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I recently returned from participating in the 2nd Annual Rome Forum of the Harambe Entrepreneurial Alliance, hosted by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Last week, we hosted Ice House Facilitator Training here at the Foundation. We had people come from across the country and the international community to be trained in how to facilitate an entrepreneurial mindset to members of their community. I had the chance to sit down with one of the facilitators, Rob Elwood, and learn about his reason for coming to this training, and how he sees it benefiting his community in Annapolis, Md.
During my years at the Kauffman Foundation I have seen firsthand the effect that education can have on the development of entrepreneurs and their companies. The entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have taken the lessons they have learned and applied them to great effect in their endeavors as founders. These entrepreneurs benefited from opportunities to learn critical skills, and from gaining an understanding of crucial decisions or junctures that often can derail entrepreneurial businesses.
Even with the most intuitive educational material, sometimes the most important thing a students needs is the ability to ask questions. For entrepreneurs, who are often lifelong learners, this is essential to the application of the material to their business. While online learning can facilitate opportunities to learn lessons anytime, anywhere that might not otherwise be available, the opportunity to engage directly with experts creates important connections and discussions.
Some of the very first decisions founders must make early on in their ventures are crucially important to the future of the business. Many of these decisions concern the ubiquitous "people problems" that challenge even experienced entrepreneurs. When should I found? Should I co-found with someone? With whom? How should we split the equity? Bad or ill-informed choices at critical junctures could have significant consequences for startups. In fact, research has suggested that 65 percent of new firm failures were related to problems within the management team.
As a father of three, I vividly remember those chilly, early-summer mornings of packing bags, loading up the car, and waving a sad goodbye as my children began their latest adventure at the summer camp of choosing. And there were plenty of those mornings over the course of 18 years. There was volleyball camp, and Science Olympiad clinics, and lacrosse camp.
Once you've heard the insight--that startups are different from big companies--it seems so obvious. Yet too often entrepreneurs, and those that teach them, approach the building of new companies with the same goals, staff structures and assumptions that motivate the management of large companies. Startup founders build teams to focus on engineering, and on the process of creating a product and bringing it to market.
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