Entrepreneurship as it sounds could be perceived as unreachable or as an abstract concept – especially when one lacks professional experience. Yet the greatest entrepreneurs of our time such as Bill Gates or Elon Musk are living examples of early age entrepreneurship. Although sitting at the table of those two giants seems unrealistic, I strongly believe that everyone has the capacity to embrace entrepreneurship at an early age. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, it is the best time to undergo entrepreneurship. Because if you want to live “young, wild and free” as Snoop Dog would say, you have to take risks and the younger you are, the easier it seems to take them.
Quite early in life, I knew I would one day become an entrepreneur as it was for me the best way to couple freedom with meaningful impact. However, the way to meet this objective was paved with blur and a myriad of interrogations. Where would I start? How would I become successful in my entrepreneurship? How do I know if my idea will work? What steps must be taken to bring my idea to life?
Today, thanks to my modest experience in this discipline I have unveiled its mysteries and I wish to share my learnings with you.
Where to start?
Look for troubles.
Yes, you read that correctly, the vast majority of successful ideas arise from a problem. If you do not have a clue on where to look for a problem, start with yourself. What could you fix or create to make your life easier or more enjoyable? However, you have to keep in mind that the problem you want to fix is not just affecting yourself but a larger community. Simply because the greater the amount of people or companies irritated by this problem, the higher the impact your solution will have.
How to know if my idea will work?
Once you believe you have found a problem that is worth solving. The next step is to validate it.
How? → 5 steps: Target, interview, listen, adjust, validate.
Target your audience.
Define with as many details as possible a few profiles (job title, age, personality traits, needs, pains, etc…) that could potentially be impacted by the problem, these will be your so-called personas. These people are the ones you want to talk to, find them by any means (social networks, relatives, public spaces, etc…) people that meet the portraits’ criteria you have established.
Then, talk to them.
Without bringing up your identified problem on the table but rather by funnelling questions to narrow down gradually to the conclusions, hypothesis you have established beforehand. Your questions must not be too precise but rather open, so that the answers you will receive will be pure and subtracted from your personal judgement.
Finally, listen and take notes.
Not only of what they say but also their reactions because every information you can withdraw will consolidate your conclusions and your problem statement. You can also conduct a survey to more effectively reach your target but the results you will obtain might be less accurate.
Once you believe you have gathered enough information draw your first conclusions and adjust your problem statement accordingly and see if they match your hypothesis. If not, re-adjust your problem statement.
Now that your problem has been validated you need to solve it.
How? This is where your creativity will bloom, in the so-called ideation phase. Your purpose here is to generate as many ideas as possible around your problem statement. Many different methods exist that you can apply to propel ideation, the ‘science’ behind is called Design-Thinking and here are a few examples of tools for you to look into: Convergent-Divergent Thinking, Disney Method, 6 Bono’s Hat, Mind mapping, 5 Whys. I personally prefer to work manually when it comes to creativity, but you can also use online tools such as Miro which is quite resourceful and well-suited for design-thinking. If you conducted this step well, you should have managed to find the first solutions to your problem. You should then consolidate them by joining them together or filling the gaps through research.
Now that I have a concrete idea, which steps must be taken to bring it to life?
At this stage I have already shared with you the 2 first phases: User research and Ideation. Different paths can be taken from this stage depending on the complexity of your idea, but I strongly suggest proving your concept via prototyping.
What is a prototype?
A rudimentary working sample, model, mock-up or just a simulation of your concept. The goal behind this is to open the gate to testing and gather feedback. It should be an iterative process in which you test, adjust, improve until you are sure your concept is worth building. Hopefully, after this phase, you will have everything in hand to develop your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which will be your ticket entry to start growing your business.
Nevertheless, you will still have to complete additional steps to actually grow your business, because no plant thrives and grows without soil. The soil I am referring to is your actual business strategy which can be designed through tools like flowcharts, GANT charts, Functional Flow Block Diagrams, Business Model canvas, etc… and most importantly you have to highlight a clear value proposition which will prove the potential of your idea to your investors.
If you have the opportunity or possibility to allocate a significant amount of your time to your project, it might be wise to apply for incubators and accelerators (a good platform for that is FS6) which can be more helpful in helping you go through this journey successfully. It might be that if you struggle at the embryonic stage of your project, you choose rather to go for an incubator and if you managed to complete the steps detailed earlier on, you might apply for accelerators.
However, before you go in a hurry, let me qualify my words and share with you my juvenile experience that is giving me legitimacy to talk on this topic. I am a mechanical engineering student currently completing my last semester of a Masters degree. In summer 2021, I had the opportunity to undergo a three months incubation programme to create a startup, which gave me the opportunity to meet many successful entrepreneurs, to learn what I am conveying to you today but also apprehend the intensity that it implies. For the past six months, I have worked on my own entrepreneurial project alongside my studies and I seek to create my own company once I graduate. Hence, my point is that I still have a lot to learn in this discipline so do not take all my words for granted, but dive more into the topic and enrich yourself with testimonials from successful entrepreneurs.
Last but not least, what I can assure you is that, as exciting as it may sounds be aware that the entrepreneurship path is strewn with fears, hesitations, frustrations, disappointments but if you stay resilient, trust yourself and put enough efforts and energy into it – you can reap the rewards which can be more fulfilling and enriching than what you may have ever imagined.
The cards are now in your hands to become an entrepreneur and make an impact in the world.
So do not waste one more second on futilities, picture yourself at the table of Elon and Bill, get work done and start creating because creation is to me the true key to happiness.
Authored by Jules Moussa, Imagen Insights Gen Z consultant