5 Misconceptions About Entrepreneurship.

You may expect that success will come fast (or not at all). You may see entrepreneurship as an easy way to get rich. But these assumptions are false.

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Entrepreneurship is romanticized in our culture, and it’s easy to see why: We live in a capitalistic society that values the creation of ideas, the unlimited potential of business and of course the prestige of attaining wealth and power.  On top of that, we have entrepreneurial celebrities like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg inspiring countless waves of new entrepreneurs striving to achieve the same level of success they did.

That is a good thing — mostly: Startups drive economic growth, and the entrepreneurial journey is valuable in almost any future application. However, too many young people (and people new to business ownership) end up being in over their heads because they believed in these common entrepreneurial misconceptions:

1. Entrepreneurs are born to lead.  It may seem that some people were born natural leaders, or were born with better traits to become entrepreneurs, but in reality, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s possible to acquire the necessary traits to become a successful entrepreneur no matter how you started out. Introverts, extraverts, “idea people” and grunt workers have all had equal stakes in business ownership and development; anyone can be an entrepreneur, given the right mindset and dedication.

2. The idea is everything. It’s true that a sexy idea can give you a head start in the entrepreneurial world. You’ll attract more investors, whether you seek private investing or crowdfunding, and you’ll have a more profitable and/or sustainable foundation on which to build your business.However, even the best ideas can end up failing if they aren’t properly supported. And, by that same token, even mediocre ideas can, with the right team and enough adaptation, end up surviving. Your idea is bound to change, and is tied to many other variables, so don’t get too invested in it.

3. You’ll have unlimited freedom.Many people are drawn to the idea of entrepreneurship because of the potential freedom it brings. It’s true that you’ll be the one setting most of the rules. You can abolish the 9-5 workday if you want, enable remote work options, dress casually and declare your own vacations.  Just don’t forget that you’re also responsible for making this business profitable. Oftentimes, that means making tremendous personal sacrifices, working long hours and getting stuck at the office far longer than you’d like.

4. It’s an easy way to get rich.Entrepreneurship is a path to wealth-building with a strong potential for success; with the right variables lined up, there’s no upper limit to how much you can earn. However, you can’t think of entrepreneurship as a get-rich-quick scheme. You’ll need to invest significant resources into your business, including both time and money. Even with all the right things in place, you’ll have no guarantee you’ll have the timing or the pacing right.

5. Success will come fast or not at all.  The portrait of the successful entrepreneur is usually of someone whose business skyrocketed to success overnight. The reality is, of course, it takes many months —  even years — of hard work and countless struggles before the payoff hits. Because of the looming failure rate of startups, too many entrepreneurs believe it’s an all-or-nothing bid, but success and failure come in much more diverse shades than that.

6. It’s all on your shoulders.  Entrepreneurs often get the most credit for building their businesses because they’re the faces of their respective companies, and the original founders. However, no entrepreneur ever found success completely on his/her own.

There’s always a mentor, an investor, a partner, a team of employees or at least a supportive family member who was/were there to help make the founder’s dreams a reality. Don’t try to do everything yourself; learn to accept and ask for help from others, and your potential will only grow.

7. You know the secret to success.  Most excitable new entrepreneurs believe they have the secret to success — they know their idea can’t be competed with, or they think they have the perfect timing, or they have a “secret weapon” that will make them successful. This is almost always a delusion.  Businesses succeed or fail based on a number of different, interacting variables. To reduce it all down to one variable is arrogant and short-sighted. If there was a straightforward secret to success, we’d all be mega-rich entrepreneurs.

The reality of entrepreneurship is different from the one you see frequently portrayed in biographical articles and economic headlines, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse or not worth pursuing. All that this “reality” means is that you have to be better prepared for the hardships and the side of entrepreneurship that isn’t as openly discussed.

Robots Are Here…Fed-Ex, Kinkos, Hotels & Soon Domino’s.

Fedex is using autonomous robots to essentially replace the mailroom clerk

Over the last year, FedEx has been working with Savioke, a Silicon Valley company that makes autonomous indoor delivery robots, to develop a robot delivery system for its repair facility in Collierville, Tennessee. The bots are used by workers to move items around the office, cutting down on wasted time, and storage space, as workers no longer have to spend time walking around picking up and dropping off items, or need a mailroom clerk to do it for them.

Savioke has spent the last few years building its Relay robot, a stout trashcan-height bot that can autonomously ferry about 10 pounds of goods around. The robot combines a range of technologies to see and navigate the world on its own, including lidar (the laser radar technologies powering the eyes of self-driving cars) and depth-sensing 3D vision cameras (similar to those found in a Microsoft Kinect). The company has been building relationships with hotels to use Relays as replacements for the menial tasks done by concierge and other hotel staff. Instead of a worker delivering room service or a toothbrush, hotels can now press a button on a tablet, have a Relay come to them, load it up, and send it to a guest, freeing up their time to do more important tasks.

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A Relay robot in a hotel, with an affectionate child for scale.(Savioke)

Hotels need to install a wireless system in their elevators so that Relays can open the doors on their own. The bots, which can be rented from Savioke for $2,000 a month, can navigate through areas that have been mapped, even if there are new obstacles, such as chairs that have been moved around, or people. Relays have completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries at a range of hotels owned by Sheraton, Aloft, Holiday Inn, Westin, and others. The robots make little beeps as they carry out their errands, and the touchscreen on their fronts tell passersby what they’re up to as they’re out. When they show up to a guest’s door, they open their cargo door, say hello on the screen, and let the guests interact by pushing a few buttons to say whether they were happy with their delivery. Savioke’s robots have also started popping up at a few other office facilities.

But Savioke’s partnership with FedEx hints that the company has ambitions beyond the hospitality industry. “Our goal is to change the way we think about moving items from one place to another,” Adrian Canoso, Savioke’s head of product and design, told Quartz. Just about every office, apartment complex, hospital, and warehouse in the world has items that people waste hours moving around each day. Whether it’s packages going from a lobby to an apartment, or medical supplies being transported from one hospital ward to another—there are always little things that waste so much time when added up over the course of the work day. For FedEx, this means repair staff working on complex devices don’t have to worry about remembering where the product they’re working on needs to go next—they can just call the Relay and send it along. “We want Relay to be pretty much everywhere,” Canoso said.

FedEx is currently using seven Relay robots in its Tennessee facility, as well as one at a Kinkos (a copy and a mailing chain it owns) in Manhattan. Canoso said FedEx’s Relays have completed tens of thousands of deliveries, and have traveled over 1,000 miles through its offices. He added that Savioke didn’t work with FedEx to set up the bot in New York—the company just wanted to experiment and see if it was something it could use.

FedEx wasn’t immediately available to comment on whether it plans to add more robots to its offices. In a recent speech, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said the company is exploring a range of robotic offerings to streamline its business, from robots like Relay to ones that could help load packages off of delivery trucks.

In the repair center, the robots work together to complete requests, meaning the Relay that dropped off your item might not be the one that picks it up—through Savioke’s control software, the robots can handle multiple orders at once. At the Kinkos, the robot is being used as a gofer, bringing items from the storage area in the back of the store to the front for customers. Smith recently said that workers named the robot in New York Sam, and one of the bots in Tennessee “Lil’ Rico.” FedEx works with Samsung to repair its broken products, meaning that theoretically, someone in Manhattan could drop off a broken Samsung phone with Sam, have it picked up in Tennessee by Lil’ Rico, who brings it to an engineer to fix, and then it’s shipped back to Sam (presumably using FedEx) to deliver to the customer.

Obviously, a few other humans would need to interact with that broken phone right now (such as the person working with the customer, and those who would carry out the cross-country shipping). But in the future, it’s entirely conceivable that robots like Savioke’s, which are just as easy for customers to use as employees, could be implemented across an entire business operation. At a store, one robot could in theory, take your order, go pick it up from another robot that received the order over wifi and got it ready, load it up, and bring it back to you, all without you having to interact with a single person.

And it’s possible that we’ll see more little robots like the Relay scurrying around as we go about our days. Startups like Starship are already using diminutive robots to deliver take-out and groceries to customers in the UK and the US, and Amazon, Google, and others want to deliver packages to homes with drones. Even Domino’s thinks robotsare an efficient way to deliver pizza. Many of these bots work on subscription model’s like Savioke’s, too. Perhaps someday, we’ll have robot butlers like Relay that we can tell, “I want the usual from China King for dinner,” and it can go fetch our General Tso’s Chicken without us even having to take our eyes off the television.

But building robots that can navigate the world on their own (especially without any preexisting maps) isn’t easy, and most of these robots can’t carry that much at any one time. It does raise the question, though: In the future, with all this unnecessary moving cut out of our lives, what will we do with all this newfound spare time?

From Knowledge @ Wharton 4/13/2017 Weekend E-Edition

Surest Way to Create New Jobs.

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Tax breaks? Infrastructure spending? Free college? These are some of the ideas the presidential candidates have for boosting growth and creating jobs. But the best way to do it may be one neither candidate has highlighted: bringing more immigrants to the United States.

Immigration is a contentious issue, especially now, with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump calling for new limits on people entering the United States and a “deportation force” to round up and expel people in the country without documentation. But economists and entrepreneurship experts think of immigrants quite differently—as an economic resource America could get a lot more out of.

“The first thing needed to create new high-growth businesses for jobs is immigrants,” Bill Aulet, managing director of Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “They come here determined to start a company, we teach them how to do it, then we send them back. That’s crazy.”

Immigrants start businesses at a far higher rate than native-born Americans, as this data from the Kauffman Foundation shows:

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A new report on immigration by the National Academy of Sciences found there to be “many important benefits of immigration—including on economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship—with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term.” While some people think immigrants undercut wages and job opportunities for native-born workers, there’s little evidence that’s true. Immigrants do, however, earn and spend money, work at jobs many Americans don’t want and start many businesses that grow quickly and hire.

New businesses are important because that’s where most new jobs in the economy come from. In 2014, the pace of new-business startups hit the lowest point in 20 years, largely due to the sustained impact of the 2008 financial meltdown and the corresponding recession. Startup activity has bounced back during the last two years, but it still isn’t generating as much growth as it could or should be. “It’s one-for-one,” Aulet says. “One starts, and one goes out of business. That business is kind of being attacked.”

Immigration policy is complex, and many people conflate unauthorized immigration with the rules governing who can come to the United States. There are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Many of them work and contribute to the economy, often in low-paying jobs that would be hard to fill with legal workers. If Trump were elected president and managed to deport the majority of those people, there would be labor shortages at many companies and growth could suffer.

Among immigrants who are permanent residents or visa holders, there are some with blue-collar skills and others with college or graduate-level educations. The Obama administration wants to establish a new type of “startup visa” that would allow extended stays for foreigners who commit to starting and running a business likely to have strong job-creation potential. Some critics argue that US policy shouldn’t favor privileged foreigners over others, but the concept does offer a targeted initiative that might not get bogged down in the murkier matter of sweeping immigration reform.

Countries such as Canada and England, meanwhile, seem to be doing a better job of attracting immigrant entrepreneurs. “We seem to be behind the curve,” Aulet says. “Some of the best entrepreneurs are these immigrants, and they’re not feeling welcome in the country? You’ve got to be kidding me.“ Uh, nope.

Interview of Bill Aulet, Director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, by Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance.  (more…)

What Would Jesus Disrupt?

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Entrepreneurs from Cincinnati’s Crossroads Church try to scale their startups without selling their souls.

For two days, the crowd sits in darkness in plush theater seats, watching the church stage. There are smoke machines and LED screens, harnessed climbers scaling a scaffold “mountain” and raising their arms in symbolic victory over the startup world’s arduous climb. There’s talk of destiny-defining “exits.” Of Jesus and his disciples: “The most successful startup in history!” Of the parable of the talents, in which two servants are lauded by their master for turning a profit with money he staked them: “The first recorded instance of venture capital and investment banking in history!” Of ancient business elites: “A church is the oldest marketplace in the history of the world.” Of the promised land of angel investing, where divinely inspired entrepreneurs dwell: “Because God creates things, too!” Mark Burnett, the producer of The Apprentice and Shark Tank, shows up to remind everyone that “the Bible is full of merchants and people doing work.”

At last, near the end of Unpolished 2015, a faith and entrepreneurship conference hosted by Crossroads, an evangelical church in Cincinnati, the marquee event begins: the final round of a pitch contest. Organizers have selected three prospective company founders out of more than 100 entrants, each of whom submitted a minute-long video pitch deck. One of the finalists, Lyden Foust, a 25-year-old ethnographer, presents his entry on the LED screens flanking the church stage. With his chiseled jawline, tightly trimmed beard, and three-button henley, he looks like an L.L. Bean model, save perhaps for his rectangular glasses. In a voice-over, he describes his vision to divide the world’s cities by “vibe,” calling his idea “Google Maps wearing a mood ring.” The cityscape of Nashville rolls past, overlaid in swaths of color: blue for blue-collar neighborhoods, brown for yuppie ones, green for hipster, purple for commercial, teal for family, yellow for artsy.

Every successful pitch deck, like every successful religion, includes an origin story, and Foust’s is no different. He recounts booking a place in Nashville through Airbnb Inc., only to find the house situated between a strip club and a manufacturing plant. While retrieving something from his car, he turned to see a man pointing a gun at his face. “I just handed him my wallet,” Foust says. The robbery led to an epiphany: Why not mine social data to tell people what a neighborhood is really like?

The idea isn’t entirely new: An app that launched in 2014 with a similar aim (albeit a different crowd-sourcing methodology), SketchFactor, foundered after being widely criticized for appearing to help white people avoid black neighborhoods. But at this point, Foust’s product is pure concept. He has no employees to build it, only a name, Spatial. The other finalists pitch a family-run app-development company and a board-game-rental app; then the judging is turned over to the audience of 1,200 aspiring entrepreneurs. Foust’s idea prevails, and Brian Tome, Crossroads’ senior pastor, hands him an oversize check for $3,000. Soon after, Foust will begin the next stage of the church’s path to entrepreneurial success, applying for a spot in a member-funded, Bible-based accelerator program, beginning in a few months, that’s designed to train startups in how to raise money and grow.

Finally, the house lights come up. At the end of the aisles, attendants await, holding pails overflowing with packets of apple seeds. “God’s placed a seed in you. And he wants to see it come to fruitfulness,” Tome says to the crowd, his spiked and styled dirty-blond hair and untucked plaid shirt lending him the air of an aging film star. Bowing his head, he prays, asking God to lead everyone to “the right seed that will bring forth the right fruit at the right time in every business.”

It’s a remarkable altar call: Those who feel inspired are to take these seeds from the attendants and go forth, claiming their spiritual destinies … as entrepreneurs. At the edge of the waist-high stage, people mingle, hugging and holding hands. Others bow their head or kneel under the outstretched hands of strangers to receive prayer. Foust joins them, walking down the aisle and asking for blessings and prayers at the start of his entrepreneurship journey.

From Bloomberg Businessweek 4/5/2017

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