100/366-Day One: #ISTstartup

I work at a college that is on the cutting edge of technology. This week, they are hosting an event called IST Startup Week. The event showcases a bunch of young entrepreneurs from the College of IST as well as others from around the university and nation.

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Today’s event showcased Drew Mohoric (@drewmohoric) from Innoblue (@realinnoblue). I went in to Drew’s talk not really knowing what to expect. This was a couple hours after the awesome event staff handed out some incredible #iststartup cookies. There were more cookies at the event!

After watching Drew give his presentation, I couldn’t help but wish that I was 25 years younger. Mohoric is a sharp and talented young man who has vision and passion who knows exactly what entrepreneurship is. If I had heard this talk 25 years ago, my life path may have been different because of his inspiration.

Drew Mohoric is the co-founder of Innoblue, a non-profit, early-stage business accelerator in State College, PA.

Innoblue starts and supports innovative business, civic, and social ventures. The company’s vision is a community transformed by entrepreneurship; where people act on the double bottom line, to do well while doing good.

He started his talk asking the students what they thought ‘entrepreneurship’ meant. They tossed out words like ‘creativity,’ ‘startups,’ and ‘business.’ Mohoric said, that by definition,  entrepreneurship is a person taking a risk to start a business.  He further spoke to the fact that entrepreneurs are creative risk-takers looking to motivate others and who are passionate about what they do. If you don’t have passion, then you certainly won’t go far. He also said that “if you can’t communicate, you will never get your product or company off the ground.” Communication is very important to entrepreneurs.

Next, Mohoric covered why you would want to be an entrepreneur. Key reasons included money, freedom, excitement, power (in more ways than one), and legacy. On power, he said, that, yes, you would be in charge of the business, but with power, you also have control over the decisions you make, paths you take. You have the power to create your own destiny. As for legacy, you want to build something that will show you did something great that will last forever. Who doesn’t want that?

He went on to discuss the “paradox of young entrepreneurs.’ While young entrepreneurs have less risk, more time to do things, and cool stories to create, they also have less experience, credibility, and contacts.

Some tips that Mohoric gave the crowd included the following:

  • Community is crucial. You need to surround yourself with innovators. If you hang with innovators, you will become more entrepreneurial.
  • Always be learning. Go into a situation always asking questions. “What can be done better?” “What do the customers want?” Constant learning sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the crowd.
  • Everything is relative. You have to be able to frame stories to the situation. What can your product do for this person or that. You also need to be able to communicate those stories well.
  • Partner wisely. You need people who complement your skills, share your values, and complete your team.
  • Money talks. You need to prove the value of your product. Show investors the potential for earning money. If you can do both, you will not have a problem with finding capital.
  • Purpose prevails. You need to be a servant to your purpose. You need to be passionate about it. Doing this will allow you to find your way to success.

Mohoric also stated that ideas are overrated. You may have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t execute it, you’re done. You also need to consider the 3 Ms: Management, Market, and Money. You have to be able to manage the process, market your idea, and get money to do it. When you go to start up, consider the “lean startup.” Develop your potential customers first before you invest too much money and time. You need to bootstrap. This requires you to leverage your contacts and networks so that you can build your business and position it for success.

Mohoric then said students could take two paths. They could go the way of a Fortune 500 company or a startup. The Fortune 500 company will give students specific and detailed training, opportunities to identify future cofounders, less risk, and the opportunity to learn the ropes of big business. Students who go the way of the startup will have to learn as they go, deal with more risk, and blaze their own paths, creating their own rules of business. Both have their plusses and minuses.

To sum it up, Mohoric says to get started as an entrepreneur you need to read widely, this includes blog posts, magazines, books, newspapers, and more. Learn from those who are experts. Find yourself a mentor. Then imitate the experts. Do what they do to be successful. And finally, stop talking and start building.

“An entrepreneur is an undertaker. Very few are willing to press through the harder times…. The key to getting started in entrepreneurship is to read widely, learn from the experts, imitate other entrepreneurs and stop talking and start doing. To quote Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese, ‘The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.’ All of the speakers participating in Start-up Week are doers. They figured out what they wanted and started taking tangible steps…. As young entrepreneurs, we have to get over the credibility gap…. Society will reward you for something of value.” -Drew Mohoric

Successful entrepreneurs are “doers.” You will never see an entrepreneur sitting around on his duff. And this probably explains why Drew Mohoric has never seen “The Matrix.”

He has too many other things to do than sitting around and watching a movie!

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