From Dec 16~18, I had an exceptional chance to take a lecture given by Bill Aulet. He is a managing director of Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Pretty big guy, isn’t he? But in fact, before this class I didn’t know who he is, and I don’t care. I also have negative attitude toward entrepreneurship, because this word lately binds tightly with starting up a company and creating an app for all trivial things. My interest is, of course, computer and I couldn’t see any value of doing it. I just want to get that 2 credits to cross out one of my graduation requirement. But then, after he started teaching, I respect him instantly.
This is the start of my journey of this class.
Lecture 1 Overview of Entrepreneurship
Before starting the lecture, everyone was asked to introduce themselves. We had to say these things.
- Where you are from
- Current course and year
- Background knowledge of entrepreneur
- Why take this class
- Something interesting about yourself that people would be surprised if they knew
The last thing was hard for me or to many people who don’t go social often. I didn’t have any interesting point then, I just passed to another person. Then, the prof Bill asked “What is your country again? Is that China?”. That triggered me. I am mistaken all the time about my nation. I said “No” and started listing these countries: Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia. That was 9 countries! There are things that are interesting but I just neglect. There was another professor came to sit in seeing how prof Bill teaches entrepreneurship. That prof can breath through his eyes. There was my Indonesia friend. His work is about making a robot opening a door. Isn’t this interesting? It sounds absurd, but when thinking about its use case, it can be used in many situations: from home care to military.
Then the class started.
The first lecture talked about what entrepreneurship is, why it is important and who these entrepreneur guys are (not).
What is entrepreneurship? He gave us a definition from 3 different sources. This is the one I like most.
The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses.
In economics, entrepreneurship combined with land, labor, natural resources and capital can produce profit. Entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by innovation and risk-taking, and is an essential part of a nation’s ability to succeed in an ever changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace.
In able to make it through, it needs two things: capacity and willingness. Capacity is skill. It is not limited to technical things. It can be soft-skills relating with dealing with people. Willingness makes a person relentless and endurance during hard time.
There are 2 types of entrepreneurship
- Small Medium Enterprise (SME)
- Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurship (IDE) <- Focus of this class
SME does not involve with innovation. Usually, SME is regional services. Examples of SME are restaurants, cleaning services and local snacks. The setting up time for SME is short as there are many role models and resource is off-the-shelf to have a business rolls. Its business is about product or service which has similarity, competitors. This limits the growth of a business. It grows fast at first, but it saturates soon.
IDE involves with innovation strongly. It tries to fill in the blank of a question. A product or service can be global market as it does not exist before. It has its core strength from this foundation. Thus, it has sustainable growth. However, before reaching this state, it must go through hard time. It loses money to invest and incubate both product and market. Once it tips, it rises exponentially.
Nevertheless, whether SME or IDE, they are business. And, the thing that makes them survive is adaptability. As Charles Darwin said
It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent
but the one most responsive to change
Prof Bill listed out 7 stereotypes people have in mind but they are wrong
- Entrepreneurs are mercurial individualist – they are sportspeople working as a team.
- Entrepreneurs are the smartest & most high achieving people in the room – A straight A student becomes an employee for D boss
- Entrepreneurs are born, not made – it’s a skill one has to develop by his own.
- Entrepreneurs love risk – they hate risk, but they know how to manage it, so they can live with it
- Entrepreneurs are successful because they are charismatic – not important. Charismatic doesn’t last. What you do is more important.
- Entrepreneurs are lucky – because they prepare their path, so when an opportunity comes, they are going to get Lucky
- Entrepreneurs are undisciplined – they are super overly disciplined to make things happen. Slack wastes and ruins everything.
Entrepreneurship can be taught to get people up and running faster. They help avoiding pitfalls many had found in process.
But at the end, entrepreneurship is experience-based. The key is get stuff done. It’s about try your best, be able to accept mistakes and move on. There are going to be a lot of mistakes along the path. But, that is a part of the learning process.
Lecture 2 What is Entrepreneurship
This part he went through the incubation process to start a business from zero to money. The process can be seen from his book’s website. It requires you to give them email address. Then you get a long process drawn in cartoon in a poster PDF file. This process can be broken down into 6 phases:
- Who is your customers?
- What can you do for your customer?
- How does your customer acquire your product?
- How do you make money off your product?
- Ho do you design & build your product?
- How do you scale your business?
It can be seen that the most important thing to a business is paying customers (otherwise, it’s not a business). And, to make him pay, it’s very important to tailor a product just for him, so that he will get it right away. And, there will be many him. And that’s the money.
To tailor his experience, entrepreneurs have to gone through iteration of define and refine many many times. This is called spiraling innovation. Once it has started, it moves toward closer closer to the center, to the right one.
For IDE, the key here is how to make inventions becoming business. As the equation:
Innovation (value) = Invention (patent, tech) * Commercialization (plan, execution)
This is the characteristic of each variable:
- Technology: it alone is risky, because it likely doesn’t fit needs. But, if that happens, this state-of-the-art is going to give huge profit.
- Commercial: businessmen knows what market needs, so they can manage that. But, without technology, they are not competitive, so they earn less money from execution.
It’s hard to match these 2 things together. To make it happens, one has to go back and forth between what tech allows and what users need. This is why many colleges develop curriculum for engineer/science students and business/management students to meet each other at some point. This neutral zone in colleges allows potential innovations to happen. But, as a product is a thing for a customer, there is another key person: a UX designer. A tech guy crafts possibility. A business gut crafts money plan. A designer makes the joint of these to guys appealing to customers. An example is before Apple becoming a buzzword in the past 5 years, Windows was a major OS in PCs, and no one felt like to ditch it. When Apple came, they did it right. They put use case and usability together. Now, they are rich.
This class covered the first 3 phases and ran through in later periods.
Lecture 3 Ideate
Before he started this class, he showed this TEDx videos to motivate and get the mood right. This is quite interesting.
- Engaging into something
- Let yourself fail
- Failing does not mean you are a failure
- The important Is to ok to fail
- Why do we listen?
- We listen just enough to react
- Listening is the willingness to change
- If you have made up your mind, you don’t listen
- Yes / No
- Saying YES = a story can go on
- Saying NO = a story ends there
- No matter how long a story has developed, if there is one NO appearing, a long streak of YES ends instantly
- Yes + And
- Saying YES = a story can go on
- Saying AND = a story continues with more stories
- It’s a way of working with people and creating something
- Play the game
- Follow the rules
- Anything else you can improvise
- Relax and have fun
Educated people usually fall in the curse of knowledge. They jump right away to solutions, but they forgot to ask what is the question.
Prof started this chain reaction by asking a student about “What is the problem of charging a phone? “. The student answered with a technical reason. Then, all students answer technically to their field. This may answer to the question allowing us to dive in deep into specific issues. BUT, he mentioned that he asked “What is the problem of charging a phone?”. Everyone couldn’t answer. They just went right into issues without knowing what causes this problem. He said “People want to be connected all the time”, so people use it a lot and loses all of their battery. Then, he showed a vein diagram. Starting from answers, you get a limited set of solutions. But, starting from defining a question gives you much bigger possible solutions, and this set also contains those tiny technical points too.
The objective of this period is to be able to come up with an idea. Improvise the living. We were asked to write down what are problems in our daily life. Then we ideate how to serve our own problem if there is a company solving yours.
Lecture 4 Pitching
This period, we ran around the classroom presenting our own business idea to our friends, one person a time, 1 minute per talk. Then a partner would ask questions or give feedback to ours.
Mine was an errand service for people who woke up late, so they do not have time to spare to do other things aside day job. A person asked another person to do an errand for him which it can be trivial as grocery or confidential as extending VISA. After I talked to my friends, I started to know what happened in real world and my idea developed. I knew from them that there is messenger service inside a company, so I answered that by “a person who runs errand can be any person”. This made me realized that it had become UBER for errand. Havn’t thought about this. Ideas morph overtime. It didn’t happen only me but everyone.
After presenting to each friend, we split score from 7 to each other i.e. 5 + 2, 1 + 6, 3 + 4. We did this for 6 rounds. The top 10 winners went for pitching for 1 minute in front of the class.
It was so much fun to craft, hear and share with people.