The scientific approach to entrepreneurship – standing on the shoulders of giants

Leading the thinking on entrepreneurial strategy

In the development of the Mashauri concept and our current work in development of our acceleration programmes, we have conducted significant research – both primary and secondary. In the latter area, we have come across some brilliant work: authors/entrepreneurs who really form the basis for much of the advanced entrepreneurial thinking of today.

We have also come across (probably more) books and articles that frankly are rubbish and are at best misleading if not downright damaging to founders who take the teachings to heart.

We recognise that it is tough for the first time founder to really sift through all the advice and work out what to do and what is the best process to follow. In fact, this is part of the underlying raison d’etre of Mashauri – to allow founders to gain this knowledge without going through the mega-hours of reading and/or lectures and running the risk of taking the bad advice. We thought it might be useful if we gave a (very) brief summary of the giants on whose shoulders we are standing and the key elements of their teachings.

I must mention there are many names we are not including here who have been influential in our thinking such as Noam Wasserman (The Founders Dilemma), Bill Aulet (The Disciplined Entrepreneur) and Brant Cooper (The Lean Entrepreneur) to name but a few. But there are six who have really helped us shape our programme.

Below we list them, together with the critical learning point that we have adapted into our thinking and programmes. (Warning: this is a high level summary and each expert puts across much more than the one key point we are highlighting here.)

Roughly in order of the entrepreneurial journey:

Sara1.Sara Sarasvathy.
Sara, professor at Darden is a prolific write but at the core is what she terms “effectuation” that discusses the logic behind entrepreneurship and a common process the entrepreneur can follow. She is probably he least well known of the group of six, but her work dovetails well with these other leaders.

Critical learning: entrepreneurs start with their capabilities (who they are, what they know, who they know). That is they do not start with their goal, but rather see which goals they can reach with these capabilities and available opportunities.



2.Clayton Christensen.
Clayton, professor at Harvard wrote the book:  The Innovators Dilemma where he explains the theory underlying disruptive innovation. Although not all entrepreneurs are in the “disruption” business, many of us are.

Critical learning: how are you solving your potential customer’s problem differently to how it is already being solved and how will you scale that innovation into other markets.



3.Alex Osterwalder.
Alex and his co-authors’ book on Business Model Generation and subsequent book on Value Proposition Design have really helped to shape thinking around entrepreneurial business models and provided some excellent tools to facilitate that thinking.

Critical learning: Understand the key elements of your business model and how they should operate synergistically to deliver the value proposition to your customer.



4.Eric Ries

Eric’s book, The Lean Startup, has become the basis to the development of a scientific approach towards developing a new venture.

Critical learning: the process of starting a new business is really a series of experiments around your business model where the output is learning and refinement.



5.Steve Blank
No list like this would be complete without mentioning Steve Blank (actually Eric’s former teacher and mentor) who wrote The Startup Owner’s manual and subsequently The Four Steps to Epiphany where he describes the major phases in new venture development.

Critical Learning: Steve’s rallying cry: “get out of the building” (meaning physically get out into the market and interact with customers) is essential and underpins every one of the previous four learning points.


Paul Graham6. Paul Graham
The founder of Y Combinator is famous for his incredibly insightful, and often humorous, essays. They are a veritable fountain of sensible advice.

Critical Learning: Make something people want!


The above list really frames the strategy, process and modus operandi of how to go about designing, launching and developing a new business. You may decide to undertake this journey alone and if so, we sincerely wish you great fortune. However, if you would like to follow a more structured path designed to increase your chances of success, we invite you to register with Mashauri (button below) and take a look around our site and some of the programmes available or under development.



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