We Need More Entrepreneurs… And New Ways To Help Them Succeed
By Raul Deju, Ph.D.
Partner, Brightstar Capital Partners
It is widely recognized that entrepreneurs – those highly motivated individuals who dream big, see opportunities that others miss, and aren’t afraid to risk everything to succeed – have an outsized impact on the United States and world economies. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that our nation’s small businesses employ more than 61 million people in total (47.1% of all employees) and created 1.9 million net jobs in 2019 alone. Entrepreneurs are also leaders in launching innovative products, services and solutions that change the way we all work, shop, communicate, and live.
My passion for entrepreneurship comes from my own personal experience. In early 1960, at the age of 13, I waved goodbye to my parents in Havana and flew to Miami as part of “Operación Pedro Pan”, a program that sponsored about 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to emigrate to the U.S. in the early 60’s. After 10 months in the US, I finished my high school, exhibiting the drive often characteristic of immigrants, I earned degrees in Mathematics and Physics, and a Ph.D. in Geosciences (Hydrology). I went on to start and grow businesses in the fields of waste management and technology, sit on the boards of several middle-market companies, and have been a partner in investment firms that have collectively channeled over the years over a billion dollars to numerous promising entrepreneurial ventures. In between various jobs I managed to author 7 books.
Despite the vital importance of entrepreneurship, becoming a successful entrepreneur business founder has gotten much tougher in the years since I embarked on my own journey. Markets are now global, competition is fierce, and the capital required to fund talent, technology and a scalable infrastructure has grown exponentially. It’s no wonder that reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and others show new business starts are lagging – and it will be our society’s and our economy’s loss if we don’t do something now to reverse this trend.
This trend is most unfortunate, because our society needs entrepreneurs now more than ever. Covid-19 has erased millions of jobs and driven virtually every organization to rethink its legacy operations. The rapidly accelerating digital transformation of business demands innovative solutions. And the economic disparities in society cry out for a more equitable distribution of opportunity. For these and many other reasons, we must cultivate entrepreneurs and encourage the creative vitality and economic potential that they represent.
Creating a New Generation of Principled Entrepreneurs
I’m proud to now be launching a new, broad-based effort to educate, inspire and equip the next generation of entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and grow successful businesses. This is a collaboration with business leaders who are themselves hugely successful entrepreneurs – including Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy. We have created a comprehensive 8-module interactive course called “How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur”. It is free and open to all who are interested. Hosted on the Curriki learning platform, the online course consists of modules covering such indispensable topics as creating a strategy, building a business plan, assembling the management team, developing product and service excellence, financial planning, and finding sources of capital.
Most importantly, the course opens with a module on how to become a “principled entrepreneur.” I believe the most successful companies are built on a solid foundation of core values. By operating with integrity and contributing to society, entrepreneurs can help ensure the relevance, resilience and durability of their businesses.
The online entrepreneurship course evolved from a more traditional classroom-based program that I previously taught at the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University in California. Over 200 students graduated from the program, and more than 150 of them have gone on to build their own companies – some of which have reached annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars. One of my students, John Sanchez, built, grew and exited successfully from two companies. Tom Deierlein, another student and a graduate of West Point, created ThunderCat Technology, which is listed in the Washington Technology 100 and has grown dramatically over the years. Other students focused on creating companies in podcast creation, telecom services, construction, and engineering. Recently one of my students, Phyllis Newhouse, who founded a successful company Xtreme Solutions, announced the launch of Athena Technology. This successful African American entrepreneur will lead an all-female board and finance her new company through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). The goal in creating this new online course, and making it widely accessible for free, is to multiply that pattern of success many times over. We are partnering with both leading and under-served colleges and universities, community colleges, veterans’ organizations, and the Sigma Nu Tau Entrepreneurship Honor Society.
Ultimately, I am thrilled to give back to the country that has given me so much. While I was able to chart my own course to career success, my goal in founding the Deju Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Online Program is to give today’s entrepreneurs the tools to translate their vision and ambition into thriving businesses that can create economic well-being for their founders, employees and society at-large.
For additional information contact us in Curriki online (https://www.curriki.org ) and yes our course is totally free.