My New Entrepreneurship Book

I’m very pleased to announce the launch of my first book in the field of Entrepreneurship: “The Myth of the Idea and the Upsidedown Startup: How Assumption-based Entrepreneurship has lost ground to Resource-based Entrepreneurship”.

http://bit.ly/upsidedownstartup

Book Myth Idea (500Kb)

This brief 150 pages book is addressed to graduate students and practitioners around the globe. Resulting from years of work and observations, the book briefly summarizes what we have seen in the last few decades with regards to the creation of innovative new businesses, including Design Thinking, Effectuation and Lean Startup.

Although I started these observations by watching my father as the founder of many companies and by experiencing myself starting different businesses after that, the book was actually born in 2007, when I started my doctoral studies with a field trip to Haiti in search of clearer relationships between access to scarce resources and entrepreneurial innovation.

The book was written from the point of view of a young Brazilian researcher who had the chance to travel throughout more than 50 countries in the last years, while meeting with aspiring, successful and past entrepreneurs. The main point shown in the book rightly refers to the use of social resources such as contacts, experience, expertise and passions as the triggers of new businesses, edging out “The Idea” as the starting point of the entrepreneurial process.

With the support of FGV (Brazil) and IE Business School (Spain) the book will be launched around the world, with events organized initially throughout Europe and the Americas. You can engage with the book content here and also through these channels:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/upsidedownstartup
Twitter: @phdnew

The Entrepreneurial Process by Alfred Marshall

While working on my book (in which I will talk about the global status of entrepreneurship and innovation today) I came across this extraordinary passage, from the economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) in the beginning of the last century. He describes the Entrepreneurial Process brilliantly, in just one paragraph, talking about the role of trust, resources, capital, credit, scale, marketing and innovation on it. Even luck (“assisted by some strokes of good fortune”) is covered, passing almost unnoticed at the beginning of the epic reported:

“An able man, assisted by some strokes of good fortune, gets a firm footing in the trade, he works hard and lives sparely, his own capital grows fast, and the credit that enables him to borrow more capital grows still faster; he collects around him subordinates of more than ordinary zeal and ability; as his business increases they rise with him, they trust him and he trusts them, each of them devotes himself with energy to just that work for which he is specially fitted, so that no high ability is wasted on easy work, and no difficult work is entrusted to unskillful hands. Corresponding to this steadily increasing economy of skill, the growth of his form brings with it similar economies of specialized machines and plants of all kinds; every improved process is quickly adopted and made the basis of further improvement; success brings credit and credit brings success; success and credit help retain old customers and bring new ones; the increase of his trade gives him great advantages in buying; his goods advertise one another and thus diminish his difficulty in finding a vent for them. The increase of the scale of his business increases rapidly the advantages which he has over his competitors, and lowers the price at which he can afford to sell.”

New ranking, book chapter and “crazy” papers

At this moment, exactly 2 years ago, I was finishing my PhD and heading to some great vacations in Iran with my wife. I gave myself these last 2 years of “peace” to think about new intellectual endeavors, after almost 5 years of struggle to keep up with that endless program.

I keep thinking about what to research, despite of not having time to do so. I love reading, thinking and debating about many things but mainly about education, entrepreneurship and emerging economies.

What annoys me most at this moment is that something keeps telling me that I should avoid spending time on traditional social science research. Traditional scientific process leads you to spend years to prove something very close to common sense and unfortunately I don’t have patience for that.

In my opinion, in social sciences, the consequences of this established modus operandi for research are perverse, with millions of dollars and thousands of people researching things that are useless and will probably never be applied at any group of people worldwide.

During the PhD, colleagues and professors kept telling me that I should just “follow the crowd” and try not inventing crazy research topics, methodologies or theories that would invariably lead me to fail in the program.

In summary, I had to learn how to do comprehensible and (mainly) publishable research, not setting myself too much apart from prevailing theories and methodologies. You just have to protect yourself with a “great” respectable theoretical framework and lot of stupid standardized SPSS statistics and everybody will be happy with your research. In my humble opinion, this is just the perfect way to screw with science.

Findings in social sciences are too much limited in time and place to justify the effort of spending years in something not much different from what has been said. In other sciences, when you are able to prove that cell Alfa produces protein Beta if exposed to Gamma rays, you’re clearly advancing in a field. But when you discover that certain human actions have some impact on specific organizations, this finding is very limited to a certain social group in a specific period of time. If it was not, economists, psychologists and sociologists would be able to predict economic downturns, human behavior or wars, for example.

Managing education and technology became a profession to me. Studying entrepreneurship – and its father capitalism – became a kind of a hobby: understanding this period of our history. Emerging economies won’t always be there to be researched. At the end, most of the economies of the world will be very similar by 2050. I don’t want to spend 5 years trying to prove that the obstacle X is responsible for the outcome Y in country Z, when this knowledge will certainly become useless in few decades.

Image

We have to produce fast and useful debatable knowledge about this. What’s the downside? That there are not right answers for our questions, I’m sorry. We will have to accept that the right answer doesn’t exist and all we can do is to get the closest we can from the answer, with multiple approaches.

So, for the next 10 months, if I’m lucky to keep healthy, I plan to give these three tiny steps to share with people interest in the subject: create a practical ranking for MBA students interested in investing their resources and careers in emerging economies, collaborate with a book about the Brazilian economy – hopefully with a nice chapter about “Entrepreneurship in Brazil”, and producing a couple of “crazy” papers discussing about two things I’m interested in the field:

–          The positive impact of obstacles to entrepreneurs normally perceived as negative.

–          The death of the idea as the key starting point of an innovative business.

I won’t submit these texts to antiquate 20th century journals; I will simply share them with people interested in the subject – academics and practitioners – and then publish here for critics and consultation. I’m tired of bureaucracy.

ps: I took the picture from: http://delbertbikessouthamerica.blogspot.com.es/

Start your business with art!

I want to play my Spanish guitar. I want to play my recently acquired harmonica. I don’t need you. I would like to think I don’t need you. I need you… shit. Shit?

I feel an energy now. I think I feel it. But which energy is that? Is that one that makes some of us to fall in love? Or is the one that makes the sunlight looks brighter than it is? What is that? I don’t speak English!

Take it easy my brother, take it easy my sister… I don’t know you! I don’t know me either. But I’m free. Or at least I like to think I am. And this makes me larger than myself. Cool! Nevermind, forget about it. Thank you Spain, thank you Madrid!

Do you really think the challenge is to start a successful innovative business somewhere? Are you kidding? If you are one of those mediocre visitors, please, leave me alone. Unless you want to talk about the real truth. Do you really want to talk about the real truth? So, try not to forget brother, sister:

Art is life.

Job is not life. Work is life. A new business venture is limited, fucking limited, basically. Not life either, just fun.

God is love. Love is art. Art is god. Engineering is nice. So is Biology. A social science like business is also nice. Art can match them all. Don’t betray yourself. Put some art in you life! Or just forget about me. I’m trying to play this thing. Viva Paco!

Let’s change the status quo of Education!

I feel like I am helping with this process and this makes me a happy person these days. Here I share a little bit of information about what I’m doing at IE (a lot of people ask me about it), besides being an associate professor. A larger version of this interview was published last month within IE’s internal communication newsletter (I took out some strategic internal information).

ieCOMMunity News: Where are you from? What is your academic and professional background? How did you come to IE?

I’m Brazilian, born in Rio de Janeiro, from a family that came originally from Portugal. I started work in the technology sector very young at 16, as a software programmer. My father worked in the sector and ever since I was a child I loved anything to do with computers. I went on to study management and accounting at university in order to help out in my father’s firm, but I ended up loving marketing, particularly everything to do with the sale of technology-related services. 

I was one of the first Brazilians to study at IE, in the year 2000. I mapped out a career plan with the directors in our company which included studying business abroad. In Brazil at that time hardly anybody came to Europe to study business. I decided to take a look at European Schools because I had a total cultural affinity with Europe. When I came here to visit some top schools I fell in love with IE because of all the schools I visited it seemed the most technology-friendly. Although I really like history, I don’t like lectures about the past, rooted in tradition. I prefer to hear about the future, and that is what I found here. 

My experience as a student surpassed my expectations and a year and a half after I graduated, while I was working here in Madrid with Telefónica, IE invited me to find a way to increase relations between the School and Brazil. That’s how I ended up going to São Paulo to set up IE’s office there in 2003. At the time there were some 2 or 3 Brazilian students at IE each year, and today there are over 50.

ieCOMMunity News: Tell us about your day-to-day at IE. What is the most rewarding part of your work? What do you like most about it?

Today, as Director of Admissions for Blended Programs and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, my day-to-day is pretty intense. I tend to place myself and everyone I work with under a lot of pressure to keep us at the forefront of our sector. 

Right now the whole knowledge industry is playing major role in all sectors, but particularly where online education is concerned. There are so many challenges and so many courses of action you can take that it is easy to lose yourself and your motivation when there is so much to do in so little time. But this is exactly what I find motivating and gratifying: being able to help IE and society as a whole by finding alternatives to improve the way we create and transmit knowledge among ourselves. 

What I like most is to be able to dream about possible solutions for these challenges and within a matter of months be able to share these dreams with other people and see the results when they have become a reality. 

ieCOMMunity News: Tell us about how you have seen IE Business School grow and evolve since you first came to work here. 

With great excitement. IE’s culture is unique, marked by its origins but not constrained by them. For instance, it is very gratifying to see that each time I go to Brazil more and more people are starting to know about IE and its values. It is something that I couldn’t have imagined in 2003, when I first arrived there full of dreams but with limited resources. 

ieCOMMunity News: What does the restructuring of IE Business School Programs mean for the School? 

The first major step was taken 10 years ago when IE decided to commit to blended education. The second major step came with the decision to continue to commit to this model, even after the internet bubble burst. I see this restructuring process as the third, very important step, taken in the direction in which thinkers in the field of education say that we should go, namely toward the possibility of offering quality education that can be adapted to meet the needs of each individual. 

Today, developing modular courses while providing a good blended education model is a logistic and academic nightmare for any large school or university. 

As the best Business School in the world in Distance Learning (The Economist, 2010), I feel that at IE we are ready to move forward with all these models (and perhaps some others). If we don’t keep raising the bar, other schools can quickly catch up. Everything moves very fast nowadays. 

ieCOMMunity News: Which programs will be restructured? What are the key features of the new MBA+ programs? 

The programs affected are some of the part-time program groups, and certainly the majority of blended programs – or online programs as they were called up until two years ago. The changes will also affect some of IE’s more traditional programs, such as the MBAs and weekly and bi-weekly Executive MBAs. Together with the blended programs, these programs will be modular, and will be divided into two groups known as the Global MBA+ and the Executive MBA+. 

The majority of specialized programs will be integrated into these MBAs. For example, the Master in Sports Management will become a +Module, known in this case as +Sports Management, in such a way that it will fit into any Global MBA+ or Executive MBA+ format. The same will apply to the Master in Sales and Marketing, which becomes +Marketing & Sales, etc. 

There will be many possible combinations of different formats, languages, specializations and networking opportunities, which will enable the student to organize him/herself to suit his/her personal and professional needs. For example, a student can opt to do the core period in face-to-face format and change to blended when they begin the +Module, or vice versa, start with a blended format and then do the program on campus. The same goes for languages. Students can start the core period in Spanish and then change to English, or vice versa. It’s amazing.

[Here I attach the first video we did to try to transmit what are these new programs about.]

ieCOMMunity News: What should we know if students, graduates or candidates ask us about the MBA+ programs? 

That both the Global MBA+ and Executive MBA+ programs are part-time and therefore compatible with their work. The curriculum of both programs combines the content of an IE Business School MBA program with the depth of a specialized program. The many customization options will permit students to adapt the program to their own specific professional needs and personal circumstances without losing the group spirit and the chance to build the kind of powerful network that is so typical of the IE experience. 

ieCOMMunity News: How will students and graduates benefit from this new structure? 

Students will begin to feel the benefits of using technology for personal and professional development purposes from day one, getting to know unique and diverse people who nevertheless have similar concerns. The personalization, the immediate applicability of knowledge acquired during the program, and the networking contacts established between professors and students will be further strengthened by the “pieces” that make up these programs. 

Hence, students will see that technology is there to help us mankind to go further not only in terms of productivity, but also intellectually and in our social relations. 

ieCOMMunity News: What about your life outside IE? What do you do in your free time?

I read lot, more and more all the time. I think that after five years reading really thick and dense books during my doctoral studies – I completed my doctorate in 2010, I now find it so easy to read books that are not academic (they look like magazines to me). I like books (and documentaries) about history, religion, science fiction and sociology. I also practice a type of self-defense called Krav-Magá, I play the guitar sometimes, and I like to travel to different places with my wife, as often as possible. 

Twitter: @neweduca

The bourgeoisie has disappeared!

During my whole childhood I had to grow up listening to this word: bourgeoisie (burguesia in Portuguese). As long as I remember it was a very common word in our vocabulary. What happened to these “horrible” people? Did they suddenly disappear during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s?

The King versus The Bourgeoisie

The King versus The Bourgeoisie

Let’s just check current online dictionaries and see what they have for us: the Wiktionary states that bourgeoisie “is a class of citizens who were the wealthier members of the Third Estate”. But what is this “Third State”? The Wikipedia says it was the common people of the pre-revolutionary France (read here), that is, people not directly involved with the ruling classes: aristocrats, clerics or members of the monarchy.

Briefly speaking, they were the early businessmen! At that time entrepreneurs didn’t exist yet (well, at least they were not called this way).

The case is that I was listening to some 1980’s Brazilian Rock music and this word caught my attention by being mentioned in different songs. Here you go, one example: Geração Coca-Cola, from 1985, by Renato Russo (Legião Urbana Band). I translated the lyrics. Unfortunately the only original version I found was an acoustic one (it is not a good version, I prefer the original one in punk rock version).

Quando nascemos fomos programados
When we were born we had been programmed
A receber o que vocês
To watch what you
nos empurraram com os enlatados
forced us to watch (the TV series)
dos U.S.A., de nove às seis.
from the U.S.A., from 9am to 6pm.

Desde pequenos nós comemos lixo
Since childhood we eat junk food
comercial e industrial
commercial and industrial
Mas agora chegou nossa vez
But now it is our turn
Vamos cuspir de volta o lixo em cima de vocês
We will spit back this garbage on top of you

Somos os filhos da revolução
We are the children of the revolution
Somos burgueses sem religião
We are bourgeois without religion
Somos o futuro da nação
We are the nation’s future
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola

Depois de 20 anos na escola
After 20 years in school
Não é difícil aprender
It is not difficult to learn
Todas as manhas do seu jogo sujo
All the dirty tricks of your game
Não é assim que tem que ser
It doesn’t have to be this way

Vamos fazer nosso dever de casa
Let’s do our homework
E aí então vocês vão ver
And then you will see
suas crianças derrubando reis
your children overthrowing kings
Fazer comédia no cinema com as suas leis
Doing comedy films with your laws

Somos os filhos da revolução
We are the children of the revolution
Somos burgueses sem religião
We are bourgeois without religion
Somos o futuro da nação
We are the nation’s future
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola

Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola
Geração Coca-Cola
Generation Coca-Cola

The burden of size

I’m at the Lisbon airport, about to embark back to Madrid, where I’m living. During the last day of my trip around South America I had the opportunity to give an interview to one of the most important journalists of Uruguay, from the local newspaper El Pais. A person of great wisdom, with decades of experience interviewing people from all over the world.

It was truly a great pleasure to talk to him about Economic Sociology, Entrepreneurship and Emerging Economies. Together, we almost got to the conclusion that Uruguay could arguably not be considered an emerging economy, as we discussed about levels of corruption, bureaucracy and freedom to start a business in the country.

At certain point we caught ourselves wondering if violence and corruption in many places of Latin America weren’t easier to get hidden behind the crowds of the large and overpopulated cities. Murders and corrupt politicians (I put them in the same category on purpose) get protected by the anonymity within these large amounts of people, with illegal incidents flooding inefficient courts of justice incapable to solve problems before new ones arrive.

With little more than 3 million inhabitants, Uruguay has an upper class of about 300 thousand people. These people meet each other in theaters, movies and restaurants, knowing easily each other’s family members and actions.

Honor still has its value and people don’t want to see their names used in an inappropriate way. In Uruguay, it is still better to be a respectable medium or upper class citizen than a rich corrupt “ghost” that will have to avoid facing society and have his/her family and history marked.

I was thinking about corrupt and violent countries with small populations (there are plenty) to see if this naïve hypothesis would apply but it doesn’t. So the burden of size and the freedom to do wrong things in anonymity alone unfortunately does not explain these social problems. Religion doesn’t either. Education or lack of huge social inequalities perhaps?