But I Care That You Solve Problems!
By Seb Robin
From the very moment that I started thinking of launching an entrepreneurship education programme, I spoke to many young people. Part of them are already working on an idea, looking for funding or mentoring, validating their concept; whilst the other part, the larger, are hesitating, applying to jobs they don’t get, or finding reasons not to take the plunge.
What is the key message I keep from these conversations?
The choice they feel they have to make: To be or not to be an Entrepreneur.
Personally, I believe this is not the right question to ask. There is no actual need to make such a choice. There isn’t because it doesn’t matter.
If you’re a young man or woman reading this post, as I hope you are, adding “Entrepreneur” to your social media profiles is meaningless or worthless. Some might think that it means you’re unemployed. In any case, who cares?
If you want to be an Entrepreneur, think of problems to solve. This is what being an Entrepreneur is about; nothing else. You don’t have to make a worthless choice before you can start focusing your attention on a problem.
Is it a problem you have experienced or witnessed? Is it something you have a passion for? It is always better if you do something you love; you’ll take greater pleasure, and you’ll probably work harder because it won’t feel like you’re making sacrifices.
Nonetheless, your passion is not what will lead you to success.
What will lead you to success is your level of preparation for everything that you’ll have to think of and deal with. You can either find out for yourself, the hard way; or you can learn it.
Where and how can you learn this?
For you to make this choice, you have got to keep one goal in mind. Just one.
Whatever entrepreneurship programme you enroll, the ultimate and most essential outcome of any time you spend learning is that you can walk away with a market-ready venture.
What does it mean?
It is very likely that as soon as possible you find a source of funding. Why? Marketing. Hiring. Infrastructure. You’ll need more users or customers. You’ll need people to develop, deliver and support your product and customers. All of that, obviously, costs money.
It is however as likely that you will not find a source of funding if all you have in your hands is an idea or a business plan, however well-written it may be.
Being market-ready for your first round of funding requires that you have validated your concept and that you have developed the skills to lead your venture to success. These are the key factors investors look at.
To get to a market-ready venture that has greater chances to get funded requires possibly a lot more than to learn how to write a business plan (only you will read!), how to make financial projections (only you will believe!), or to acquire all the technical skills needed in a business.
Here’s what works:
Identify a real problem, understand it thoroughly, relate to the problem with the people who are having it.
Think of solutions and evaluate them.
Meet people who share your vision and believe in solving the same problem.
Build your team with skills you don’t have (and don’t need to have) because you will not succeed on your own.
Build your solution and test it.
There’s more to it obviously, but these are the most basic and necessary initial steps for you to take. Throughout this process, you will need to ask questions and look for answers. The main challenge for you here is to ask all the right questions, at the right time. You simply can’t find the answers if you don’t know what questions to ask.
Mentorship is great for that purpose; however, how many mentors will you need to ensure you ask all the questions? How long is it going to take you to find the right mentors?
Wouldn’t it be better if you could come to a place where they’d already be there, ready to give you all the questions to ask and then help you find the answers, in the context of the problem you’re solving, the solution you’re building and testing, and the venture you’re validating; all of this with the objective to seek your first round of funding?
Whether you will seek funding directly from business angels, through an accelerator programme, or by integrating an incubator will depend on your personal choice, in due time, and whether you meet selection criteria. The point of your “apprenticeship” is to make sure you meet those criteria when it is time.
When my co-founders and I started working on our programme, we considered all of the above. Our mission is not to convince young people to be entrepreneurs; but to guide them through entrepreneurial action, one step at a time.
We’re not delivering diplomas. We’re delivering market-ready ventures by better prepared Entrepreneurs. That is the real, valuable outcome. You don’t walk in our programme because you’ve decided you are an Entrepreneur. Instead you walk out of our programme as an Entrepreneur ready to take your venture to the next level.
26 weeks is all you need to get from “nothing” to “everything”.
If you’re a so-called Millennial, we want to hear from you.