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Spreading the Entrepreneurship Bug

Good morning innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs. 

This newsletter and podcast features stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world.  They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic.  The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is Wilbur Wright. Wright’s work, along with his brother, Orville, exemplifies Ethic 3: Fail Successfully. This is the experiment-orientation of entrepreneurship. 

This week’s podcast is an interview with Dr. Matt Clancy, Economist of Innovation, Research Fellow at Open Philanthropy, and Creator of New Things Under the Sun, a living literature review on research about innovation. New Things Under the Sun has thousands of subscribers, including entrepreneurial people like Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe.

It was a great conversation with Matt, covering the fear of failure, risk aversion, the role of large versus small businesses in innovation, whether technologies are inevitable, why innovation gets (mostly) harder, what economics gets right (and wrong?) about entrepreneurship and innovation, and why entrepreneurship is contagious. 

I also asked Matt why he decided to quit a professor position. Can an economist be entrepreneurial?

I enjoyed the conversation with Matt and know you will too.


Good Reads

The Great Flattening – Ben Thompson

Three Things I Think (I Think)

The Economist recently published an article, America is in the midst of an extraordinary startup boom, charting the persisting increase in startup businesses. It took off during the pandemic, but the surge continues with 5.5 million applications to form businesses last year, a record. The current monthly average is about 80 percent higher than during the decade prior to the pandemic. That compares to a 20 percent rise in Europe.

What’s in the water?

One of the things I discussed with Matt Clancy was the idea that entrepreneurship is contagious. You get entrepreneurial ideas by hanging around with entrepreneurs. 

If something must be contagious, I’m all about it being entrepreneurship! How can you catch the entrepreneurship bug?

  1. I think you can work for, volunteer at, or invest in a startup business. My advice to university students is to make sure one of their internships is for a startup business. But the same advice is for anyone. An investment banker called me several years ago about a potential agtech investment. We got to the end of the conversation, and she asked if she could address a more personal question. Sure. “It looks like you have fun in what you do,” she said. “Is there some graduate degree I could get to work with startup businesses and entrepreneurs like you do?” I told her a degree wasn’t necessary, she just needed to engage with startup businesses. She lived in Chicago, so there are many accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces. Mentor a founder. Or if you want to ramp up the engagement, and risk, invest some extra cash in startups. 

  2. I think you can become friends with entrepreneurial people. Each of us has capacity for friendship. Though not an unlimited capacity, aim to make one or more of your reasonably close friends an entrepreneur. I met a guy named Dave Krog in 1992 when we both worked at Pioneer Hi-Bred. We became friends and began to exchange entrepreneurial ideas. We started our first company in 1996. We’ve worked together on-and-off since, but the friendship remains. I was happy to work directly with Dave at ISU as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for some years, but even happier when he left to start another business, Salin 247.

  3. I think you can engage with entrepreneurs more than ever with books, audiobooks, YouTube videos, and podcasts. During my time as an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska, I met a grand total of one entrepreneur in a classroom, a guest speaker. I was then fortunate enough to get an internship during my junior year at a venture capital firm, where I met many more entrepreneurs. Today, technology enables so much more for everyone. Some of the books on our shelf are here. Or check out podcasts like Acquired, Invest Like the Best, Founders, This Week in Startups, All-In, and How I Built This. And don’t forget The Entrepreneurs Ethic!

Farm to My Table

They’re still a long way away from the table, but the vegetables are planted in our garden. Three years ago, I started an experiment with cover crops, taking inspiration from farmers using regenerative agriculture practices and entrepreneur friends (!) like Mitchell Hora and Brad McDonald of Continuum Ag. I know a vegetable garden is not a large-scale experiment, but the results have still been fantastic. No synthetic fertilizer, no insecticides, and better tasting vegetables. The picture below is from a few weeks ago and shows white clover in the walkways and just chopped rye and hairy vetch in the rows.


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