Archive for July, 2017

Entrepreneurship: The Art of Learning by Doing

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Books and Blogs (well not this one…) trying to teach you how to become an Entrepreneur. I’ve been there; it helps but there is no “magic bullet” when building Start Ups. There are a lot of books teaching you how to build a Start Up from an Idea, how to create a Business Model (BM), Business Plans (BPs), get customers and/or users and so on. The truth is that in the art of entrepreneurship you just learn by doing it. It is a “hands on” process. Mentors, Advisors, Board Members, Angels, VCs and Private Equity Groups do not care about your idea that will revolutionize or change the world. They only care about their Return of Investment (ROI). They care about multiplying their Money. If you are an entrepreneur starting a business you are the one that should care and believe in yourself. For example, all histories of successful companies in the technology sector started mostly by serendipity and pivoted somehow at some point. Take Facebook, Twitter and Amazon for example. Facebook started with FaceMash (a “hot or not hot game” to classify girls at Harvard University that Mark Zuckerberg built), Twitter’s original idea was a Podcast Company idealized by Evan Williams and Amazon started selling Books online (now it does almost everything you can imagine in e-commerce and other sectors). Take also Uber as an example. I am Reading a Book about Uber’s history and it is clear that the initial idea was completely different from what the company is now. And I believe all of this happened along the process of building the business. They’ve all changed and pivoted a lot. And still are. There is even scientific evidence that learning by doing works better than just theory and books. For example, a study has challenged the common assumption that methods based on Books are the most effective ways of teaching Entrepreneurship. A study compared more than 500 graduates from Europe who had studied Entrepreneurship as part of business degrees. Some took “traditional” lecture-based courses focused on education about entrepreneurship. Others were taught using more experiential and “hands on” models, which stressed either personality development, triggering entrepreneurial attitudes and making people want to become entrepreneurs or making students become entrepreneurs, either during the course or right after graduation (check the article here). Now, let’s talk about my experience as an Entrepreneur and, more recently, as a teacher. All the experience I’ve got in my entrepreneurial journey was by doing. I read several books. I won’t lie; they help. But, I’ve learned through the process of the Idealization, building an Minimum Viable Product (MVP), getting into Start Up Incubators and Accelerators, searching and getting Investors interested and exiting by selling the Start Up. This process took at least a decade. During my tenure as CEO and then Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the Start Up I’ve built with a Co-Founder, I had the chance to be accelerated by the Start Up Health Academy (SUH) and present my Start Up in several events. One event was at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (check video here) in San Francisco to Health Industry Leaders and Investors and the other one at the Google New York Headquarters (check video here). I was also selected to represent and present the Start Up we’ve built at the White House to the President of the United States and to Congress Members in 2014 (no video here because we could not do it inside the White House). In all presentations I had to give a 1 minute Pitch max, which was the most difficult part. How could I, in just one minute, tell a history of a company and attract investors? Well, I had to and I did it. I believe that here is the biggest challenge that no Book teaches you. In addition, as CEO I had to take care of the Operations, Logistics and Finance with a small team, talk to clients and potential clients and also try to see the whole Picture of the Start Up in a snapshot. For that I had a technique that was to write down in a Diagram all the problems and difficulties every 3-6 months and indicate possible solutions to the problems I could find. Now I teach Entrepreneurship, How to strategically Manage Intellectual Property (IP), the Lean Start Up Model, how to write a Business Plan (BP), how to write Business Models, Canvas, etc using Books and my own experience. In my experience as a Teacher, the books help a lot, BUT experience is more important. So I tell my Students that the classes and the theory is very important, however they are not the key to building a successful Start Up, a Brand or even a Company. It is always a process of Learning by Doing. So, stop bragging about the innumerous possibilities in which your idea(s) will not succeed and start moving the needles to make things work. I can tell you that it will be a very stressful and frustrating path, but all you will get from it is a lot of expertise. Experience we only get by doing and building things. Most importantly, no money can buy experience. Start putting your Idea(s) to work right now. Don’t waste your time reading Manuals and Books on how to build Start Ups and hopefully you will learn things no book could ever teach you during the journey. In the end, it is worth it; I give you my word. I’ve been there… Actually, still are.