Gwinnett Innovation Park is home to several successful companies started by engineers and the Ehub Nspire Program has a number of engineers who are now entrepreneurs. The following article by Martin Zwilling, Contributor to Forbes, outlines seven steps from engineer to entrepreneur.
Forbes: It’s a Big Step from Engineer to an Entrepreneur
Every engineer who has invented some new technology, or is adept at creating solutions, believes that is the hard part, and it should be a short step to take that solution to market as an entrepreneur. In reality, that short business step embodies far more risk, and a poor technology solution is not near the top of most lists of common reasons for business failures. In fact, a recent Duke and Harvard survey of over 500 technology companies showed that only 37% of their leaders even have engineering or computer science backgrounds. Clearly, engineers should think twice before assuming they have an advantage over the rest of us toward being an entrepreneur. Now there are many resources out there to help engineer entrepreneurs, such as a recent book by Krishna Uppuluri, “Engineer to Entrepreneur: The First Flight.” He identifies the key business misperceptions of most engineers, and provides a workbook approach to provide a quick-start on various business lifecycle topics. I’ve summarized his points, and added my own, as follows:
1. “Everyone loves ‘cool ideas’ and new technology.” Before investing a lot of time and money into any idea, entrepreneurs should assess the commercial viability. That means evaluating third-party market research, getting real customer feedback from prototypes, and listening to concerns of successful executives in the same business area.
2. “I need to go-it alone to assure quality and elegance.” Engineers assume that the business issues can be resolved later. Working alone, or with other engineers, is great for the average engineer introvert, gives them better control, and minimizes distractions. A team with diverse skills is harder to manage, but more likely to build a thriving business.
3. “Marketing is fluff and selling is black magic.” The old adage, “If we build it, they will come” came from engineers. In reality, building a solution won’t make it connect with customers, manage competition, or communicate and proselytize the offering in the industry. With today’s information overload, selling is always required.
To read the entire article and steps four to seven go to: http://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2012/02/16/its-a-big-step-from-engineer-to-an-entrepreneur/
Certainly there are many examples of great companies led by engineers, including Microsoft with Bill Gates, Oracle with Larry Ellison, and Google with Larry Page. This is strong evidence that it is possible to make the step from engineer to entrepreneur, or team with someone who can provide the complementary skills and perspective. In fact, as Krishna says in his book, the stars are uniquely aligned these days for engineers to be entrepreneurs. The Internet is the great equalizer, allowing all of us to develop broad, as well as deep, skills and insights quickly. With the economy on the rebound, we need more entrepreneurs to satisfy new demands and solve new problems. It is time for more engineers to take the first big step.