Creating Better Entrepreneurs

It may seem like it sometimes, but entrepreneurship isn't a form of magic. It takes hard work and lots of training. Too bad we don't have enough of the latter.

Magician | BCBusiness
Entrepreneurship isn’t magic; it takes hard work and lots of training. But are B.C. entrepreneurs getting what they need?

It may seem like it sometimes, but entrepreneurship isn’t a form of magic. It takes hard work and lots of training. Too bad we don’t have enough of the latter.

It was nice to see my mentee company, RewardLoop, take second prize at the BCIC-New Ventures Competition on Thursday night. RewardLoop, which has created a consumer loyalty network for mobile devices through bar codes printed on bills and receipts, won $70,000 in cash and services with its placement.

The overall winner of the competition was Polymer Research Technology, which won $130,000 for its development of a process that takes polyurethane waste destined for landfills and turns it into a recycled substance that can be reused in the manufacture of more polyurethane.

Congratulations to both. In RewardLoop’s case, these young people were so good my mentoring services were hardly needed. They had most of the entrepreneurial chops required for success: they knew what they were going to do, they knew who they were going to do it for, and they knew how they were going to do it. I suspect Polymer Research was similar.

It’s good to know that entrepreneurial companies with strong visions and plans and well-thought-out tactical paths are rewarded by competitions like BCIC-New Ventures.

But I can’t help but think of the hundreds of other tiny operations in this province that don’t have the skills to climb to the level where they’re noticed by financiers and others who help companies grow.

There is a growing gap in B.C. between entrepreneurs’ desire and the industry that’s supposed to help them flourish. The entire technology/entrepreneur ecosystem is governed by venture investment thinking, meaning it’s a constant survival-of-the-fittest form of competition for increasingly scarce dollars and training to reach success levels.  

Most entrepreneurs are forced to learn how to start and grow businesses by themselves. There are very few places – except on the Internet where there are hundreds, many very dubious, of them – where they can learn how to create a product that’s needed and get it to market amid the constant foot race that is business competition today.

This doesn’t hold true just for technology. Since I’ve been blogging for Dragons’ Den, I have seen all kinds of would-be entrepreneurs who aren’t involved in technology. They suffer from similar problems – how to detach their emotions from their product, align that product with a desire in the marketplace, and then develop that market.

Entrepreneurship may seem like magic, but it isn’t, although there may be elements of luck involved. It’s a learning path, and in a stagnant economy, increasing numbers of people are walking that path.

Clearly, there’s a need to help them via more and better entrepreneur education.

This is as much a B.C. phenomenon as anywhere else. Perhaps it is more so in B.C. because we have more people involved in technology as traditional industries wither.

There are entrepreneurial training programs out there, of course, but they tend to operate at a higher level. Really, what’s needed is on the ground, real world training for the growing numbers of people who see entrepreneurship as their only way to get a decent job.