You might believe that our government is responsible for creating jobs. Job creation is rarely out of the headlines, where we read about various government initiatives to get people back to work. And yet the facts show that jobs are created by businesses, and businesses are created by entrepreneurs.
Did you know that over 65% of all new jobs created come from the small-business sector? Identifying and supporting entrepreneurs is critical to the growth and the health of our economy.
An entrepreneur is someone who can take innovation and turn it into a customer. In doing so an entrepreneur creates jobs. This is great news. But unfortunately over 80% of new businesses fail. The challenge for any organisation supporting entrepreneurship is to reduce the risk of failure of these new startups.
Why is launching a new company such a hit or miss? Steve Blank in his HBR article (May 2013) on ‘Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything’ talks about the planning that comes before the plan.
According to decades-old formula, you write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product and start selling it as hard as you can. And somewhere in this sequence of events, you’ll probably suffer a fatal setback as the odds are not in your favour.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”Albert Einstein
Steve Blank’s book ‘The Four Steps to Epiphany’ started a new methodology called the Lean Start-up. It is a process that can make starting a company less risky. It favours experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional ‘big design upfront” development. It puts emphasis on the idea of ‘failing fast’ if a concept or element is not working, and encourages a somewhat more agile and adaptable approach to creating a business.
The Lean LaunchPad programme for entrepreneurs run by Steve Blank in the Valley may provide us with hints and tips on how to run these programmes. It doesn’t guarantee that more startups will succeed. It does guarantee that if they follow this process they are less likely to fail.
I have been teaching Lean concepts for a number of years and have an opportunity to currently run two programmes using this methodology at the UCD Smurfit Business School. This is a follow up to the same programme I ran last year. Here are some comments from the class of 2014:
“It was fantastic to realise that I thoroughly enjoy the tasks involved in entrepreneurship. They made me exit my comfort zone, and really try to think critically and empathically about customer pains.”
“Furthermore, a great lesson that will stand to me for many years after this course is that you can make a substantial amount of progress with minimal resources. As students, our monetary resources were extremely limited so we took advantage of free marketing through social media, as well as making the most of our network of contacts.”
“Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this module and I felt I gained a great range of academic and practical experience which I will use in the future. The group project of creating our own start-up business was incredibly valuable and complimented every aspect of my learning in class and through the Udacity lectures.”
“The biggest lesson for me was to focus on the problem rather than the solution and how important the ‘search phase’ is for a start-up. I also learnt that is important to ‘fail fast’ and if an idea has no legs that it is best to pivot or move onto something else. With this in mind I now feel like I have the skills to develop an idea into a successful business.”
“Something that I had never done in the past because I had thought I wasn’t ‘business’ enough. The twelve weeks that followed were the most liberating and inspiring weeks of my life.”
“One of the greatest learning outcomes from the course was the Business Model Canvas. This template taught me that there are so many aspects to setting up a business that I didn’t even know existed.”
The Lean Launchpad class is currently taught in colleges, universities, accelerators, incubators and for the National Science Foundation in the US. This programme provides us with a great template on how to build a startup. In order to build a new generation of entrepreneurs in Ireland, we must give them the knowledge and tools to create exceptional business models. They must understand the fundamental building blocks that are essential to creating a winning business. Before they scale it – they must nail it.
I invite you to join my class on a Monday afternoon at UCD Smurfit, Blackrock. To sit in and listen to the students as they walk on this journey. You are most welcome to join us as a mentor or just as an observer. The course outline can be downloaded here.