Following a long phone conversation with a Swiss entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, I received from him an email where he put his thoughts. They are indeed quite interesting and he authorized me to publish them:
“It’s a bit depressing to see that things change slowly (I had that intuition already)…
On a philosophical standpoint, I was thinking while driving my car that one of the issues is self-confidence.In the USA, everyone is raised with the idea that “anything is possible”, the “American dream”, to the point that it is sometimes stupid and annoying… On the contrary, in Switzerland, anyone wants to do things well and the culture is more about “this is not possible” or “I do not know how to do this”. But to be an entrepreneur, you must not be afraid of trying, of being far from perfect, of doing things in fields you do not master and sometimes even “quick and dirty”. It is the opposite culture of the Swiss craftsman who is a perfectionnist, the “travail bien fait”)… In summary, it is important to learn by doing things such as:
– Who to raise money, where to begin?
– How to negotiate a shareholder and investor agreement?
– How to deal with partners?
– Learn how to negotiate
– How to work with Head Hunters, Lawyers, Customers…?
– How to build and manage a team? – How to hire a sales team (a tough thing for an engineer). By the way, what are marketing, sales, operations?!!
– What about productization, schedule, specs, qualification?
– Where to find distributors?
All this can not be taught in schools, I am not sure it is covered in an MBA. I am not conviced it can be taught anywhere. According to my experience, an entrepreneur does not stop doing new things, quite badly the first time and hopefully better and better with time. One should not have the negative attitude of never trying difficult and risky ventures, which does not mean one should launch or fund unrealist projects… There is a fuzzy line between arrogance (one should know its own limits) and dynamism of a good entrepreneur.
It is certainly a bad thing that engineering schools do not provide enough about marketing, accounting, legal elemts in the curriculum. But this is also true in teh USA, by the way!”
I was yesterday in Grenoble for a round table on the Nouveaux Conquérants:
The topics that were discussed were very similar to the comments above: self confidence, uncertainty, risk taking, passion, and success & failure.