Recap from the YLAI Network’s live webchat with Professor Michael Goldberg
Michael Goldberg, author of Beyond Silicon Valley and a professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, discussed the “entrepreneurial mindset” in a Facebook Live chat with young leaders and entrepreneurs from across Latin America & the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on his academic and professional background, as well as his personal experience visiting locations in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean, Professor Goldberg gave young entrepreneurs advice on how to launch and grow their businesses and create change in their communities.
Here are some of the key lessons from Professor Goldberg’s question-and-answer session:
Nicolas asked: What is some advice for entrepreneurs preparing to launch a new business?
In Professor Goldberg’s opinion, you must start by identifying your networks, such as the YALI Network and the YLAI Network, and then find people with prior expertise in gaining capital and growing a business who can serve as mentors. Forming an advisory board is not only helpful for making new decisions but also gives startups additional credibility. Exploring events that exist in your communities, such as startup weekends and pitch competitions, helps you find opportunities where people can come together and prepare for entrepreneurial success.
A YALI Network member from Nigeria asked: How can young people gain the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit needed to start and grow their business?
Professor Goldberg stresses the importance of teaching entrepreneurship to students at an early age. He suggests identifying opportunities that exist in your school or community, such as clubs and other student-run organizations, to gain entrepreneurship skills. He believes exposing people to these experiences at a young age can help ignite the entrepreneurial spirit within them and help them to remain interested in the field as they grow older.
Julia from Honduras asked: How can you expand your business in a saturated market?
Professor Goldberg advised differentiating yourself through areas such as service, price (particularly online), or design. There are many new tools and opportunities entrepreneurs can take advantage of to spread their business campaigns through websites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Creating blogs or podcasts about the business are also good tools to spread awareness. Remember that just because it is a saturated market does not mean there is no room for success!
Mohamed from Somaliland asked: How can I address the issue of a lack of access to finance?
A lack of access to finance is an issue that affects entrepreneurs all over the world. If you find that lack of funding is hindering the development of your business, Professor Goldberg suggests seeking out “free money” opportunities. Start by researching scholarships, grants, or competitions where you can receive funding from the government or other organizations. If these opportunities are not available, look to your network for help. Try connecting with people in your area that may be interested in helping your business grow.
Hanz from Peru asked: How do you create true innovation?
Innovation means many different things to different people. To Professor Goldberg, innovation is an attitude about being hungry to explore new things. Entrepreneurs by nature are innovative. Large players in the market often want to engage with entrepreneurs to understand innovation because it may not be happening organically within the larger companies.
A YALI Network member from Sierra Leone asked: What can an entrepreneur do to convince investors to believe in their ideas?
In Professor Goldberg’s opinion, investors invest in the team rather than in the idea. To pique an investor’s interest, you must first ask yourself about skills you have. What makes you uniquely suited to solve this business challenge in your community? You may recognize that a problem exists, but are you the best suited to solve it? These are some of the questions that potential investors will ask, so you should already have answers in mind. When it comes to meeting with investors, be ready with your “elevator pitch” and be able to sell yourself and your idea in a short amount of time.
Ronald from Venezuela asked: How can entrepreneurs work toward success in challenging policy environments?
Difficult political environments that are often quite fluid in countries such as in Venezuela may cause challenges for entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurs often want policies that support small businesses, these business owners may not favor the current governments that are creating these policies. Professor Goldberg wrote about this challenging paradigm in Turkey. In his experience, you must educate politicians on the importance of the dynamics that entrepreneurs are going through, because political leaders are often thinking more about short-term events.
Members of the YALI Network from Liberia and the DRC asked: What would you say are four things that make a strong entrepreneur?
In Professor Goldberg’s experience, the four traits that make a successful entrepreneur are resilience, the ability to network, humility, and a commitment to community. Entrepreneurs must be resilient as the hours they must work to accomplish their goals take a toll on their family and their life. They must be resilient in the face of the challenges they will inevitably have to overcome. The ability to network is also crucial. The ability to activate your network to seek out new opportunities is important to the success of your business. Professor Goldberg suggests staying involved in your network and continuing to talk to others about your business and to pitch ideas. Humility is an equally important quality. In Professor Goldberg’s experience, entrepreneurs cannot be overconfident or full of themselves, as that will not translate well to investors. Strong leaders are humble and have empathy for others, and investors want to invest in a person with those qualities. Lastly, a commitment to community makes a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs must consider what they are doing to give back to their community beyond just making a profit for themselves.
To view a recording of the Facebook Live chat with Professor Goldberg, visit the YLAI Network Facebook page.
Interested in learning more about the YLAI Network resources related to entrepreneurship? Check out the #YLAIStepsUp entrepreneurship page to download an entrepreneurship handbook and toolkit (available in English and en español), reflect on your business goals, take an online entrepreneurship course (available in English and en español), and work on your business plan!
The YLAI Network also has a wide range of professional development materials that can help you in starting or growing your business and advancing your career goals. Check them out on the YLAI Network professional development page.