by Geh Si Wei (Singapore)
How time flies. It seemed like just yesterday I enrolled in this entrepreneurship class with little expectation. Now 13 weeks later, it has surpassed all aspects I thought it would be and then some! I just wished I had taken it earlier, and not in my final year at SMU.
What makes this course great? Simple. It is hands-on, structured only as much as it needs to be, but gives you freedom as far as your mind can take you. Most significantly, it is Professor Pamela’s personal sharing that has been invaluable in helping us navigate the pitfalls, dangers and challenges as we embark on our entrepreneurial journey.
Personally, I was surprised at how little theory we had to memorize in this course. I could not help but resonate with Professor Pamela’s thoughts when she commented that “in the real world, you don’t have to memorize all that. If you need to, just go look it up.” Touché!
It reminds me of a famous story involving renowned physicist Albert Einstein. When a colleague asked him for his phone number once, Einstein started looking up a telephone directory for it. Shocked, the colleague asked him,”Don?t you recall your own phone number?? Einstein replied, “No, why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book??”
Entrepreneurs of today do not need to know everything in detail. All they need is just to know where, who and how to get the expertise he or she seeks. It amazes me that almost every other course in university still emphasizes memorization. I believe they have not caught up with the times. In an age where even the most remote information can be retrieved in under 1 second with our modern search engines, shouldn’t the emphasis be on the speed and ability to find locate accurate information? (Of course, the ability to apply that knowledge needs no discussion). I guess that’s the difference between academics and business people. Such resourcefulness also extends to talent spotting potential experts and partners.
Thus I like this course because of its relevance to the real world and for the rare firsthand insights from seasoned business people.
Takeaway 1: Can entrepreneurship be taught?
I once believed that you could not teach entrepreneurship anymore than you could teach creativity. However, I realized that much of this debate came down to the nature versus nurture argument. This course has helped me realize that given the right conditions, with the right group of like-minded individuals, the entrepreneurial spirit can be honed! It may be been a mere 3.5 months but I can already feel such a big difference compared to my risk-taking efforts of before. I had never worked on an idea so consistently and progressively before.
Takeaway 2: An idea is only as good as the team behind it
I soon realized that the quality and composition of my team-mates made the biggest difference. Each of us had different areas of specialization and could carry the weight of the team in those areas of law, marketing, etc. It made the workload manageable and I never felt that I had to redo their work. Finding quality partners was also an ongoing process for people often come and go.
Takeaway 3: Am I suitable to be an entrepreneur?
Thirdly, I wanted to know if I was suitable to be an entrepreneur. Did I have what it took? I had a revelation after the guest lecture when Mr. Wong Toon King talked about how he needed a partner strong in finance to balance his exuberance. That’s when I realized that I was perhaps more suitable supporting a front man from behind the scenes. In fact, many a successful business is not a one-man or one-woman show. Bill Gates has Paul Allen. Google has Lawrence and Sergey. And let’s not forget about the Facebook quad of Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin.
I should find a partner who could be the face of the business, or I could train myself to be that lead man. Either way, at least I now know what I need to do in future!