Insights from Kopi Chat with Clark Gilbert

Held on 27 August 2018, NUS Enterprise was privileged to have Clark Gilbert as a speaker for a Kopi Chat held at BLOCK71 Singapore. Clark Gilbert is a former Harvard Business School Professor, the ex-CEO of Deseret News Publishing, and currently the president of BYU Pathways. In this edition of Kopi Chat, Clark Gilbert shares with us about his entrepreneurial journey and gives advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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From left to right: Dr Lily Chan (NUS Enterprise), Clark Gilbert (BYU Pathways), Kelvin Tan (NUS Enterprise), Scott Anthony (Innosight), Beh Kian Teik (EDB)

1. Entrepreneurs don’t take risks, they manage them

Most people believe that entrepreneurs and risk-taking are synonymous, and entrepreneurs tend to take gambles throughout their journey. This is however, an unfounded stereotype, and is not the case for most successful start-ups. To be a good entrepreneur, one must manage uncertainties rather than take the plunge blindly. Risk and value are inversely proportional in the start-up scene. A start-up is worth less when there is more ambiguity as investors would be inclined to increase ownership of a company.

There are two types of risks which are particularly important — the deal-killer risk and the path-dependent risk. The former occurs when the technology or idea in mind is impractical, possibly due to high costs or niche markets. The latter occurs when the entrepreneur has yet to make decision on which market to target.

2. Embrace Adaptations

Contrary to popular belief, approaching your goals at full throttle is not the best course of action for a newly founded start-up. According to Inc. Magazine, a company changes strategies about 5 times on average before arriving at its winning strategy. For a newly founded start-up, some reflections and adaptions must be made along the way to improve on an idea, instead of investing too much time and budget on an idea that might not work.

Ironically, the advantage of a start-up is their lack of funding. As a start-up, funding is limited and an entrepreneur has to constantly find investors to keep going. Thus, they have to adapt and regularly make adjustments to their ideas to appeal to investors. This in turn refines the entrepreneur’s approach and allows positive growth in the correct direction for the company.

There are a myriad of ways to ensure constant adaptation. Firstly, slam on the brakes, take a step back and evaluate the environment you are in. This enables you to understand the start-up climate better, and adapt to suit any possible changes. Secondly, think like a user and always ask for feedback. Lastly, deliberately version the product in ways that will let your start-up adapt over time.

3. Find ways to tell your story

In telling a story, an entrepreneur will learn what is really going to work. Pitching is an important process of getting a start-up off the ground. This is one of the primary ways for a start-up to obtain a bulk of their funding. When pitching, entrepreneurs may realise that their idea needs refining and will be required to make changes on the spot. This creates an avenue for change and reflection.

An entrepreneur can pitch to anyone — board members, other entrepreneurs, even friends and family. This allows them to articulate their ideas and garner feedback from all perspectives. Another way to tell one’s story is through writing. Putting down one’s thoughts into writing can solidify one’s knowledge about the subject.

4. From ideas to results

Creativity and ideation are extremely important, but if a start-up does not have a product with sales and grow it, their efforts would be fruitless. An entrepreneur must deliver results. Investors would not be willing to invest in a start-up should they show no signs of being able to deliver on their ideas and promises.

5. People matter

People make the organisation. Thus, it is important to surround yourself with a team that you can easily work with and are comfortable around. For a conducive learning environment, it is best to work with people who are open and willing to learn and innovate. The learning process goes two-ways and your team members have to be able to learn from you, allowing the company to grow as a whole.

6. Find your “Why”

The motivation to work is very important for an entrepreneur. Everyone has a different ambition, and it is important that one discovers what makes them tick. Great entrepreneurs have a fundamental, burning passion for something, which makes them want to launch a start-up.

Watch the full video of the Kopi Chat with Clark Gilbert here:

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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