture it, spending money on marketing and customer service, and eventually creating a successful company creating value for the stakeholders is all a part of the business plan. However, not all businesses take this route. Some, a recent example being Twitter, focus on acquiring users first and not thinking about money. They believe that if users love their product, money will somehow start coming, though it might sometimes leads to a business’s collapse.

An entrepreneur gives his all to his vision and makes great personal sacrifices to make sure his vision comes to life. He tries to convince more and more people to give his product a try and, if the product is good enough, keep using it. He comes up with ways to create value for the users for which they are willing to pay. This constitutes the business model part of the entrepreneur’s vision, which creates and increases value for all stakeholders – the founders, employees, and the big and small investors.

The business model may or may not be initially on the entrepreneur’s strategy, especially if the marginal cost of production or serving the users is very low. This is especially true in the case of Internet companies where the focus of the entrepreneur is to get more and more users to use the product or service and make money later. This is not always the best approach though it remains the most popular approach.

There are some entrepreneurs who try to address a social issue with innovative ideas. They focus on solving the problem for the betterment of the underprivileged, and not on making money for themselves or the stakeholders. A recent example is, a micro-lending company, which encourages and facilitates lending of small amounts of money to entrepreneurs in the developing or underdeveloped countries.

A key to successful entrepreneurship is doing something you love. Do it with the right attitude and a strong conviction!