Celebrate Entrepreneurs Like the Red Wings Winning the Stanley Cup


I am very pleased to see Xconomy moving into the Michigan area to help with the reinventing of the economy there. A lot of people are clearly feeling real pain from the economy, and the injection of “innovation adrenaline” can not only be incrementally beneficial economically, it can make a profound change in the spirit of the region and give it new hope for renewal. That’s what Massachusetts needed after the collapse of the textile industry and then the subsequent collapse of the mini-computer industry. The five most important things that can be done in Michigan to reinvigorate the economy are as follows:

1. Focus on Entrepreneurs: As Thomas Friedman said so well in his recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, what we need are start-ups, not bailouts. As he points out, Robert Litan’s work at the Kauffman Foundation shows that from 1980 to 2005, 40 million jobs were created by companies less than 5 years old, and zero net new jobs were created by companies older than that.

2. Infect the Area with the Virus of Entrepreneurship: More competitions, speakers, case studies, and celebrations should be held or presented to elevate the prestige of the entrepreneur. The culture needs to be changed so that entrepreneurs are hailed as heroes and role models for the young and talented. A PR campaign is valuable to alter the mindset, and we will know we have succeeded when Michigan’s successful entrepreneurs are treated like the Red Wings when they won the Stanley Cup.

3. Celebrate Entrepreneurs Even If They Fail: It is clear from research that entrepreneurship and innovation is a process of experimentation that involves doing something that has not been done before. Failure in such experimentation should be a seen a source of learning and as increasing the odds for ultimate success. When it comes to innovation, the willingness to fail gives us the ability to succeed.

4. Provide Practical Educational Opportunities: While entrepreneurship is a mindset and spirit, it is also a set of skills. These basic fundamentals skills can be taught and should be widely taught in practical, short, two- or three-day intense workshops. These work well for both aspiring and recently minted first time entrepreneurs. Time compressing the learning curve allows the renaissance to happen sooner and helps to increase the probability of creating serial entrepreneurs who have disproportional positive impact (witness Boston, Silicon Valley, or Israel).

5. Increase the Velocity of Information and Knowledge Transfer: Networking is fundamental to the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems, and today we can complement the physical networking with powerful, rapid, and direct digital networking. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavor, and building a community not only provides important psychological support, it also makes it easier to convey invaluable contacts and knowledge that can mean the difference between success and failure.

This last point is where Xconomy will be of invaluable assistance: by providing the content and platform for connections that will help accelerate the rebirth of Michigan.

Congratulations on opening your fourth city and it is very appropriate that you have chosen Michigan.

[Editor’s note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we’ve queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

Bill Aulet is the Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT, as well as a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of “Disciplined Entrepreneurship”. Follow @BillAulet

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2 responses to “Celebrate Entrepreneurs Like the Red Wings Winning the Stanley Cup”

  1. I certainly agree with Bill on this one. A website I’m working on: EntrepreneurEDU.org, is built to help spread the word on entrepreneurship (specifically entrepreneurship education). We want to eventually build a calendar of all the different business competitions around the country.

  2. Agreed, especially on point 3: Celebrate Entrepreneurs Even If They Fail. De-stigmatizing failure, and celebrating it as the learning process that it is, is one of the crucial ingredients for Silicon Valley’s success and could play a key role in Detroit’s economic turnaround.