Its Monday now, we had our awards ceremony for the 2009 Intel Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge last Thursday – the rush of media has hit and continues to do so – but now the real work is beginning.It may be cliché but in this case it is very true – the competing teams are all winners. This year we had 27 teams participate in the finals from 18 countries. Each was a team that has a good idea and a dream. What each team “won” out of this event was quality 1×1 time with a panel of experts – Venture Capitalists, Professors, Successful Entrepreneurs – that critiqued the teams business plan and provided direct feedback to the individuals on their impressions. Then they gave them advice and coaching on how to achieve those dreams – and sometimes a little nudge in the right direction on who to contact and what support to ask for. Lets consider these teams – Some of them come from countries where entrepreneurship was essentially illegal or severely frowned upon in political environments in place 20 years ago. It was difficult to create companies in countries that the economy was directed as an extension of the government. This is truly the first generation of entrepreneurship. Transition in these countries requires time and training – both for the participants creating the new businesses – and for the infrastructure supporting them. It requires training for universities to support new curriculum and Ministries of Education/ Economic Development to create infrastructures that we may assume – like incubators or support for Angel/Venture Capitalists to link with new Entrepreneurs. This last week we saw both with Teams competing in the “Challenge” and Decision Makers like university administrators and incubator managers taking part in the “Symposium” that trained them on mentoring and eco system. Both elements coming together provided true learning that can be taken home and applied in real time to create a more robust environment for entrepreneurship. They may also be from countries where the economy is so large that a successful venture may be limited just to that country like India and China or a Region like Latin America – This requires direct understanding of that eco system and how they establish themselves with local funding. It also takes the ingenuity to look back at the needs of the direct economies and solve them. One of our finalists – Wormhole – did this for the entire Latin America Region – solving an obstacle of web based conferencing and offering a new standard for executing business conferencing that is currently very spendy. Participation in the “Challenge” gives them valued feedback from people who have supported this type of pioneering breakthroughs historically in the US and other places. They know how to set the stage for this type of innovation and how to move it forward. Bottom line – the majority of participants not only participated in the direct events throughout the competition but were able to gain direct feedback. In some cases – they were even able to meet with VC’s during their visit to Silicon Valley – it is this type of visibility that makes them all take home the top prize of true experience.
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