Practice. This is what it takes, hard work and practice. But this is not all, it also requires systematic learning. I am not talking about (or even interested in) those few (but often famous) one-off entrepreneurs making it by chance. By pure luck. While luck may be important in many startups, it is far more interesting to study those entrepreneurs succeeding several times. Saras Sarasvathy and her growing network of researchers studying “effectuation” has done a superb job in highlighting how successful serial entrepreneurs are using particular methods for problem solving. Effectuation is based on systematic and thoughtful experimental learning. From this point of view, the question of entrepreneurial learning is not whether education is useful or not, it is rather a question of how to educate entrepreneurs. Knowledge, and the creative interpretation of it, is at the core of entrepreneurship (Casson, 2008), as well as at the core of how successful entrepreneurs explore novel ideas and transform them into new businesses and markets (Sarasvathy, 2008).
I therefore think that students should learn mainly from doing and practising entrepreneurship, guided by academic materials to support and make the learning process more systematic. Failure is an important part of such learning processes, as well as the experience of finding ways through – or around – barriers and resistance to change. In our new textbook on Technology Entrepreneurship, we have made humble attempt at moving entrepreneurship education materials a few steps towards fulfilling such a function.
Another important aspect with entrepreneurship is it is context dependent. This is why numerous entrepreneurship lecturers in Europe and elsewhere have expressed frustrations with the, with just a few exceptions, dominance of US based textbooks. In our book we have sought to relate more to non-US contexts, particularly the European context. In the institutionally oriented chapters, as well as in most of the case studies and examples, the European context, and European (and even a few Canadian and Asian) tech startups are portrayed, including Rovio (Angry Birds, etc), Meltwater Inc, Aerogen Ltd, Daintel, Celtic Catalysts, Skype and Spotify. (Still, we must admit we fell for the temptation of including exciting case studies on the Facebook IPO and the Apple vs Samsung patent war).