Can Entrepreneurs be made? Or are they born?

The vital importance and positive contribution of an entrepreneurial culture in economic and social development cannot be overstated. Entrepreneurs create and bring to life new technologies, products, services and create new markets & jobs along the way. Entrepreneurs are smart risk takers, implementers, rule-breakers; in short they are the new-age ‘innovators’. When The Economist stated that USA gets more than half of its economic growth from industries that barely existed a decade ago, it was directly attributed to innovative entrepreneurs and their startup enterprises. Today the world economy needs a lots of pragmatic people who are entrepreneurial and innovative, able to exploit new opportunities and willing to take risks.

So can entrepreneurs be made? Or are they born? This has been a classical debate for a while now with no clear answers. I took the opportunity to dwell on this debate at the recently concluded Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge (IBTEC) 2010.

At IBTEC there was a group of over 80 emerging entrepreneurs whose innovative technologies tackled some of the biggest challenges of our time. Some of them and their teams won prizes and some of they didn’t, but what was more remarkable was the passion amongst these folks on pursuing their idea beyond IBTEC 2010 and making it real. So moving beyond the festivities at the camps of the teams that won, I saw in one corner a team that didn’t make it to the finals but enthusiastically talking to a group of VC’s and exchanging biz cards. On the other corner I saw a few teams that lost in the finals but were getting mentored by some of the big names in silicon valley. And as I moved to the café’ I saw the India and China team having collaboration discussions with student entrepreneurs at UC Berkeley.

Earlier in the day, as I hopped into a bus that took us to the press meetings in San Francisco I met 2 teams who I had met earlier at IBTEC 2009, CaptchAD and Wormhole IT. These 2 teams were given an opportunity to come back to IBTEC 2010 after attending the Intel Capital CEO Summit a few days earlier and share their experiences.

In the year that went by since they won second place at IBTEC in November 2009, CaptchaAD attracted global companies such as BMW and even Intel Europe to use their product. Key learning’s that founder of CaptchAD, Jan Phillip articulated was the increased visibility and credibility of his company after IBTEC 2009. Being a finalist in the Intel event provided him visibility within his country and region which helped him get new contacts and partners. This year as he returned and participated in the Intel Capital CEO Summit, his company’s maturity attracted new customers – Jan Phillip was pleasantly surprised that he was able to attract top companies to his product – in the US – from his own back yard in Europe.

Talking and hearing Sally Buberman, founder of Wormhole IT was equally exciting. The company was founded by Sally and her friends Ignacio López, Maximiliano Menasches and Juan Ignacio Frecha in Argentina. Wormhole IT were winners at IBTEC 2009 and they acknowledged the connections they were able to make post then with people at Intel who assisted them to develop a better business and reach out to even more people including introducing them to potential customers. Besides this and amongst all the media limelight, Wormhole IT didn’t want to undermine the role their mentors played who got assigned to them during and after IBTEC 2009, these mentors helped them improve their business plan and make it more precise in terms of use of money and resources.

Meeting and hearing these teams I went back to the question, So can Entrepreneurs be made? Or are they born? And after my IBTEC journey I am sure about one thing: Maybe created, maybe born…but entrepreneurs are definitely inspired! Inspired by education, inspired by family, friends, teachers, peers, colleagues, country, inspired by a cause and inspired by people like you and me!

Lets celebrate entrepreneurship and inspire these entrepreneurs of tomorrow. And let’s start by casting our vote in the IBTEC People’s Choice Awards. More than helping come up with a people choice award winner you have the opportunity to show your support and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs who will create the new world.

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