The Venturist is the new fortnightly column by Innovation specialist, Rikus Grobler. In this new series of articles, he casts his scope much wider, discussing topics that has a direct bearing on business, particularly small businesses and start-ups.
Welcome to this new column. For those of you who followed the innovation column, we have not abandoned innovation, we just decided to broaden the scope of the article to focus on entrepreneurship as well. Entrepreneurship and Innovation share many similarities, are interconnected, and in my view are much closer than distant cousins. Since the column was based on corporate innovation for the last 4 years – mainly focusing on innovation-related matters for large established organisations – I trust that the target audience of the Innovation column has enough food for thought now related to corporate innovation! Hence, we decided to expand the scope of the target audience for the new column, which will now include start-up entrepreneurs and SME owners. Entrepreneurs are vital to the progress of the country’s economy. Their business activities, among other, help spur economic activity, encourage exchange and create jobs. Entrepreneurs, therefore, serve an important purpose in our society by contributing to the improvement of the economy in a number of ways. So, the content will not focus on only innovation anymore, but will also address entrepreneurship- and business management related issues. We felt that this is such an important part of the Namibian economy that it deserves a feature dedicated to their needs, requirements and enquiries.
Why the name “The Venturist”? It is an amalgamation of “venture” and “adventurist”. A “venture” being a business undertaking, and an “adventurist” being “someone involved in risky enterprises”. In essence the objective of the new column is to provide useful information to the target audience through three elements: 1. Accelerating Commercialisation: Helping start-up entrepreneurs and SME businesses address key challenges in the commercialisation pathway of bringing novel products, processes and services to the market; 2. Business Management: Providing advice to improve business capabilities; and 3. Innovation Connections: Helping small and medium businesses to foster and manage innovation.
In this first delivery I do want to touch briefly on the difference between entrepreneurship and innovation. An entrepreneur is a person who starts a new business. That’s not necessarily innovative, but it can create new jobs and new wealth, so it is valuable. Sometimes, entrepreneurs create new businesses based on new ideas, either inventions or new innovations. However, a person running a fast food franchise is also an entrepreneur, but not necessarily innovative. An innovation is a new idea that is put into valuable or profitable action. Innovation can happen in any organisation, of any size and in any stage of its lifecycle. Additionally, there’s innovation in governments, in academic institutions, and in not-for-profits. So, the key difference between innovation and entrepreneurship is that innovation means introducing something new. This can be an idea, product, model, or a service. On the other hand, making a great idea into a business opportunity is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship often begins with innovation and there is a risk involved in entrepreneurship which is not there in innovation.
I want to conclude this first delivery with the Entrepreneur’s Credo of Thomas Paine, written 236 years ago, a piece of writing I have personally found very inspiring: “I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon … if I can, I seek opportunity … not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the State look after me. I want to take the calculated risk. To dream and to build. To fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence. The thrill of fulfilment to the stale calm of Utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect. Proud and unafraid. To think and act for myself. To enjoy the benefit of my creations. And to face the world boldly and say: This, with God’s help, I have done. All this is what it means to be an Entrepreneur”.