"" Tim Coates: Journeys to Entrepreneurship

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Journeys to Entrepreneurship

A team breaks it down at a StartUp Weekend event in Seattle earlier this year

Not long ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman translated today’s zeitgeist, declaring that it’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.

Friedman shows how the innovation and energy emanating from entrepreneurship is vital to our economic future. Entrepreneurship skills are needed not just in startups, but increasingly in multinationals, small businesses, social enterprises, nonprofits and communities. Startup Everything is coming.

If this is true, and I believe it is, then we need to ensure multiple points of entry for people to develop and apply their entrepreneurial abilities.

I recently learned about customer journey maps from Anne Yurasek at FioPartners. While we didn’t call it this, we completed a similar process at 21inc. Several participants in our leadership program were using their experience to launch ventures. These were great outcomes and we wanted to encourage more. We designed five archetypes of typical participants, mapped their potential journey to entrepreneurship and explored how we could improve our program to catalyze and accelerate that journey.

Given the reliance many regions (and countries) are placing on entrepreneurship, an exhaustive mapping exercise to discover and categorize the various ways people experiment with and plunge into entrepreneurship would be of huge value.

There’s interesting research on why people become entrepreneurs. Author Scott Shane shows that only 1/3 of entrepreneurs actively search for an idea. Almost 56% get their ideas from working in the same industry they start their business in. Surrounding people with entrepreneurs also helps (this explains, in part, why I took the plunge and why 21inc’s programs have the outcomes they do).

I haven’t yet seen all that's known about why people become entrepreneurs collected in one place. If anyone knows a good source please pass it along. That’s the book I want to read this holiday season. I'm writing from France so any reading is going to happen between wine, croissants and pain au chocolate!


  1. Interesting questions Tim. Not sure I have a perfect answer to a compendium of how people get to be entrepreneurs, but given my background in psychology, I tend to gravitate to looking at psycho-social motivators that are associated with those already entrepreneurs. In this realm there are a lots of neat studies on how entrepreneurs think:

    Inc Article on Recent Studies on Differences between execs and entrepreneurs:

    Financial Times discussion of challenges/opportunities of academic entrepreneurs:

    Recent post I had regarding new contracts on "failure" as it relates to standardized workplaces and traditional "right" answers that may (in this new world of entrepreneurship and experimentation, not always be optimal paths to progress (beware: random brain dump here):


  2. Good Stuff.

    My I repost this?

    Dave Phillipson, Master Connector
    CEO Space
    The World's Largest, Oldest & Most
    Successful Organization for CEOs,
    Entrepreneurs & Visionary Investors

    P.S. Those that know me, understand there's not much that gets me as excited as helping a fellow entrepreneur. I'm passionate about sharing my resources, knowledge, and elite connections in order to build business cooperatively.

    I do this by receiving referrals from people like you. Who do you know that's a business owner and wants to grow with strength & velocity?

  3. Tim - it's an excellent point. An entrepreneurial experience can be valuable for just about anyone, even if their long term goals don't include working for themselves. By helping someone experience entrepreneurship, you increase your local innovation capability - and that impact is felt outside of the venture community.

    The effort of mapping out a system, and intentionally creating resources and community for entrepreneurs is crucial to any geography that wants to remain competitive.

    Here's another take on the Startup Weekend and the power of creating community.