Category Archive: Entrepreneurship

Feb 05

ScholarLocker: The Inside Look of How One Student Project is Redefining the Student Experience

In a local pub in Coolidge Corner this past week, I had the pleasure to sit down with Kiran Agarwal-Harding. A fourth year medical student, Kiran is one of the founders of ScholarLocker, an educational resource that has transformed the way many medical students interact and utilize information. The Big Idea: The Aha Moment that Set …

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Jan 27

Developing Markets: The Fortune to Be Found in Africa

  Last week, Morgan Stanley’s New York Environment and Social Forum hosted an event focused on analyzing the investment opportunities found in Africa. The open panel discussion was led by two prominent figures in this field: Margot Brandenburg of the Rockefeller foundation and Jeffrey Leonard of the Global Environment Fund. Their discussion covered a wide …

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Dec 30

What Defines A Good Entrepreneur: How the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab is Revolutionizing Global Entrepreneurship

Last month I was speaking with an old friend, Esther, about global entrepreneurship in developing countries. Having worked previously in microfinance, I thought I knew a great deal about how entrepreneurship was being fostered by banks abroad.  It was at this point in the conversation that she asked me if I was familiar with the …

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The 2400 Square Foot Dilemma: Why Most Companies Miss the Global Bull’s-Eye


Last night at MIT I had the pleasure of attending the lecture of Vijay Mahajan, an accomplished marketing professor at the University of Texas Austin and the former dean of the Indian School of Business. Mr Mahajan has spent much of the last decade researching Africa and the Middle East. The result of his research provides a fascinating window into the current reality of global business and commerce.


How Many “Developed” Countries Exist? The GDP Per Capita Dilemma


Mr. Mahajan has stated that a common definition used for developed countries is a minimum GDP per capita of $10,000 dollars. This list includes the US, the UK, Japan, Germany and other global economic giants.  The more surprising element lies in the vast majority of countries that fail to qualify under this definition. Mr. Mahajan states that 86% of the world’s countries have a GDP per capita of under $10,000 dollars.  The list that includes the 86% of overall countries is actually projected to grow over the upcoming years.


The 14% Marketing To The World of the 86%


What has happened in the world of Global commerce is a stark inability of many mega corporations to successfully integrate and enter emerging and developed markets. Companies are unable to understand what and how to market their products abroad. Many look at Africa, India and the Middle East as potentially lucrative markets but with no standard formula of success.


Professor Mahajan’s argument is that this stems from the inability of developed nations like the US to look past their 2,400 square foot syndrome.  The 2,400 square foot syndrome refers to the size of the average house in America. What the professor is referring to is the American mentality to perceive market issues and problems from a global perspective. Products marketed and sold abroad are not addressing the general needs and wants of the greater local populations. Many Indians and Africans live in tight quarters and cannot afford the space, let alone the price of many foreign products.


Another problem compounding the issue of global business is the inability of companies to distribute and sell their products across a foreign country. Unlike the US that has 82% of their residents found in urban centers, India has 70% of their population located in rural areas.  No product can reach the masses in Africa and India simply by entering the main city.


The Argument For Inclusive Growth


According to his studies, Professor Mahajan feels that there are two primary indicators that lead to investing in a country: the informal economy (what percentage of the economy operates in a shadow economy), and what percentage of the economy consumer spending controls. In the US, consumer spending accounts for seventy percent of the total economy. Highly chronicled BRIC countries like India are closer to fifty percent, with China at thirty seven percent. What we do not anticipate is the large percentage of consumer spending dictating the economics in Africa. If we were to aggregate the economies of all the African nations we would find that African consumer spending accounts for over fifty percent of the total economy. With a middle class of nearly sixty million there is a real opportunity to market and create inclusive growth economies in Africa.  If investors understood and entrepreneurs focused on this, the world as a whole would profit.


These companies that target the middle class in Africa and the Middle East with relevant need- based products can create opportunities for many. These companies can help elevate the communities and overall economies of these nations. This is a great formula for both individual and overall economic and entrepreneurship success.


What It Takes To Succeed Abroad


According to Professor Mahajan, requirements for success include  “a deeper focus on taking the market to the people and a real understanding of what lies beneath the economic numbers.”  We must rid ourselves of our standard learned business preconceptions. A wealth of opportunities exists, but in order to capture these opportunities our global mindset must change to create relevant, meaningful and value adding products to the greater world.

Jul 23

The Growing Alternate View on the Emerging and Developing Markets

  In our current economic times we are experiencing an unprecedented global recession in Europe and the US. The focus on these markets has dominated the headlines for the last two years, and will do so in the near future.  What has truly been overlooked is the alternative business models and companies that have found …

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From space and back entrepreneurship and innovation thoughts from a serial successful entrepreneur

Last week at the MIT Innovation symposium I had the pleasure of hearing Alexander Galintsky speak. Mr. Galintsky is a well known international entrepreneur and inventor. His career has included involvement in such day to day inventions like wi-fi and the vpn network, to space technology and software during the soviet years.


Having a varied background and an ability to succeed regardless of the government and its structure, Alexander has a unique view on entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition to being an entrepreneur and inventor, he also is an active venture capitalist running Almaz funds. Below are some of the key points one can take away from his talk.


Its not the prettiest plan that necessarily wins


While there is a lot of focus in business schools about creating the perfect business and execution plan, this can be of limited value in a true business environment. The keys to succeeding lie in the ability to take any plan ugly or pretty and execute it in a way that allows it to grow and succeed.


Even the least attractive business plans can morph to be successful depending on their execution and their will and motivation to adapt as needed.


Being a little crazy is a good thing


Friedrich Nietzsche stated that it takes chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.   Mr. Galintsky applies this idea directly when making hiring and funding decisions. In his opinion normal people are not the entrepreneurs and the innovators in the worldwide community. In order to succeed as an entrepreneur or innovator, you have to have a little bit of craziness in your heart and soul. This craziness can help guide and fuel an entrepreneur to greatness.


Ahead of the curve not always a good thing


We are always taught from a very young age to be ahead of the curve in our thinking and our actions. The one thing we are not taught is how far ahead of that curve we should be.  Alexander described how several times in his career, his ideas and their applications have come well before the market was ready to adopt them. This led to several ideas initial commercial failure.


It is always a needed key to understand what the market is ready to accept and adopt before launching your venture. Always understand what your customers are capable of adopting and structure your plans around this.


Company has to grow from every aspect


Many times a concept can catch on like wildfire and the resulting success is a positive boost to the company. Nonetheless, with this success, many times a subsequent lack of focus and uniform growth occurs.  Companies and startups can lose their balance and become uneven giants.


This happens more than most companies like to admit and can be a primary reason for a troubling future. Startups need to be very careful to grow accordingly from every aspect to avoid this potential pitfall.


Nothing beats blood, sweat and tears


It is always good to read case studies, understand risks and know the historic keys to a successful venture. This however, will never replace the actual learning you will get from starting your own venture and growing through your own mistakes.


Every founding team will make their share of mistakes. These mistakes are what give a company their depth of learning and their understanding of how to move forward. There is no substitute for personal experience.


It is Mr. Galintsky’s personal experience and resulting business acumen that has enabled him to remain a frontline global entrepreneur, from the soviet times till today.




Dec 20

The Best Way To Celebrate The Holiday Season: The Power of Giving through Mentorship & Entrepreneurship

As 2011 comes to a close we can reflect on what was one of the most tumultuous and eventful years in recent history. From both a global business and politics perspective this year made market analysts look foolish and revolutionaries seem heroic. This year also cast a sharp light on the problems present in the …

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Dec 01

When Perfection is Too Much: Trials and Tribulations to Understand What Defines “Good Enough

In the last two years the transition from the highly organized world of corporate investment banking to the organized chaos of entrepreneurship has been an eye opening adventure.  The banking world in many ways revolves like a sporting match the rules are clear, the objective is set and the time limit is defined. There is …

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Nov 17

Sometimes life is indeed a board game: Engineerius a startup’s journey around the world

Engineerius Board Game

With the speed & development in this modern age the majority of the entrepreneurs one encounters are all focused on the most vibrant & disruptive technologies. The assumption being: these technologies are easily scalable and thus quite profitable if positioned and marketed successfully. What few people remember is that well before Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, …

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Finding Your Morpheus & Muse: The Importance of Mentorship & Vision in Entrepreneurship


Last weekend I had the pleasure of getting together with some old college friends for brunch. Initially we met in University at the age of 19. All of us had high hopes of building a career within a company and living the standard American dream.  Nine years later each one of us has found himself taking a different road but ultimately reaching the path of entrepreneurship.


The interesting thing about the meeting was not the fact that we were all either in partnered ventures or self-employed, but rather that each of us was at a different stage of the process. One friend is just in the initial prototyping stage, I myself am involved in a two-year old startup and our other friend has his own established profitable startup and business model. The discussion we had reminded me why I love working in a startup and what the challenges and pitfalls are.



Lessons Learned From Each Other: Entrepreneurship 101 


What started as job frustration for all of us lead to the path of self-empowerment and employment. Once one of my friends began his startup and was discussing to me the challenges and rewards of the process I immediately began to dream of starting my own startup. After a series of MBA projects, the entrepreneurship fever hit me deep. I turned down many job offers with corporations to try to work with an early stage high potential startup.


This process was in no means an easy transition and as such at times it was like staring into a dark tunnel without seeing the light.  What got me through the process was trying to find the right people to mentor and advise me. As Guy Kawasaki would say you have to find your Morpheus to take you through the process. In this time period the feedback and conjoint collaborations with many startups finally got me to understand what I wanted.


This experience was not something that could have been picked up from a book but rather is a result of understanding through the eyes of a successful entrepreneur what works and what doesn’t. The advice attained from one’s mentors helps you tremendously in understanding how the startup world operates and what leads to success. By using the right mentors one can find his true-direction and calling while avoiding the failures that exist with doing the venture all on his/her own.


A Muse Is Always Needed As Well


One of the things that makes entrepreneurs successful is their great commitment and belief in their idea. This idea serves as a Muse without which the entrepreneur could not exist. The idea that inspires an entrepreneur is the reason he/she is willing to break through the current way of doing business to succeed. It is an idea with a sustained belief in its applicable vision that pushes an entrepreneur forward. Without this muse there is no way an entrepreneur would be willing to incur all the risks and hardships associated with his/her venture.


The Muse & Morpheus Make Sweet Harmony


While there are no predicated standard formulas for success in entrepreneurship, there is no doubt in the value of a Morpheus and a Muse. The combination of a strong belief in an idea, with the addition of competent and sagely advice along the way highly increases your probability of success, and limits potential time lost wandering in exasperation. No successful company can exist without a strong foundation, and not one man reaches success without the help of his fellow men.



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