The last two decades have seen a rapid rise in innovation-driven entrepreneurship ventures born in academia. And while the path from classroom to commercialization is a long and winding road, a common-held belief in academic entrepreneurial circles is the assumption that faculty advisors are most often the primary traveler on the road to entrepreneurial success. New research suggests, however, that student innovators—who have more time and flexibility than faculty— drive the momentum of successful entrepreneurial ventures outside of school. (Learn more about the drivers of innovation-driven entrepreneurship in this innovation@work webinar with MIT Sloan Professor Bill Aulet.)
At the same time, studies show that these student innovators are heavily influenced by their faculty advisors, and the success of the academic entrepreneurial venture is largely determined by the students relationship dynamic with their faculty mentors. Lastly, studies also show that the relationships students form in competition greatly influence the success of their venture outside of academia.
This is the first post in a series on launching a successful startup.
One of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make is trying to be everything to everyone in the hopes of increasing their market share. In the beginning, many new entrepreneurs can be overwhelmed by their own brainstorming taking an “act now, plan later” approach to get a jump on the competition. But the foundation stage of a new venture is critical because it’s the stage when entrepreneurs must define the specific ingredients that make their product or service competitive—the stage where they determine a target market that will use that product or service. Failure to do either could result in a business that never finds its niche, and therefore, never sells.
Thankfully, budding entrepreneurs now have a road map. In Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup, Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, goes beyond theory to outline several concrete steps anyone can take to be a successful entrepreneur. In his book, Aulet stresses the importance of segmenting your market to find the sweet spot that will guarantee a successful business. He defines a sweet spot as that place where a product or service connects with a target audience that will buy, use, and wholeheartedly adopt that product or service, eventually spreading the word to other potential customers.
The wave of technological innovation we are currently riding has brought us wearable computing and 3D printing, with products like Google Glass and Nike Fuelband becoming the stars of recent tech conferences, including May’s All Things D. Continually fueled by the question “what’s next?,” product innovators leave no stone unturned in their quest to produce the next big thing. According to the latest research, however, it’s consumers not the product innovators who should be viewed as the new experts. A new school of innovation thinking says that product innovators who work for manufacturers have received far too much credit for product innovation, while product users have received far too little.
In an MIT Sloan Management Review interview with Eric von Hippel, founder of the Entrepreneurship Program at MIT, the MIT Sloan Professor paints a new picture of the shifting paradigm of innovation from producer to user and how it is effecting change in the global economy.
MIT alumni launch over 900 companies each year worldwide. That is in part because MIT has created an ecosystem of innovation—an environment that provides entrepreneurs-in-training with a community of innovators who push each other to take the risks necessary to learn and grow.
Bill Aulet, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer, says that while entrepreneurship can be taught, what is more important is the “innovation hotbed” where entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs: those who are entrepreneurs within established, often large corporations) develop their skills. In his MIT Sloan webinar, “Understanding and Unlocking the Potential of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Intrapreneurship,” Aulet claims that in addition to the required skill set entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs require a holistic approach to long-term success in an environment that supports innovation. He believes that MIT alumni are successful because they have learned to recreate and sustain the conditions for innovation in their ventures.