We spent the past week deepening our understanding of entrepreneurship in New York. We gained insight from both perspectives, from those who are facilitating entrepreneurship an those, who are actively the beneficiaries of it, the entrepreneurs themselves.
In terms of facilitation and the ecosystem, we visited incubators and had lecture with the representative of the association of business incubators. While we learnt about how development of start-ups and SMBs are facilitated and how entrepreneurship is encouraged, but to earn the truth, while all have valuable contribution, but I still haven’t seen an ideal solution for small business incubators. Considering how important of a role the entrepreneurs and small businesses play in rebooting and fueling the economy, among the incubators visited I was still missing that overall solution. Having visited WeWork, the company is practically in the real-estate business targeting start-ups and SMBs and catering to their needs, while General Assembly comes across as a school providing courses to start-ups. Brooklyn Research is trying to provide a hub for primary research, but more with a philanthropic artistic attitude. All in all, these companies are invaluable part of the ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs, but are they vital? Do they provide all the essential ingredients for the fertile ground where innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish? Not fully. I would argue, that next to a place to work, workshop to use, courses to take part in, providing hands-on management and financing support is still missing. There is still ground for innovative incubators to rise to this challenge.
On the other hand, we have also had the pleasure to meet some serial entrepreneurs, like Ziv Navoth, Antonio Evans and Bojan Angelov, talking about how it really is to be an entrepreneur and the type of issues and decisions entrepreneurs face. I was most impressed by the advice of encouraging all aspiring entrepreneurs to do less thinking and more doing in terms of trying out their ideas, as there is no perfect time to get started. Yet, there was also word of caution, which I especially agreed with, that all entrepreneurial spirits should validate first their ideas, should not jump blindly on a promising project risking all their financial background and should keep a strong focus on the selected project(s).
Last, but not least, if there was one overarching commonality, which impressed me the most was the collaborative attitude, which transpired from all representatives we met last week. It is especially impressive, as in case of new businesses and innovative ideas, my expectation would have been the opposite, for the players to be more secretive and protective of their own ideas and projects. On the contrary, in fact they encouraged us all to share our ideas. According to their experience, daring to share brings more benefits, such as constructive feed-back, support and generation of new ideas, rather than risking the theft of our original ideas. While I am impressed by this notion, but I am not sure if this openly collaborating attitude is generation specific (e.g. Netgen?), and if it also worked in other countries (e.g. in CEE and China)? I guess, we can only try…