Let’s work together to boost entrepreneurialism
By Michael Gaiss
Michael Gaiss is a Senior Vice President at venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. The opinions expressed here are his own.
More than ever, entrepreneurship will continue to play an instrumental role as geographic regions and small businesses contend with today’s rocky business landscape. While the entrepreneurial fire may be well lit, there are opportunities to better coordinate and amplify it into a raging inferno.
Marketing can help this along by playing a key role in nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. For regions looking to weather the downturn, help small businesses get off the ground and improve their positioning in the long-term, here are a few tips to consider:
1) Connect and enable the next generation of entrepreneurs. Much can be learned from those who have already done it. Barriers preventing the next generation from connecting with the existing entrepreneur community, as well as each other, need to be removed. Gatherings and one-on-one mentoring can be orchestrated to bring entrepreneurs of all stages together to better enable the free flow of ideas and advice. The challenge is to leverage existing institutions such as associations, universities, venture and angel networks, and relevant service providers to get these off the ground, while encouraging the organic emergence of new networking & mentoring platforms over time. As entrepreneurship evolves, what started as forums for sharing insight and advice matures into a vibrant and proven support ecosystem that entrepreneurs can rely on to help get their startups off the ground.
2) Enhance the supporting infrastructure. People and ideas are key pillars of the entrepreneurial foundation. But access to capital, talented employees, and a supportive business environment are what help many to succeed. Creative programs for facilitating the flow of early capital and/or company-building expertise to entrepreneurs and small businesses can be essential through business development initiatives, active angel networks, and seed capital programs. Of course, not everything should be “just about the entrepreneur.” Top talent is continually needed to fuel the realization of the entrepreneurial dream, but to also propagate the exchange of “entrepreneurial DNA” and best practices to prime the pump with qualified entrepreneurs and employees for future endeavors. Open houses, job fairs & boards and proactive initiatives to recruit and retain talent in a region – both on a permanent and internship basis – are imperative.
3) Celebrate and brand success. Success breeds success. Fortunately, we’re not starting from ground zero here. Today’s young generation has grown up with entrepreneurial “hero” figures around them. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell have inspired for decades. Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg are some of the more recent examples of individuals who are showing the way. Putting the spotlight on entrepreneurs, startups and new innovative products is a good thing and must be more prevalent. Regionally focused PR and media can play a big role here. Word of mouth is also essential by bringing additional awareness and credibility for inspiring and encouraging the next generation.
People want to be part of the next big thing. The challenge is to capitalize and best channel this. Breaking down barriers, implementing a stronger supporting ecosystem and branding help to attract the best talent to entrepreneurial initiatives and better position small businesses for success, both now and in the future.
Photo caption: Michael Gaiss in an undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout/Highland Capital Partners