Are entrepreneurs made or born?

This question has preoccupied theorists and practitioners ever since Schumpeter started to theorize about innovation and entrepreneurship at the beginning of the last century. For over a century, the leading view was that successful entrepreneurs have a specific DNA, and although certain technical skills can be obtained through entrepreneurship education, the successful ones will be those with that specific DNA.

Photo by Kevin Erdvig on Unsplash
Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash

Recently more and more people argue that entrepreneurial skills can be indeed taught and there is a plethora of frameworks applied that aim to teach entrepreneurs and startup founders the very essence of entrepreneurship. Popular frameworks are built around idea generation, product-market-fit, market segmentation, beachhead market, and customer personas: you can practice how to calculate your TAM, LTV, and COCA and you will build your MVP along the way. 

You will find an enormous number of online educational materials, free or at a very affordable price. 

So, if entrepreneurship can be taught, and entrepreneurs are made, the knowledge is there, you just need to reach out to it and start learning and you are all set. Right?

Many serial entrepreneurs vouch that should they have known what they know today they could have become successful faster or saved themselves a few failures. So entrepreneurial knowledge could help you make shortcuts or add that little something that will stir you out from failure. Now you can also use ChatGPT, just ask any question when you get stuck in a problem, and the answer will be there. 

So why are unicorns still a rare phenomenon?

Entrepreneurship is a messy process. It is far from linear, you start building something, and as you test and learn, you realize that you need to fix something at the foundation so you go back and start all over again from the beginning. Or you realize that the whole thing does not make any sense. You will have issues with your co-founders, and you go through team storming when your project bleeds from all possible wounds. You are exhausted, and your resources go dry.

During my 8 years of startup incubation experience, I found many similarities between sport and entrepreneurship. Let’s take the example of swimming.

Hungary has been very successful for decades in a particular sport: swimming. 

In 1896, at the first modern Olympic Games Hungarian swimmer, Alfred Hajós reaped the laurels on the 100 and 1200 meters freestyle. Ever since then at least one Hungarian swimmer, if not many, occupies a place on the podium at the Summer Olympic Games. Well, what makes them so successful? Is it DNA? Are all Hungarians born with an affinity to swim? Is it the facilities? The team spirit? The special support programs? Are we a nation geared toward supporting top swimmers?

The number of Olympic size pools in Budapest and in Hungary is probably higher than average and there are natural waters for all kinds of water sports. Kids grow up swimming. Swimming is relatively affordable, pools are available and good swimming coaches are not difficult to find. At the end of the day, it is not that complicated to teach you the strokes and the kicks. 

What is notable though, is that a great number of swimming schools are led by former Olympic or World Championship medallists. They bring their World class experience and personal learnings to the pools and hand it down to the next generation of swimmers. And they inspire.

Competitive swimmers swim between 6-12 km up to 9 times a week, and they do it for about 12 years until they will start seeing serious results. This means that the top swimmers will swim about 35-40k km — approximately the equivalent of the length of the Equator – in the hope that they might be the winners of Olympic gold. 

Why join the STR Launchpad program?

Incubator programs are maybe a bit like swimming clubs. At the STRT Launchpad, we have successful entrepreneurs who will provide program participants with the support they need as founders go through the early steps of their project development. We will share our experiences and will talk about what we did in similar situations and what helped us to get where we wanted to get. And how we bounced back from our failures. Maybe as we share with you how we do our “kicks and strokes” will help you realize what “kicks and strokes” work for you. We will be there to encourage, inspire, and give you feedback and support. We bring a combined several hundred years of entrepreneurial experience to hand it down to the next generation.

But you will have to do the hard work. Remember swimming: no matter how many books you read about swimming techniques, you are the one in the water and need to stay afloat. 

And swim fast.

At the end of the day, it is your project, your dream, your ambition. Your peers will be there to share their experience too as they will go through similar phases of their project development, the emotional and business rollercoaster of it. You are the expert on your own project. No one can tell you how you will be successful. As an innovator, you are in the realm of the unknown. You are on a path no one has been on before. You will experiment, pivot, build on the learnings, and improve the product every step of the way.

And this, your own learning, during your tireless practising where the entrepreneur will be made. Your ability to integrate the wisdom from your own experiment will define your entrepreneurial journey and your founder potential. You need focus, dedication, and perseverance.

Are you prepared to venture the length of the Equator?

Andrea Kozma
Launchpad Director
STRT

Application for the Spring 2024 cohort is open now!

Application deadline: February 16, 2024