The Need for Empowering Entrepreneurs, everywhere
What is an entrepreneur?
Off the top of your head, you probably imagine a dashing hustler as I ask this; one with head teeming with ideas and eyes alight with hope.
Chances are, words and phrases like risk taking, and innovation spring to your mind as well. If your mental image matches the description I just gave, you are like most of us who liken an entrepreneur to an everyday superhero of sorts.
An entrepreneur is someone who bears risks for taking a new idea forward, one who drives our economy to new heights.
They are the brave-hearts who stand at the forefront of our startups, which are so often touted as the “growth engines” of modern economies.
They are the people who brave the uphill climb and shape the future of our businesses.
Because of the brilliant work that many of them often do, it is sometimes easy to think of them as geniuses with super brains who have nearly all of it sorted. Sadly, however, for much of the general populace, the impression of a failed or struggling startup founder, lies at the opposite end of the spectrum. While the term ‘entrepreneur” inspires confidence and awe, a startup founder who is yet to strike gold is often dismissed as a failure.
Perhaps this differential attitude is symptomatic of a bigger problem; that of our inability to empower entrepreneurs correctly. We are all too glad to celebrate massive successes, and share in the collective benefits of a new innovation. But when founders fail, as they often do, we seldom stick around to make sure that the entrepreneurial spark continues to flicker in their hearts.
Why do we need to empower entrepreneurs?
Of course, there is an inherently selfish reason for all of us to do our very best to empower entrepreneurs. It is that fostering entrepreneurial talent can trigger a series of innovations that transform our lives, and improve the economic outlook that we are all dependent upon. But we also need to empower entrepreneurs because they can actually do with all the help that they can possibly get.
Unlike what a lot of us would like to think, startup founders, and people with entrepreneurial spirit, are not necessarily geniuses with no dearth of energy, resources of ideas.
One may find a few wunderkinds scattered across the global ecosystem, but the truth is that most entrepreneurs are common people like you and me. The only difference between them and a layman is probably that they have dared to take an idea forward and bear all the risks that may come with that journey.
Innovation Doesn’t Occur in Isolation
Entrepreneurs in modern business are frequently associated with dazzlingly smart and creative ideation. They are often credited with sharp innovation and unique changes in product development or service design; capable of expanding the value proposition to customers many times over. In fact, delivering novel, innovative value to the broader economy is one of the key hallmarks of startups, and the entrepreneurs who lead them.
While it is indeed important to laud the entrepreneurs who facilitate such innovative developments, it is also imperative to acknowledge that innovations do not occur in isolation.
Every innovator borrows ideas from other developments, and synthesises relevant ideas to conceptualise a brand new way to approach things.
Legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino once said that he stole scenes from different movies, and patched them together in creative ways that made it possible for viewers to see life through a different lens altogether. Innovation in any field is usually quite similar to this approach, whether or not the innovators themselves realise it.
Startup founders or entrepreneurs, when they devise a new system, or design a new product, they are heavily reliant on the works of all those who came before them, and all those who are working alongside them. Creating sounding boards for new ideas and establishing channels for entrepreneurs to access alternative streams of thoughts can be instrumental to encourage greater degrees of innovation.
Developing collaborative workspaces and incubators can be particularly useful in this regard, as these can allow entrepreneurs to access a wider network of strategic thinkers and creative innovators.
Moreover, such ecosystem-wide platforms can create an opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop sounding boards, seek expert advice, and synthesise multiple ideas and schools of thought before finalising the contours of a new approach. Such spaces and platforms can have the added advantage of making entrepreneurs feel more comfortable: to articulate their ideas, and to take a leap of faith for realising their startup dreams.
Reducing Administrative Hassles
As someone who routinely interacts with entrepreneurs, I have found that a major challenge which frustrates a lot of them is the sheer amount of red tape they have to cut through. This is particularly true of emerging economies like India, and these factors can often slowdown the growth potential of these promising startups. Simply cutting down on the plethora of administrative troubles can cost entrepreneurs a lot of time, and lead them to lose momentum.
Interestingly, and quite ironically, I have observed much of this sort of bureaucratic delay in emerging economies. These are the countries that have the most urgent need for startups to boost their economic growth, so one would think that they’d try to make way for entrepreneurial development as much as they can! Does this mean that I want lesser regulation for entrepreneurial activities or lowered bar for startup compliance? Not at all.
But while I do think that a fair degree of regulatory compliance is essential for startups, I also feel that these administrative requirements need to be massively streamlined in most jurisdictions across the world. If entrepreneurs are busy filling forms, or submitting a whole bunch of documents to several different offices, I can’t help but wonder when they will actually work on their nifty new businesses!
Solving Entrepreneurs’ Funding Woes
One of my pet peeves in the startup and investment space has always been the mushrooming of advice columns that make entrepreneurs feel like they have to blindly run after investors for building the best startup ever! While investor backing may be essential to certain sorts of entrepreneurial activities, especially ones that are massively capital-intensive, I firmly believe that different businesses have different funding needs, and the entrepreneurs helming them should be the ones to choose the funding type that fits.
To empower entrepreneurs make the right funding decision for their businesses, it is imperative to make a host of information available to them. It is particularly crucial to ensure that this information is free from subliminal biases. This is important because many articles I read online employ leading language which can trigger the panic mode in entrepreneurs, and make them feel like they should not rest till they bag an investor, establishment of a sustainable business model be damned!
The empowerment of entrepreneurs in this way is essential to save them, and us, as part of the larger society, a great deal of time. Entrepreneurs, especially new ones who come in little experience, will often go for wasteful fundraising tactics that don’t even bear fruits at the end of it all.
Therefore, as members of the startup community, it is essential that we empower our entrepreneurs with access to clear information, ample resources, and an element of choice.
Entrepreneurs can be empowered when they can truly exercise choice, and not merely experience an illusion of choice.
When they read an article, or access a resource that subtly pressures them to take a certain route, they are automatically robbed of authentic choice which is so essential for encouraging unadulterated creativity.
In essence, the empowerment of entrepreneurs is important because they make the world of finance go around, and drive the growth of businesses.
To ensure they are thoroughly empowered, it is imperative to facilitate independent decision making, and encourage them to take risks that may or may not pay off.
Exposing them to a wider support system of fellow entrepreneurs and experts, and providing them with the right information can be useful strategies.
But more importantly, it is important to create an environment where we respect the entrepreneurial spirit and cheer them on as they race to the finish line, regardless of how many attempts it has been!