UNH Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
by David E Shaw
It was an honor to be a member of the inaugural inductees to the University of New Hampshire Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame on October 4, 2018. The event at UNH included a discussion session with ECenter students who are actively involved in a wide variety of business and social ventures. Several discussion topics stood out for me and here’s a summary of those perspectives that I shared:
- Strategies for a start-up to secure its first customers ?
Approach thought-leading and early-adopter customers with conviction about the compelling value proposition that you have to offer. Often early customers serve as collaborators in evolving the final form and positioning of a product.
- How do you foster innovation in entrepreneurial ventures ?
Innovation isn’t magic. Innovation can be fostered systematically through business processes that encourage expansive thinking and that rigorously challenge conventional wisdom and that amplify minority and dissenting voices. Listening with radical attention to customer unmet needs is often a vital source of innovation. It’s important to support innovative thinking by separating sessions for expansive thinking from sessions designed to judge new ideas. Ultimately great organizations subject their innovative ideas to internal critical thinking and disciplined stress testing designed to anticipate the harsh realities of the marketplace. Cultures of trust and transparency support innovation.
- How to cope with “pitfalls” associated with lack of experience and knowledge in a new venture; not knowing what you don’t know ?
I encourage entrepreneurs to love the unknown; to enjoy and benefit from the journey of exploration and discovery. Hire exceptional talent with relevant experience in “academy” companies – often outside of your targeted domain/industry. Seek thoughtful perspectives on “what great looks like” from capital sources, board members, advisors, peers in other industries and leading academic institutions like the UNH E-Center.
- How to find the right capital for a new venture ?
Funding circumstances vary widely for new ventures, but consider the importance of capital sources that add value far beyond their invested funds. Investors can be a powerful source of expertise in building new ventures, in attracting talent, in providing credibility for future funding needs. In more than a dozen ventures I’ve helped shape and build, we always seek the most admired, successful and discriminating sources of value-added capital.
- Strategies for successful scaling ?
It’s important to be very disciplined about whether a product and/or company have compelling evidence that it’s the right time and circumstances to scale. Scaling prematurely can be disastrous. Upon evidence for scaling, it’s often best to start the process by cultivating a small cohort of high profile customers who, through collaboration, can realize the full benefits of a product and serve as inspirational evidence to others of what great looks like. Adoption by these thought leaders, and the resulting use cases, can dramatically impact the cost and timetable for scaling to the full market.
Watch a short clip from the awards ceremony HERE
Learn more about the UNH ECenter HERE