By Guest Author Vish Mishra
It is with great interest that I read Sramana’s Forbes column on a stimulus package for entrepreneurs. It is indeed important that the entrepreneurial ecosystem be stimulated into action and growth as it is these very entrepreneurs that can drive the economy out of the recession. Times of recession gave birth to some of the most successful companies: Microsoft, MTV, HP, Disney, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, to name a few. In fact, sixteen of the Dow Jones 30 companies were launched in a recession or depression.
It may seem paradoxical given the tightness in the economy, but is times like the current recession that are ideal for launching new ventures. Aspiring entrepreneurs in these times are faced with a dual dilemma – how do they predict what the state of the economy will be at the time their venture launches, and how do they get funding when venture capitalists and angel investors have tightened their purse strings? Yes, in times of recessions, it takes much more than a great technical ideal and solid business instincts to build a successful company. It takes boldness to persevere on your venture, a great network of advisors to launch a company that will be lasting and attract customers.
It is with this thought in mind that we made the theme of this year’s TiEcon “The BOLD entrepreneur”. We are hosting TiEcon 2009 on May 15 and 16 2009, at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Many of you may know of TiEcon, the world’s largest conference for entrepreneurs. In addition to being the largest conference, it is also the longest running conference, being held for the sixteenth year in a row this year.
As managing partner at Clearstone Ventures, President of TiE (the world’s largest organization of entrepreneurs), and as a serial entrepreneur, my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in this economy, is that you need more than a technical idea and a viable business plan – those are a given. In order to rise above the fray, you need two more characteristics – a great network of experts and industry leaders you can lean on, and a set of business tools that are relevant for today’s economy.
Let’s address each of these characteristics in detail:
Network: Having a great rolodex of contacts you can lean on requires sustained effort – meetings, interactions, shared projects over time. School and university alumni associations offer good networking opportunities. At TiE we offer regular and frequent networking opportunities along specific segments. So, if you have an interest in mobile technology, you can attend our mobile special interest group series where you meet experts and industry leaders in the mobile segment, and have an opportunity to make lasting, mutually helpful connections over time. TiEcon historically provides a rich networking platform, and given the state of the economy we decided to catalyze the coming together of bold entrepreneurs via a new structured networking format called Power Connect. This is a three-hour lunchtime networking session at TiEcon 2009 where you get to discuss the hottest and most relevant topics of the segment with the experts and influencers, and walk away with over one hundred contacts in that segment. Power Connect puts you in an exclusive LinkedIn group with other attendees of Power Connect affording discussion and networking opportunities well after the conference is over. Sustained networking is crucial not just during lean times, but especially during good times. As they say, “Don’t wait until you are thirsty to dig a well.”
Updated Business Tools: Knowledge of the practical aspects of managing a company such as funding, legal issues, building teams, scaling sales and creating hype through PR campaigns are necessary for the success of any venture. Real-world experience is the most effective way to learn the ropes of running a business. Another way is to hear from people who have done it before. At TiEcon we offer Business BootCamps, interactive workshops conducted by experienced industry hands who offer battle-tested tips and insights. Two of the topics we have picked for this year are, “Starting a Company in this Economy: Yes, You Can! The Lean Startup Guide”, and “Networking to a New Career and Vaulting into a New Job”
Despite the gloomy economy, this is an exciting time for any aspiring entrepreneur. There is less of a rush; people have more time on their hands to delve thoroughly into business ideas. As a VC I am accustomed to seeing brilliant ideas, but these days I get to see the bolder of the crop of your typical entrepreneur. I expect there will be a new batch of bold companies arising out of this recession, and I am sure we will get early glimpses into their creation at TiEcon 2009.