Entrepreneurship: Simple Ideas And Opportunity Management

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Founder Friday Madrid will be co-hosted by investor Paloma Cabello on June 1 – FREE RSVP here.

By Paloma Cabello (Co-Founder & Trustee, MIT Enterprise Forum Spain)

“Entrepreneurship is to manage starting from an opportunity,” said Howard H. Stevenson, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School.

I listened to the first sentence some years ago. It was a simple idea. I remember thinking that those who heard it would gain a great understanding of entrepreneurship as to navigate under uncertainty. Being an entrepreneur myself, I kept it as a matter of pure necessity. The phrase left me in love with the simple ideas – and I have been a collector of those ever since.

Not long ago, I was lucky enough to be listening to Stevenson in person (thumbs up for the US Embassy in Spain), adding to my collection the second sentence, or simple idea, from him. To me, the richness of Stevenson’s statement resides in that it includes two separate concepts which, when set up together, may define entrepreneurship: opportunity + management.

Such concepts won’t work for the game on their own – being a visionary only, no matter how appealing the vision may look like, won’t make an entrepreneur (this was learnt at quite a high cost by all of us who were in the venture capital arena during the last technological bubble); neither a manager, industrious as can be, may consider himself an entrepreneur if not prepared to break his own beliefs’ circle and looking further with genuine interest.

The ability to navigate out of a vision a valid route implies (do not confuse “valid” with “correct”… this is to be found only hindsight) possibility and turns visions into real opportunities. The ability to manage under this paradigm makes for an entrepreneur. Stevenson added something quite smart: an entrepreneur is also somebody who would dare to start a project without having control of those resources needed. But this is another story, and there is no room enough today in this article….

All my life, I’ve been able to identify opportunities in a natural way. When I ask myself why, I respond that probably because a matter of lack of prejudices and because I am a vocational curious. Neither these two things cost money, nor one needs to being a genius to develop, so this part of the business of entrepreneurship was a piece of cake for me.

Management is quite another story: I have not always been able to manage the opportunities I saw, I have not always even tried to, and, whenever I’ve tried, I have not always been good at it. Some amongst those attempts of mine have reached the goals I was pursuing. Others have not.

I have never lost any sleep at it. I am convinced that each and every of my experiments have been a huge success because without exception all have left me knowledge and contacts. I have never settled for less than coming out for more, no matter how good or bad things where going so I will depart you with a final simple idea for entrepreneurship – “the critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something,” said Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari.

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About the guest blogger: Paloma Cabello is a Co-Founder and Trustee of MIT Enterprise Forum Spain, building connections to tech entrepreneurs and the communities in which they reside. She is a a board member of the Spanish Institute of Financial Analysts and a Sr. Advisor for foreign private equity and hedge funds in Spain and Latin America. She’s taken part in the development of over 14 startups and is an active angel investor and mentor in technology-based companies. Follow her on Twitter at @palocabello.