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Alright, ladies and gentlemen, time for more BRIM. Again, for those scoring at home, BRIM stands for Bringing Relentless Innovation to Michigan, and was the title to an informative and inspirational conference last week at the OneUpWeb office in Traverse City. If you missed it, please check out my summary/recap of theevent.
Today, I want to delve more into the content of the conference and what was discussed beyond the general theme of the importance of entrepreneurship.
We’ll begin with a quick review of Rick DeVos’ keynote address. “I start things” was how Rick introduced himself and what he does. Of course, when those things include Art Prize, the world’s largest open art competition, and Start Garden, a fresh new venture capital firm, well then, that’s how you get invited to give the keynote at events such as BRIM.
Rick described entrepreneurship as analogous to sea exploration in a talk titled “Launch the Ships.” It is an apt metaphor, Dr. House would approve. We are just as must in an age of exploration as when Columbus sailed west, and we must foster a dynamic culture of entrepreneurship to drive that exploration. To that end, Rick had three points.
- “Get Curious” – Continually ask yourself and others, “What if…?” and “What if we…?” Use that curiosity and those questions to initiate action. At some point, someone asked, “what if we built a ship?” Centuries later, Columbus asked “What if the world was round and I could sail ships around the world?”
- “Make Failure Survivable” – Columbus sailed west with three ships, but the Santa Maria had to be abandoned in the new world. For venture capital firms, such as Start Garden, only a few big successes will pay for the investment in all the others.
- “Launch the Ships (and hope some come back)” – Eventually you have to set sail on your ideas and see where they lead you. It may be profit and fulfillment or it may likely be failure, but you won’t know until you cast off. Columbus was looking for a passage to the Indies. Instead he came upon two continents and another ocean in the way. No models or projections had North or South America in the way.
Those points go beyond entrepreneurship and starting a business, but also reflect public policy tendencies. People, particularly in Michigan, have a tendency to try and plan our way out of everything. Nowhere is this more prevalent in politics, “if only we had a better plan” or someone else in charge. The truth is that there is not a white knight with “one plan to rule them all” to ride in and make all our problems go away. It takes local knowledge and solutions; entrepreneurial solutions.
And yes, people other than Rick DeVos spoke at BRIM. Here are more insights from an informative and inspirational day in Traverse City:
Business Plans – A few people brought business plans receiving too much emphasis. Remember, it’s a piece of literature; it does not need to be comprehensive. Yes, it’s still important, but it is more important to focus on your business, your idea implementation and generation, not spreadsheets and made up projections. When asked, even Rick DeVos stressed that it is more important to get marketplace validation than obsess over market share projections. Unlike the lottery, costs and payoffs cannot be calculated in life.
New Economy – Another tidbit that was discussed at BRIM, that I’ve heard more and more of these days is that we are entering a 1099 or self-employed economy. We may already be there. Look around, people aren’t in jobs that they expect to be in for the next 30-40 years. It is even more important to be creative and entrepreneurial in how you market yourself. Don’t focus on how to operate in the existing model. Look to change the model.
More bits from the panel discussions after the jump...