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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Why Some Start-ups Succeed and Others Fail

Harvard researchers answer 10 perplexing questions about the success and failure of startups.

Alyson Shontell

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Do first time entrepreneurs have it harder? Does having a renowned venture capital firm behind you help? And most importantly, is successful entrepreneurship a skill, or is it luck? These are some of the issues analysed by Harvard Researchers for a working paper entitled Performance Persistance in Entrepreneurship.

1. Do serial entrepreneurs succeed more than first timers?

Answer: Yes.

If you’re a first time entrepreneur, the outlook is not so good. According to the Harvard researchers, there is performance persistence in entrepreneurship. They write, “All else equal, a venture-capital-backed entrepreneur who succeeds in a venture has a 30% chance of succeeding in his next venture. By contrast, first-time entrepreneurs have only an 18% chance of succeeding and entrepreneurs who previously failed have a 20% chance of succeeding.”

2. Who is more likely to get funded by a VC firm, a new entrepreneur or a tried and true one?

Answer: A new entrepreneur.

In addition, failed entrepreneurs are more likely to get funding than successful entrepreneurs from the same VC firm. Strange but true.

3. Is entrepreneurial success a skill, or is it luck?

Answer: Starting a company at the right time in the right industry is a skill.

According to the Harvard paper, “The industry-year success rate in the first venture is the best predictor of success in the subsequent venture. Entrepreneurs who succeeded by investing in a good industry and year (eg computers in 1983) are far more likely to succeed in their subsequent ventures than those who succeeded by doing better than other firms founded in the same industry and year (eg succeeding in computers in 1985).

“More importantly, entrepreneurs who invest in a good industry-year are more likely to invest in a good industry-year in their next ventures, even after controlling for differences in overall success rates across industries. Thus, it appears that market timing ability is an attribute of entrepreneurs.” Nothing indicated it has anything to do with wealth.

4. Does success breed success?

Answer: Yes.

Entrepreneurs with previous successes can get their hands on more capital and services if suppliers think they are persistent performers. “For example, high-quality engineers or scientists may be more interested in joining a company started by an entrepreneur who previously started a company in a good industry and year if they believe (justifiably given the evidence) that this track record increases the likelihood of success.”

5. Are companies that are funded by top-tier VC firms more likely to succeed?

Answer: Yes, with one exception (see next question).

The reason these companies are more successful is obvious. It’s either because the top VCs are better at identifying potential success, or it’s because they’re able to add more value to companies they fund. The Harvard paper assumes both.

6. If a company’s founder has been successful before, how important is the VC?

Answer: If a start-up is founded by previously successful entrepreneurs, then the VC firm doesn’t really matter. Basically, since successful entrepreneurs can easily obtain services and they have a better chance at success, then they really don’t need the guidance top VCs provide.

Harvard explains, “If successful entrepreneurs are better, then top-tier venture capital firms have no advantage identifying them (because success is public information) and they add little value. And, if successful entrepreneurs have an easier time attracting high-quality resources and customers, then top-tier venture capital firms add little value.

7. Where do most entrepreneurs get their ideas from?

Answer: From former employers.

Make sure employees sign those non-competes! The Harvard paper cites a 2000 study by Bhide that finds “a substantial fraction of the top 500 companies got their idea for their new company while working at their prior employer.”

8. Will VCs give the same entrepreneur funding on their next venture?

Answer: Not usually.

The same venture capital firm that funded you before probably won’t give you money again. You’d think successful entrepreneurs would have no problem getting funding from venture capital firms that previously backed them… but you’d be wrong. According to a 2007 study by Bengtsson, “it’s rare for serial entrepreneurs to receive funding from the same venture capital firm across multiple ventures.”

9. Who closes VC funding quicker, serial entrepreneurs or newbies?

Answer: Serial entrepreneurs receive venture capital sooner than first-time entrepreneurs.

It makes sense. If you’re established, it’s easier to convince VCs you’re worth betting on. “While 45% of first-time ventures receive initial venture capital funding at an early stage, close to 60% of entrepreneurs receive initial venture capital funding at an early stage when it is their second or later venture.” It takes an average of 21 months for established entrepreneurs to secure VC funding compared to 37 months for first-timers.

10. Who receives a higher initial valuation, seasoned entrepreneurs or new ones?

Answer: New entrepreneurs.

They were found to have higher initial pre-money valuations than serial entrepreneurs: $12,3 million compared to $16 million for first-time founders.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

5 Fierce Ways To Become The Ultimate Entrepreneur

What does the ultimate entrepreneur look like? The truth is that although we aspire to many of our role models, success is personal. Here are five ways to find your own ‘ultimate’ success.

Erik Kruger

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For some, the ultimate entrepreneur might be someone like Elon Musk — working non-stop, rich beyond measure, but with no balance in life.

For others it might simply be someone who has built a business that will sustain them; an entrepreneur who is successful but also prioritises other aspects of their life. Take a second. Think about it. What does it mean to you?

In my view the ultimate entrepreneur is focused, has copious amounts of positive energy, a supportive network, is mentally tough, has their priorities in order and has a steadfast idea towards which they are working.

Here are five ways to go about building yourself into the ultimate entrepreneur (or at least my version of one).

1. Seed your day with energy enhancers

Your energy is your secret weapon. You should protect and enhance it at all costs. When I talk about energy I am referring to both physical and mental energy. There is an esoteric component to this as well, but we will leave that discussion for another day.

Related: High Impact Entrepreneurs Accelerate Job Creation And Economic Transformation In South Africa

How can you enhance your physical energy? The simplest way is to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and clean up your diet. It really is as simple as that. Just get the basics right.

How can you enhance your mental energy? Remove friends and influences that drain you and replace them with a network of people who support you and can appreciate the level at which you are playing. I also suggest to my clients that they carry small symbols with them that can remind them of the goals they are working towards and other things that are important to them.

2. Train for mental toughness

Mental toughness is the ability to pursue your goals with a positive attitude amidst the challenges and chaos of life. The most important thing I want you to know about mental toughness is that it is trained. This means that you must put in the effort and time to develop a stronger mentality.

The two important skills to train are:

  1. Self-awareness. In other words, becoming aware of the moment that you start latching on to negativity or succumbing to images of a future that might never come to pass.
  2. Creating a strong counter visualisation. This visualisation ideally contains emotionally-charged images of the big goal that you are working towards, the person that you are becoming, and the things that matter to you.

Mental toughness does not ignore the problem. It simply allows you to keep moving forward while you figure things out.

3. Create a support network

It’s a great feeling when you finally find people who get it. They get what you are trying to build and the pressures and challenges you face. I’d love to tell you that such people are all around you, but the truth is that they aren’t. You must go looking for them. At events, on social media, at business forums, really wherever entrepreneurs congregate.

As with most things you need to realise the importance of time in building such a network. So, start sooner than later. One day you will wake up and realise that the people you once admired are now peers and form part of your network. It’s a great feeling. But start now.

Related: How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

3. Zoom out

You are not your business. This is important and difficult for entrepreneurs to hear. Business is such a personal thing. Especially in the early days when you literally are your business. At some point however, you need to realise that you cannot let your business consume your life. It’s one component of your life, not its entirety.

So, make sure that you are looking after and making time for your health, your relationships, your energy levels, your creativity, and your hobbies.

4. Is it all about the money?

This ties in to the previous point but also to a greater purpose. I get why money is such an important metric early on. We need it to survive, and to that end, focusing on creating more money in your business is a great goal. However, money always seems like an important thing to chase, until we have enough but are still found wanting for something more.

I think there is purpose in you just being alive, but I also believe that we create purpose with our intentions and actions. You might not currently know what a crafted purpose looks like, and that’s okay. I would encourage you to consider what your life (and business) looks like in the bigger context of serving others.

The ultimate entrepreneur is an ideal that you must create for yourself. Don’t copy the greats. Build your own version 2.0 and make it damn good.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Awaken Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

Got a great business idea? Here’s how you can awaken your inner entrepreneur and turn that idea into income – by Dr John Demartini, human behaviourist and founder of The Demartini Institute.

Dr John Demartini

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Dr John Demartini

Whether you’re keen to start a business in services or hospitality, food or retail, all entrepreneurial ventures have two things in common: you, and the people you want to serve. Together, you form a community bound together by values, and this is what determines your success. That’s because the more your venture allows you to live by your highest values or priorities, the more prepared you’ll be to weather the storms that are an inevitable part of entrepreneurialism and ultimately be able to thrive. On the other hand, the more you’re able to fulfil other people’s needs, the greater your chances of success.

1. Find your niche

A niche is a gap, a need that is currently not addressed by existing businesses. There are all kinds of niches; some are completely disruptive (like Uber, which revolutionised public transport), others simply improve upon an existing concept. But, just because you have identified a niche, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. You need to make sure it’s a niche that speaks to your market’s needs, while also speaking to your individual needs or highest values.

Related: 7 Character Traits Every Entrepreneur Can Cultivate

To do this, you have to make sure that you are clear on your own highest values:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are your priorities?
  • How can you use your business to fulfil these?

If you can’t answer these questions, you may find that you don’t have the energy or resilience to invest in what is an undeniably challenging career path. At the same time, you also need to make sure that you are in tune with the dominant buying motives or highest values of your market. If not, you are simply assuming that there is a need for your product or service, when there might not be. The more you are able to answer the market’s highest need or value, the greater your chances of making a sale.

2. Think innovation

The most successful entrepreneurs are those who improve life for others. Again, Uber stands out as a great example. That’s why it’s not enough simply to have a good head for business: If you’re set on an entrepreneurial career, you need to cultivate an inventive mindset. You need to be constantly on the lookout for the gaps in current offerings so that you can address them and, in so doing, offer people an improved product or service. It’s about creating efficiency and convenience. But, as I’ve previously mentioned, innovation isn’t always new; sometimes, it’s just better.

Richard Branson stands out as a prime example of an entrepreneur who finds dinosaur companies with big brand names that overcharge people because they are well known. He offers to do the same thing at a fraction of the price. He’s not offering anything new; but he is offering improvement and greater efficiency.

Related: Why Conflict Resolution Is A Matter Of Matching Values

3. Focus on problem-solving

You need to be clear on the fact that entrepreneurialism isn’t solely about making money. It’s also about upgrading people’s quality of life. In this way, entrepreneurialism has an inextricably humanitarian component. Once you start focusing on how you can solve the problems that dog our society, you’ll have found a truly rewarding niche – one that’s not only financially rewarding, but one which allows you to service the largest number of people.

4. Keep looking for opportunities

The ability to identify and pursue opportunities is hardwired in most entrepreneurs; it’s part of their DNA. It must be, because this is the only way you will be able to keep refining, building and expanding your business.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You For Entrepreneurial Success

Success is a journey, not a destination, so think hard about where to start.

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Entrepreneurship might look like an unruly beast, especially when larger corporations are involved. However, those in the daily grind of entry-level positions are already developing the necessary skills to bring this wayward creature to heel.

“One of the first truths you’ll learn about entrepreneurship is that you’re 100 percent responsible for your success or failure,” says fellow Entrepreneur columnist Mike Monroe.

Entry-level positions in many different areas – including sales, marketing, development, project management and customer service – provide the perfect environment for future entrepreneurs to learn that truth and hone their skills.

Learning to fly from the ground up

While the average entrepreneur is 40 years old, younger people eager to make their own way have plenty of developmental opportunities that can help them hit the ground running. According to a 2017 survey from Heidrick & Struggles, nearly 15 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies started in the sales department. These high-powered executives didn’t waltz into the C-suite on day one; they learned the tricks of the trade on the front lines with everyone else.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales

Inbound or outbound, sales experience can give any would-be entrepreneur a leg up. Not only do you learn how to communicate effectively in a sales position; you must also understand the products you sell (and the brand behind them).

A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognise that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful start-up.

2. Human resources

human-resourcesHR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

Jobs in HR also provide crash courses in communication skills and legal compliance. For example, it’s much better to learn that a manager can’t force an employee with folliculitis to shave his beard before the decision affects your pocketbook.

Related: Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea

3. Customer service

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you deal directly with customers, you learn how to handle tasks quickly while keeping a friendly face.

Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership

To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

This may seem like an odd suggestion for an article on entry-level positions, but note that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to learn leadership skills. From your first day on a job, your supervisors will be sizing up your initiative-taking ability and your critical-thinking and time-management skills to determine whether you have the capabilities necessary to take on more complicated projects. Look for opportunities to listen effectively and motivate those around you – this will help you hone your leadership craft until you get the opportunity to take on the role for yourself.

Related: Start This Business With Zero Advertising Budget And No Need For Premises

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants – these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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