Let’s work together to boost entrepreneurialism

September 3, 2009


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


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Hi Michael,

You are absolutely correct.

People want and need to be a part of the next big thing if they intend to survive let alone thrive.

I see daily examples of businesses who think that more of same (like newspaper ads) are going to help attract ready to buy customers and it just isn’t working for them.

The business process has changed and the people who embrace those changes (especially technologically) are going to be in excellent position as things eventually improve.

In fact many of the start up companies that assist in the transition from old marketing to new marketing will be crucial to the saving and realigning of the business providers with the ready to buy consumers by helping them meet them where they are.

I hope the word gets out that if you aren’t doing everything that you can to finds solutions that help your business in today’s evolving world, you’re really missing some fantastic opportunities.

Posted by Rick Falls | Report as abusive

A good start to entepreneurs fault, Mister Coultier is not wrong in his opinion but it is never easy to see be your business falter – and there you are scrambling to keep your company afloat.
To save the business you must check dismissals and Financialplan, reduce you costs for unnecessary manpower and keep closer contact with business partner and people have other contacts.
Or inspect yours position in the system named – Organisated public state Financial-…cho – that anyway goes over stop at nothing (Body and so on).
We created the rules when it came to financial systems and we get to change it.
If we are Unable to change it.

Posted by Ingeborg Metag | Report as abusive

Hi Michael,
Your message is quite timely and inspirational. I recently established a company called ATBN,pllc. The goal, as the acronym represents; Achievement Through Business Networking, is to help young people and small businesses, create opportunities and realize their dreams by seeking out, associating, and developing relationships that support their “entrepreneurial spirit.”
You are right, “people want to be part of the next big thing.” Top talented individuals, and individuals with the desire to aspire, need to understand that they must be proactive. And believe that their ideas and skills are key pillars of the entrepreneurial foundation.

Posted by Charles Cohen | Report as abusive

In “Let’s Work Together to Boost Entrepreneurialism”, Reuter’s blogger Michael Gaiss suggests supporting creativity and innovation to change the current economic climate via supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. His points are important and are right on. Entrepreneurs are important figures in our society and in the face of big business, it is important we support them in order to ensure economic growth and prosperity not only for our society but all individuals within it. New businesses bring jobs and choices. But how can we actually do this?

Non-profit organizations such as Count Me In offer services and support systems for women entrepreneurs to help them along every step of building a business. This organization relies on corporate funding and grants in order to provide their important services. Due to the present economic climate, many corporations have cut back their donations to organizations such as Count Me In, thereby threatening their ability to continue to give these important services. So one important way to do this is by donating to these organizations and to volunteer in them. Volunteering could include anything from offering your expterise or by helping run the programs that these organizations put on.

Another way comes from the consumer perspective and the choices we make in making purchases. We often speak of shopping locally, but it generally focuses on local agriculture and farmers markets. These are not the only goods that come locally though! There are many local alternatives such as soap, candles, blankets, etc. that can be purchased from small businesses and not big-box stores. Websites such as Etsy, Yelp, Shustir, and Yokel are great resources to learn about what small businesses and entrepreneurs have to offer near you.

There are just a couple of ways to support entrepreneurs and small business, and I am sure there are more. But as consumers and contributing members of society, we need to remember that each action we take is a choice we make. Educate yourself and make the best of your freedom to choose by supporting entrepreneurs and small business.

Posted by Bianca Cloutier | Report as abusive

Hi Michael,

You are spot on in all your points, though your focus is on startups.

The reality is that entrepreneurism is a way of life and is not restricted to startups, and certainly not only in the technology world.

After 20 years involved in startups, I decided to attempt to bring entrepreneurship to a well established company in the financial world. In many ways this has been my biggest career challenge, but also has been the most rewarding because I’ve been able to instill that philosophy into people who will likely never start a business.

There are ways that a large corporation can foster a sense of entrepreneurship and enable innovation. IBM has a strong history of this, though at times IBM has failed on capitalizing on their own innovation.

I believe that nurturing a sense of entrepreneurship needs should start in our high schools. Building the ecosystem that you discuss and extending that into the schools will virally create a culture of entrepreneurism.

I’d be interested in hearing more about people are taking this the next step.

Posted by Tom Golway | Report as abusive

http://esociety.org/ is a great place to look for help. The group has established a methodology similar to what is described in this article.

Posted by Scott Underwood | Report as abusive

Michael is absolutely correct on connecting and enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs. Colleges and universities are a great place to do that through programs usually established through a Center for Entrepreneurship. Many of those programs are involved with mentoring students who have wonderful ideas and are full of passion; they just need the help from folks who have been through it before. It’s just an entrepreneurship form of pay it forward.

Posted by Tom Kruczek | Report as abusive