#3 Ulrich Kaiser
Tel: +45 38154247
Department of Innovation
and Organizational Economics
It is a bit of a generic textbook answer but I believe it is true: It is the process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard for the resources they currently control. That is, they have an idea, recognise that there is also an associated opportunity and then begin to collect the funds and resources to pull the project off.
Research has so far not been able to show that entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs differ genetically. It has, however, been shown that they differ in terms of their personal traits. Most importantly, entrepreneurs have a lot of passion for their business and are willing to make big sacrifices to get their business up and running. Second, they have a keen focus on customers (and not on technological aspects). Third, they are good at getting things done – they raise the funds they need, put together a team that works, establish partnerships and motivate employees (easy, as they are passionate about their business, see above). Fourth, they have a huge amount of tenacity and do not give up as soon as they encounter the first setbacks.
We cannot really change personal traits. What we can do, however, is endow students with the skills that facilitate becoming and – more importantly – being an entrepreneur. Students should have skills in all kinds of disciplines, just like in Lazear’s jack-of-all-trades model. They clearly need to learn how to write a business plan. They also need to acquire more mundane skills like accounting, which most people with the personal traits discussed above would disregard. Knowledge about human resource management will also help, as will courses in strategy. Most importantly perhaps, however, is that students learn how to express themselves orally and in writing.
the public sector?
The option of starting an own business gives people the option to be their own boss and to do what they actually wish to do. Many entrepreneurs are convinced about their business and believe that their product or service makes the world a better place (they are, well … passionate). These products or services – at least the ones that succeed – indeed make life easier for both the humble consumer and the established firms.
Many entrepreneurs conceived their idea while working with a corporation. Think of the founders of SAP. IBM, their employer, turned down their idea. And yet, SAP proved to be quite useful for both the private and the public sector (and for the army of consultants who implement their software, not to mention the founders themselves).
The threat of new entrants perhaps also makes the lazy incumbent more innovative. After all, the monopolist enjoys an easy life – until the first challenger pops up.
In what sense is entrepreneurship important for society?
Many important innovations have been brought about by start-ups. Think of Red Bull, which keeps our students awake. But we should also bear in mind that entrepreneurship is a viable option for minorities who are otherwise marginalised on the labour market.
Entrepreneurship also constitutes a challenge, like for example the collection of private and sensitive data by social networks.