To me entrepreneurship is an odd, confusing concept, entrepreneurs an even more confusing breed. I recently came into contact with the entrepreneurial community of Canberra in the hope of understanding this broad topic. I had preconceptions involving peppy teenagers inventing mobile phone applications, speaking in computer code and working in new age office environments filled with bean bags. I was fully prepared to be a fish out of water, a perpetual novice surrounded by child prodigies. Entrepreneurs, I had imagined would be hostile to both insiders and outsiders, guarding their ideas with the upmost secrecy. I expected to have vague, awkward conversations with people who knew far more about their chosen industries than I could ever hope to. The limits of my own knowledge would turn out to be true, but I was unprepared for Canberra’s entrepreneurs to be approachable.
I met some of Canberra’s entrepreneurs in the Entry 29 co-working space next to the Australian National University (Entry 29 has since moved locations) during a recent networking event, an event aimed at expanding the local entrepreneurial community. The idea of an entrepreneurial community sent me spinning, going against every notion I had of innovation. This move toward a community atmosphere is a global phenomenon and the scope further maddened me. How is the very notion possible? How is deceit not rampant? As the name suggests a co-working space is an area where entrepreneurs gather to work collaboratively; where expertise and advice, free of charge is available within walking distance. I thought this was a novel idea with a limited lifespan; the global popularity of these spaces serves as evidence to the contrary. To a novice like me; people invented something, sold it, and bought a yacht. In reality, some stay and help to foster a community of innovation.
An entrepreneurial community is of both national and local benefit as self-employment or freelancing become increasingly viable options. If you’re looking to escape high unemployment and even higher youth unemployment, inventing the next big thing is an attractive thought. The need for both entrepreneurs and an entrepreneurial community in Canberra has been cited in recent articles by the Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald. Both papers detail the need for diversification in an economy: which is led by resource exports; facing high unemployment and forecasted to comprise of a workforce in which fifty percent of workers will be freelance or consultancy-based in six years. To those who have an entrepreneurial idea or the beginnings of one, this guide will help to explain in layman’s terms how to make it a reality.
To understand or explore entrepreneurship, it would seem appropriate to start with an idea. We’ve all had ideas that could be potential business ideas, great or inane. Sources of inspiration are everywhere: long queues; receiving bad service; dealing with difficult staff and violent moments of frustration levelled at electronic devices. We have all thought we could do something better, improve on a process. Most of us stop there and resign ourselves to day-dreaming; entrepreneurs go a step further and turn their ideas into reality. Your chosen idea must of course be a valid and feasible idea with real world application. Assessing the validity and feasibility of an idea can be a daunting prospect if you are not an expert in the industry your idea pertains to. This is one of the benefits of an entrepreneurial community and the atmosphere it fosters; you can approach those within the industry and enquire as to whether or not your idea is feasible. Of course, you would not want to broadcast your idea to anyone and everyone, but assessing the worth of an idea is an important first step. This is the curious nature of entrepreneurs, once one has an idea, to communicate it could be to give away that million dollar idea. So bonds must be forged, agreements made and secrecy maintained. This would seem to be easier said than done.
The process of then turning your idea into a reality usually requires a team. This means having access to the entrepreneurial community, being introduced and initiated. Once you’ve met those in the community you can choose people from a large pool of skillsets and abilities. These people will likely understand the broad, general terms entrepreneurs speak in when discussing an idea with newcomers. The larger the community, the greater the opportunity of finding the right people and the more vague conversations you’ll have, as you feel out potential teammates.
Once the courting rituals have taken place it is time to commence the process of building the next big thing. This task depending on the circumstance and industry can be very complex. There may be something of a romantic notion of university dropouts with glasses building computers in darkened rooms; that image however, should be replaced by teams working in co-working spaces. Gone, it would seem are the days of men toiling away in sheds; today teams of entrepreneurs can enjoy the synergy of working in a community based environment.
In a co-working space your team can access a far greater range of resources then the family garden shed is likely to offer. Depending on your locality your nearest co-working space may hold community based events, in which you can learn the strategic methods of building a project. These lessons in foundation can assist all entrepreneurs, but should be of paramount importance to younger entrepreneurs; who may not yet have been exposed to the collaborative, logical and planned processes of a workplace environment. E-29 is currently holding such events to lead and mentor contestants in this year’s Innovation ACT program, through these events I hope to gain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship. To better guide both myself and the layman through the process of not only completing a project, but marketing it to potential investors and customers.
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