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Archive for January, 2015

Grammar and Entrepreneurship

I usually start every entrepreneurship class or seminar I teach by asking each of the participant to quickly give me, by turns, a synonym of entrepreneurship. The idea, until now, was to get a feeling of how much the students knew about entrepreneurship (and entrepreneurs) by analyzing the meanings of the words they gave me, and use that as a starting point for my “demystification”.

Last week, I was giving a 3 hours seminar to Supélec last year engineering students and of course I asked my synonym question as the beginning. But while I was writing down the words on the board I realized that some of them were nouns, some were adjectives and some were verbs. So instead of looking at the words’ meaning, I decided to do a little statistic on the word’s class.

Out of 11 participants in the classroom:

  • 7 of them gave me nouns (like “adventure”, “risk” or “financing”);
  • 2 of them gave me adjectives (like “energetic”);
  • and 2 of them gave me verbs (like “innovate”).

As crazy as it sounds, it made me realize that the words’ classes were even more representative of what students feel about entrepreneurship than their meanings.

Why? Well, as you know, nouns are usually used to describe concepts and since 60% of the class used nouns as synonyms of entrepreneurship, it seems that entrepreneurship is still very conceptual to them. Adjectives are used to describe a particular quality so for 20% of the class, entrepreneurship describes a behaviour (most probably of someone they know or how they imagine entrepreneurs). And since verbs typically express action, for just 20% of the class, entrepreneurship is about action.

For all you entrepreneurs that read me, you surely have realized by now what my point was: entrepreneurship is first and foremost about action, not about concepts and not about behaviour (perhaps a little though). Well, at least, this is how I started my seminar :)

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Should accelerators nurture or challenge?

StartUp42 v0.4 is now over and until we start a new season, I wanted to use this quieter time (at least on the acceleration side) to share some thoughts about acceleration and the birth of (very) early-stage startups.

During this last season, I had a very interesting discussion with one of the teams. Just a month into the program, the founders had a disagreement with their CTO who decided to leave the company. The founders immediately came to seek my advice on how to peacefully solve the disagreement. When they told me, my reaction was as follow: “I will of course help you on solving the disagreement but I’d like to warn you that if you don’t find a new CTO in the next 2 weeks, I will have to kick you out of the program”.

Indeed, since we only accept teams with a CTO at StartUp42, I couldn’t keep a team who’s not building their product. It’s bad for them as they don’t benefit fully from the program but it’s also not fair to teams with CTOs that were not selected. The founders were very surprised by my ultimatum. They came looking for comfort and they left with pressure. They said they were not expecting me to act like this.

In my opinion, accelerators are here to push you to your best. We’re not protective parents that help you cope with the difficulties of the entrepreneurship world. We’re here to make you feel these difficulties as early as possible in the process. Entrepreneurship is hard, very hard, and not everyone is fit for it. This is also why I made StartUp42 as a toolbox for entrepreneurs instead of a set program. I have no catalogue of available services and mentors but if you ask for it (or use us to fetch it), you will have it.

I think not everyone can feel comfortable in such environment but again, I don’t want entrepreneurs to ever feel comfortable anymore.

And by the way, that team took just 1 week to find a new CTO ;)