Hi, I'm Riku Seppälä and this is page is my central presence on the web. I come from Finland and live in Montreal. I'm A Business Strategist And Corporate Information Systems Developer. Currently I'm Working on My Masters Thesis In Business Strategy. I'm A Firm Believer Of The Clan Of Getting Things Done. On my page you can find links to my CV and the projects I'm working on at the moment.

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    Friday, 2 October 2009

    Paths to Entrepreneurship: Part 1. Get started

    (Cross posted from the Aaltoes blog: )

    Forget what you've read, entrepreneurship is not about getting a great idea and then working very hard. It's a dangerous simplification of entrepreneurship, and actually very few successful companies are created that way.

    In this post I'll describe 3 of the more common paths to successful entrepreneurship that we have identified in Aaltoes. The goal is to be able to provide some guidance on what to concentrate on in case you are a student and interested in becoming an entrepreneur.

    3 Paths:

    1. Be at the forefront of technological development

    Some of the more known entrepreneurial success stories are based on a group of students that have acquired specific technological knowledge and gone on to create great companies. Stories such as Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and F-Secure have been created in this way. So if you're very good in a field which is not very developed yet, and few people are very good at, you have a good chance of creating something that is possible to commercialize. I think IT is already too big and developed, but you never know. The problem is that you can't really focus on bio- or nanotech in your own backyard because you'll probably need a cleanroom and some pretty expensive equipment...

    2. Find a problem and be able to create the solution.

    A lot of web startups are being formed these days, and the ones that survive are the ones that fulfill a market need. In case you do identify a market need, you also need to be able to create the solution. And market it. The reality is that any web startup that wants to get traction these days needs to have a massive marketing budget to be able to break into the market. That of course requires investment, and unless you've already created a company as described above, or worked as a director for a big company, you will not get it. Not for a web startup.

    Web startups are good examples of companies that are created to solve a problem, but they're not really difficult to create or duplicate and the Intellectual Property (IP) is difficult to protect. There is a huge number of developers around the world capable of doing the same thing. And there will be someone solving the exact same problem that you are. The one with the best connections and best knowledge will win, which is probably the one with the biggest marketing budget as well.

    There have also been examples of teams that have identified a problem, for example mobile email (back in the days...) or created an application for an industry in which they got experience from during a summer job. In these cases, the difficulty becomes finding a great team which is committed to creating the product. It can be a good opportunity while you are studying since you might not need any income from the project. So focus on solving problems and creating the team that can solve it.

    3. Be a researcher or connect with research

    If you're a researcher, you will get paid and have resources to be at the forefront of technological development. It is probably easier to become a researcher and create something new than to be at the forefront of development yourself. For business students, the real opportunity is to network with researchers and find an interesting technology to commercialize or jump on board early in the companies development.

    These are the entrepreneurial paths I think are the most realistic for students to become entrepreneurs. It's a lot about being active in the entrepreneurship community and networking and creating a great team. You also need to know where you stand. If you're not developing new technologies yourself and don't have a lot of experience in an industry you have very little possibilities of developing your own idea into a startup.

    Aaltoes was created to help you start in one of these paths:

    1. Attend our networking events and connect with other students that are interested in solving problems. Maybe you can find someone with great technological skill or the business visionary you need to commercialize your skills. Getting a committed team before you even now what to work on can also be valuable.

    2. Attend our Technology Safaris and connect with research that you can commercialize as part of a team.

    3. If you already have a solution to a problem but lack the skills to make it happen, join our Pitching Evenings and get your project jump started.

    One of the points I want to make is that companies are not created by a group of business students thinking about different ideas. They might come up with a new sort of consulting company or a new way of distributing school books, but the ideas will be constrained by their experiences and knowledge. In addition, even if they can identify a good problem to solve, it will most likely require more financing and resources than they will be able to gather.

    Anyways, probably the most important thing to do is to create a great team which has the required technical skills to pull something off.

    "entrepreneurship is not about getting a great idea and then working very hard"

    Entrepreneurship is about solving problems or using new technology to solve problems and having a great team that can execute.


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