I have previously written about the broad nature and significant potential impact of innovation and industry, government, and academic institutions are increasingly recognising this. In response to this recognition there is increasing interest in understanding how to support and nurture innovation and innovation ecosystems as a means of addressing significant challenges, promoting jobs growth, and fundamentally changing the nature of national economies. At the same time however, entrepreneurs are trying to better understand how to develop themselves personally and professionally to give their ventures and organisations the best chance of success.
I am inspired by the notion of innovation and for me it is synonymous with the entrepreneurial journey, and all the excitement, learning, and challenges those journeys bring. However, as we see the innovation tag becoming every more broadly applied I think it is interesting to try and understand what innovation actually is, especially for those of us aspiring to be truly innovative.
Look up a dictionary and you will typically see that innovation means to introduce something new but innovation actually comes from a latin word, innovare, meaning ‘to change’ and it is this latter definition that resonates most strongly with me.
I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who expressed an interest in beginning his entrepreneurial journey. He asked me where he should start and thus, to the best of my ability, here is getting started as an entrepreneur 101.
Getting started always begins (read should always begin) with a problem that needs to be solved. In reality, it often begins with a ‘cool’ idea, but, from experience starting with a clearly identified problem is a much better bet. Once you have identified a problem you need to get out there and check that it is a real problem for someone. This basically means you need to start talking to people, lots of people, in order to qualify and quantify the value of that problem. If you are able to qualify and quantify that value of the problem then congratulations, you are really onto something.
Successful startups emerge from having the right idea, at the right time, in the right place, and any sensible entrepreneur will tell you that a healthy dose of good luck certainly plays a role in these factors coalescing. I believe that while it is impossible to manufacture a scenario where these three factors coalesce, it is possible to encourage it by cultivating serendipity. By this I mean an eagerness and willingness to be exposed to plethora people, ideas, and learning opportunities.
It is not just entrepreneurs who can cultivate serendipity. The people, and organisations that make up the entrepreneurship, innovation and startup ecosystem (the startup ecosystem henceforth for brevity) can also achieve this by ensuring that diverse opportunities, funding sources and types, mentorship, and support mechanisms are in place. By cultivating serendipity broadly within the startup ecosystem we are maximising the potential for a wide variety of different ideas, teams, and business models to emerge, grow and succeed.