Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?


Turtles. The whole notion that successful people are made as a learned behavior rather than born… Trading Places, Turtle Trading by Richard Dennis here in Chicago -

Can Entrepreneurs be created and taught? That is essentially what you are trying to do (with FounderSensei). We know schools teach doctors, engineers… But do B schools teach entrepreneurship think about and how entrepreneurs? According to Steve Blank not really. Most successful entrepreneurs (if they did not drop out of school to start their business) use school for contacts and learning unrelated to entrepreneurship that is certainly helpful, but perhaps not as helpful as learning the specific skill. Interesting to think about and how that might work into founder sensei.



Well, I agree that academic achievement has no correlation with entrepreneurial success. In fact, it may be inversely correlated. 

FounderSensei is an apprentice program. Just like blacksmiths in old Europe. The apprentice model makes sense because the only way to learn how to be an entrepreneur is to do it. You can’t learn it from a book. You can learn a principle or a methodology from a book, but you have to apply these things in practice to really learn how to create something from nothing.

I teach a method called Insight-Driven Iteration. It’s a method that works for startups. It’s heavily influenced by Steve Blank, other entrepreneurs and my experience. Through the process, some newbies learn entrepreneurship is not for them. 

On the question of nature vs nurture, I think it’s unclear. Certainly, there are skills and aptitudes that help in a startup.

In my experience, entrepreneurs have a specific personality profile. I’ve observed this countless times. Entrepreneurs are rebels. They are dissidents. Their default mindset is to challenge authority. They break the rules sometimes just because they are breakable. They are pirates by nature. They are troublemakers. Problem children. They challenge everything and like to see things for themselves. They choose autonomous and decentralized to command and control. They thrive in networks and choke in hierarchies. And, they absolutely hate being told what to do.

Someone who is an entrepreneur, but doesn’t know it yet, is a brilliant person in the corporate job who has a plethora of great ideas, and is often insubordinate. Suits don’t know whether to fire this guy or promote him. This person needs to get out of corporate jail an into a more entrepreneurial setting.

I think the skills can be learned. I’m not sure if the attitude and mindset can be learned as easily. It’s helpful to have a few daddy issues too.

I would characterize what I’m trying to do a bit differently. I don’t think I’m creating entrepreneurs.

With FounderSensei, I serve an underserved market, startup entrepreneurs who are searching for a business model. My role is to help them figure out for themselves how to be more successful. I teach, assess and guide while being mindful not all entrepreneurs are the same. The real power is already there, within the entrepreneur who sees the world differently and wants to change it. He toils away relentlessly on his business, even when others think he’s crazy.

My goal is to help these special people unlock their power so they can do some really cool shit. 

Dave Linhardt