Conversation 6: Building the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

GES 2015 in Nairobi
Conversation 6:  Building the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Saturday, July 25, 2015


Key Discussion Points:

1. Role of Formal Education:
- App Poll: 96% of the people in the room said job training is more impt for the success of a start-up business (as opposed to formal education.

- Need to practice what you learn within a company (internships, work experience)

- Formal education can be boring to an entrepreneur. Formal education needs to be made interesting and be conducted in an experiential learning way. Need to look at how to keep the entrepreneur spirit within formal education.
- Learning needs to be multi-faceted: peer to peer, mentoring, classroom, online, and from practical experience.  Need blended learning environments and options.

- Conclusion: Traditional education is not always the best option for getting the skills and experience needed to be an entrepreneur.  A mix of training, learning, experience and support is needed to be successful.

2) Search for Talent:
- App Poll: What is the hardest position for a start-up to hire:  Top three answers from those in the room:
a) Operations Manager = 41%
b) Sales Manager = 32%
c) Financial Manager = 18%.

- For start-ups it can be hard to find and keep good staff, especially mid-level staff.

- Ways to find and keep staff: create a cool culture and a place that everyone wants to work, Look for broad experience, people need to see potential in our company and be able to relate to the values and purpose. People want to work in a place they can learn, be heard and be creative. Good corporate governance.  If you know a good personal and don’t need them, share them with other companies so they will do the same for you when you need someone. What helps you get financial support and backing is the same thing that will help you get and keep employees.

- Start-ups have a soul and values that can resonate with people and this bigger vision will help you attract and keep employees. Give people a title to make up for inability to pay a lot (titles are cheap).

- Personality typing is really helpful to be sure you have the right person for the right job.

- Conclusion: Need training and experience in human resource management because the people can make or break a small company. Start-ups often under invest in HR and hiring the right people for the right positions. Talent (not $$) is the biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs.

3) Role of Incubators and Accelerators:

- Still under debate as we have no data to demonstrate that incubators and accelerators really work! 

- Engage diaspora (Korea is a great example of using the diaspora)

- Don’t take a cookie-cutter approach; tailor your approach to the needs of the start-up.

- Conclusion: Entrepreneurs need to look for the right fit when it comes to picking an accelerator. They should look for the right stage fit and industry to find the right match.
4) Overall Advice from Panel:

- Entrepreneurs have to want it, believe, work hard, keep trying, ask for what they need, and know what they want to achieve.  

- Entrepreneurs need to be self-aware and mentor-friendly so people are willing to work with you and help out with more then just financing.

- Need to better understand how to measure the success of accelerators to see if they really work.