What Makes a Great Entrepreneur and How Do We Groom More of Them?

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Harvard Business School defines entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources currently controlled” to sell a product or service for which people are willing to pay more than what it costs to produce or provide.  

There is no formula for success, but certain personality traits and external circumstances are common among entrepreneurs no matter what part of the world they’re from. Most successful entrepreneurs have a clear vision, or the ability to recognize an opportunity when it appears. The willingness to take on risks and to bounce back after failure are also frequently found among them.   

When it comes to factors beyond their personal attributes, like funding and support in the early stages of a young business, it’s often family and friends who contribute to the entrepreneur’s success and help bring their vision to life. In fact, they are one of the most popular sources for funding to start a business, either through a loan or a gift.  

In this article, we take a look at the factors surrounding the success of some inspirational entrepreneurs to see what can be done to help more of them prosper. 

Apple early on: Risk-taking and tenacity 

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were two computer wizards both from the birthplace of the video game industry, Sunnyvale California, now known as Silicon Valley. The area had been a technology hub ever since aircraft manufacturer Lockheed moved there in the mid-1950s. Both Steves spent time programming for video game maker Atari early on and attended the same high school, although they didn’t meet until afterward.  

Together they founded Apple Computer in 1976. Their computer, built by Wozniak who was an electrical engineer like his father, was the first to incorporate a keyboard and plugged into a television for a screen. In order to fulfill Apple’s first order of 50 computers for a local retailer, Jobs and Wozniak had to recruit the help of family and friends to help them solder the parts of the handmade units together. 

It was the combination of Wozniak’s engineering prowess and Jobs’ passion for design and gift for marketing that gave Apple an early edge. As one of Jobs’ biographers told the New York Times, “The big thing about Steve Jobs is not his genius or his charisma, but his extraordinary risk-taking and tenacity”. Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011 while Steve Wozniak continues to work at Apple and dedicates time to philanthropy. 

Vision, perseverance, and a miracle 

At just 22, Kōnosuke Matsushita invented a new and improved light socket but was unable to convince his boss of its merits. So in 1917, he decided to start his own company in the basement of his apartment building. With the help of his wife, Mumeno, and brother-in-law, he began to produce his superior light sockets as well as go on to invent a more efficient battery-powered bicycle lamp. He sold his products directly to wholesalers and retailers, but getting off the ground took time, tenacity, and undying faith in his vision. At one point when times got tough and he found himself short of cash, he even had to pawn his wife’s wedding kimono. But he continued to persevere, as did she. Eventually, Matsushita’s company went on to become one of the world’s largest electrical goods producers making products sold under well-known brands such as Panasonic. He was one of the world’s most revered industrialists of the 20th century considered responsible in part for the Japanese “economic miracle”. 

Seizing opportunity 

When in 2016 India’s government unexpectedly decided to do away with 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in an effort to fight corruption, Vijay Shekhar Sharma knew exactly what he had to do. As Indians rushed to exchange the banned notes for new ones, Sharma’s digital startup, Paytm, went on a marketing spree encouraging Indians to start using his company’s app to pay for goods and services. His user base grew nearly 50% that year and placed Sharma, a small-town boy whose poor English put him at a disadvantage in India’s Anglo-dominated startup community, and his company in India’s collective consciousness.  

Where do entrepreneurs come from? 

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a consortium of entrepreneurship scholars around the world which compiles and publishes a yearly report on the state of entrepreneurship and society, the highest rates of Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) are found in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean global region, and the Middle East. The highest TEA levels are found in Angola, where almost half of adults are starting or running a new business. In Europe and North America, however, early entrepreneurial activity is lowest: fewer than one in 10 adults is starting a new business. 

For many entrepreneurs throughout the world, remittances can play an important role in a person’s entrepreneurial journey. It is an economic resource that men and women can use to gain financial autonomy and one that can provide a crucial lifeline to support local entrepreneurial dreams. This is especially true for women.   

UN Women highlights that investment generated from remittances can lead to overall economic growth for the community and gender equality. In the Philippines, international money transfers have contributed to a shift away from subsistence farming towards commercialized agricultural systems, which has led to increased job creation for men and higher inclusion of women into the workforce.   

The data suggests there is a link between high levels of female entrepreneurship and remittances. Togo, for example, is one of the countries around the world where women surpass men in the early stages of entrepreneurship. It is also a country where remittances represent 5.9% of its GDP, according to the World Bank. In Guatemala, where one out of every ten adult women is starting a new business, remittances represent 14.8% of its GDP.  

Both cross-border transfers and entrepreneurship help provide economic growth to different communities around the world, for men and women. Greater diversity means more potential. Everyone wins if more people play.  

Ria is proud to help entrepreneurs who depend on money sent from abroad to achieve their dreams. Men and women spread throughout the globe who are willing to take on the risk and contribute to the development of their own communities.   

At Ria, we work to foster a world in which people are empowered to build the life they dream of, no matter who they are or where they are. One customer, one family, one community at a time.  

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