So You’ve Got An Idea

From speaking to friends and other students on campus, I’ve been impressed by the growing number of people who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. The days of landing that safe and secure job at IBM are gone as more people are willing to enter the riskier but more exciting arena of entrepreneurship. Yet of all the people I’ve spoken with, only a select few have actually tinkered with starting a business. Still fewer have run a successful enterprise for a sizeable period of time.

I think that one of the hardest things for students who want to become entrepreneurs is moving from a concept or idea towards the creation of a startup. Often, students have a good idea and dream of the possibilities of that idea. But the excitement and passion behind the idea is never utilized to turn the idea into reality. While it’s true that the road to becoming an entrepreneur is generally long and narrow, I’m surprised that more people don’t give it a try.

At eClips, we have a lot of video clips devoted to educating entrepreneurs on what they can do to take that active step towards starting a business. Below is a list of 5 things you can do to get started today.

1) Figure out exactly why you want to become an entrepreneur. Do you dream of becoming rich? Do you want to have the independence of being your own boss? Do you simply enjoy innovating? Get your motives nailed down.

2) Completely map out your idea. What is your product or service? Who is your target market? How will you generate revenue? What is your business model?

3) Surround yourself with people who will add real value to your business. This includes finding a solid management team and an experienced board of advisors. This need not be very formal per say, but having others to help you out will broaden your pool of knowledge and make your chances of success higher.

4) Market your product and service to as many people as possible. This includes current clients, possible clients and even investors. You need not spend a lot of money here if you are creative and resourceful. What really matters is that you get your name out there.

5) Be persistent and take risks. It’s not always going to be easy, and you’re going to have to sacrifice a lot. But if you want to win big; you need to play big.

Hopefully, this is enough to get started. Once again eClips has tons of relevant information, so don’t hesitate to browse the site.

On a separate note, don’t forget that this weekend is Entrepreneruship @ Cornell Celebration. This is a great opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs or just learn something new.

Lessons Learned

Being a young entrepreneur has many advantages. Students generally have fewer financial obligations and are able to take more risks. In addition, students often have more opportunities that stem from being in the university environment. Such opportunities include access to knowledgeable professors and relationships with other intelligent students. But today, I’d like to talk about several of the problems related to being a young entrepreneur.

Let’s turn back the pages of Cornell history to 1994 and examine a case of particular relevance to Cornell. That year two computer science students named Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizelman founded a primitive social networking site that would later be known as theGlobe.com. The company was an instant success and in 1998 it attracted a lot of attention by posting the largest IPO gains of any company in history up to that date. At the age of 23, Paternot and Krizelman were valued at $100 million each.

Yet the fame and success these youths acquired soon attracted a lot of criticism from the media. In 1999, CNN filmed Paternot dancing on a table with model Jennifer Medley in a Manhattan night club saying, “Got the girl. Got the money. Now I’m ready to live a disgusting, frivolous life.” Unfortunately, things did not stay so perfect for Paternot. 1999 was the year of the dot com bust and shares of theGlobe.com dropped from a high of $97 to less than a dime. The two young entrepreneurs lost all of their money and faded out of the spotlight. The following year, Paternot and Krizelman were forced out of the company—a sad ending to a story-book beginning.

Tales like these of young entrepreneurs experiencing massive failures are all too common. And when it happens, the ending is never good. There is just something to be said about age and the experience that comes with it. It’s simply not enough to just have the technical talent or the strong work ethic to make a startup succeed. Often you need the wisdom of those who have already done what you have done. So finding the right mentor—whether it be a faculty advisor or a parent or a close friend—is essential to navigating the unfamiliar territory of entrepreneurship and enterprise.

Interested in hearing more about mentoring? Check out the eClips theme where Entrepreneurs Discuss the Role of Mentors

Students at Work

Here at Cornell, we’re often taught by professors and lecturers a generation or two removed from us. And by all means this is an obvious necessity—imagine what college life would be like without the structure and wisdom given to us by those with more experience and knowledge. Needless to say there is some value in learning from your peers. In fact, much of our informal learning comes from one on one interaction with our friends and student mentors. It is this kind of interaction that I would like to touch on today.

Last week I interviewed two student entrepreneurs here at Cornell and learned some interesting things from my time with them. The first student I interviewed was Joseph Duva, founder and President of theserviceauction.com. His company is an auction website where homeowners and licensed contractors connect through a real-time online biding process. While Joe made many interesting points, one point that stood out the most to me was his comment on the phenomena of translating an idea into a business. He stated that there are dozens of people with great ideas out there, but few who are willing to commit to the process of going from the idea to the implementation of the idea. Listen to the clip below to hear more from Duva:
video

The second interview I conducted was with Jonathan Santomauro. Jon is a great guy and something of a serial entrepreneur. Currently, he is the president of Global Procurement Strategies, Inc.—a tactical outsourcing firm that creates partnerships with major corporations to increase the efficiency of their procurement divisions. Jonathan is also the president of supplycabinet.com, a consumer office supplies and furniture company currently in development stages. The most important lesson I learned from Jon was that the attitude of an entrepreneur is absolutely critical. Especially when interacting with people, everything depends on interpersonal skills—skills which can only be developed over time or with the aid of a mentor, in Jon’s case his parents.

If you haven’t already done so, I would highly encourage you to take a look at these interviews as I’ve just scratched the surface all that we spoke of.

Game of the Day: Define this Word

Today, I’d like to plunge into a discussion on the central theme of the eClips site: entrepreneurship. One of the podcasts on the eClips framework that immediately comes to mind is the podcast entitled Entrepreneurs: Born or Made?

I’ve always found it interesting to read various perspectives of entrepreneurship and how people define the word “entrepreneur”. To be honest, the term is hard to pin down; it seems to be surrounded by multiple meanings, which give it an almost mystical aura. Yet, ask almost anyone you meet and they will most likely have some kind of understanding of the word. Here in the U.S., the entrepreneurial spirit can be seen everywhere—from the local bakery to search engine giant Google. The ability to become an entrepreneur is a freedom Americans take much pride in. We all love the classic “rags to riches” tale and uphold the virtue of equality of opportunity. But what is the actual definition of the word?

The word “entrepreneur” can be traced back to the 13th century in which it first appeared in the form of the French word entreprende— which literally means: to undertake. Nowadays most economists and experts in the field agree upon some kind of variation of the following:

An entrepreneur is a person who habitually creates and innovates to build something of recognized value around perceived opportunities.

Nevertheless, entrepreneurs rarely have this definition in mind when they start up their businesses. In fact, there is a wide range of reasons why individuals choose to become entrepreneurs. Some entrepreneurs start up ventures for purely financial reasons hoping to “make it big.” Others do it because they like innovating and creating solutions to societal problems. Still others become entrepreneurs for the “coolness factor.” When asked by Forbes magazine how he likes being the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg responded, “I don’t care about being a CEO and I never really have. I don’t even care about running a company—I just want to build cool things.”

A great way to explore what people think about entrepreneurship is to check out the eClips themes on “Defining An Entrepreneur”:

Defining Entrepreneur As Being Your Own Boss
Defining Entrepreneur As Creative, Adaptable and Flexible
Defining Entrepreneur As Creator, Builder and Visionary
Defining Entrepreneur As One Who Takes Ownership and Control
Defining Entrepreneur As Opportunity Finder
Defining Entrepreneur As Passionate and Determined
Defining Entrepreneur As Risk Taker
Defining Entrepreneur As Set of Skills – Not A Career

Entrepreneurship is something that anyone can get involved with, but examining your goals, motives and ambitions is a task that each entrepreneur should do at some point. So what’s your definition of the entrepreneur? And why would you become one?