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Why You Don’t Need A Winning Idea To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

Why You Don’t Need A Winning Idea To Be A Successful Entrepreneur main image

Sponsored by Tsinghua University

About 90 percent of startups fail, with 10 percent of them failing in just their first year of business.

A good business idea on its own is no longer enough if you want to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. On paper it might seem like you’re on to a winner, but in reality you’re going to need a lot more than just that to get your business off the ground (and keep it off the ground).

Business schools are becoming an entrepreneur ecosystem. Over the last three years, 25 percent of general management education candidates aspire to pursue a career in entrepreneurship, according to a report by the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC).

To learn why being a successful entrepreneur isn’t just about the idea, we spoke with the experts at Tsinghua University in Beijing to find out more.

Patience, passion, and playing the long game are key

Professor Gao Xudong with MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course students.

Image: Professor Gao Xudong with MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course students.
Image credit: Tsinghua University

Unfortunately, there is no perfect entrepreneurial personality that can serve as a winning template for success. In fact, a quick internet search query for ‘what makes a successful entrepreneur?’ will throw millions of results back – many of which reel off a catalog of particular skills and qualities.

In other words it can all be a lot to take in. 

While being dynamic, agile, resilient, and curious are important, strategic thinking, good time management, excellent communication skills and good knowledge of business-related areas are what you’ll need if you want your vision to become a reality.

When it comes to the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course at Tsinghua University, “it is intended to provide the most important and most advanced knowledge about entrepreneurship to Tsinghua SEM students,” explained Professor Gao.

Professor Gao Xudong, from Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, is one of the leading entrepreneurship professors, along with Professor Scott Stern and Professor Pierre Azoulay from MIT Sloan School of Management to manage the three-month long sandwich course.

Professor Azoulay also talked about the need for “more of an action-oriented aspect of class.

“We came up with the projects where the students work in teams with local startups and help think through their strategy in light of what they’ve learned during class.  

“And on the final day of class students present their projects and highlight what they’ve learned and how those ideas have been helpful and unhelpful for them to help the companies,” he added.

Solve problems – don’t create them

Professor Scott Stern teaching on the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course.

Image: Professor Scott Stern teaching on the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course.
Image credit: Tsinghua University

Almost half (42 percent) of startups fail simply because there’s no market need, according to a 2019 report by CBInsights.

Having an idea that helps answer and bring a solution to a problem is likely to be far more successful than a bigger and shinier replica of another product or service.

Professor Azoulay talked about the importance of being “attuned to issues of competitive strategy”, as many students on the course gravitate towards offering solutions to current problems and issues.

Experienced entrepreneurs are invited to give talks at the end of the semester to the students about their own entrepreneurial journey and stories. Students have time to absorb the framework to help make better sense of the entrepreneurial process and are in a better position to then evaluate such lessons critically.

Strategy, strategy, strategy

Professor Pierre Azoulay teaching on the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course.

Image: Professor Pierre Azoulay teaching on the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course.
Image credit: Tsinghua University

As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Making time to design and implement a strong strategy and execution is a fundamental principle for success. The two go hand-in-hand and should be habitual when it comes to the long-term planning of your business.

Clear-defined goals with a clear-defined plan of action following will put you in a better position to achieve said goals and targets.

However, there’s one thing knowing what you need to know and another knowing how to actually do it.

Students who study the MIT-Tsinghua Entrepreneurial Strategy course have the opportunity to master such skills as they work on a business idea of their own and are taught to keep in mind the importance of the business’s strategy as well as organize their ideas in a systemic way. 

“There are four choices that guide entrepreneurial strategy as far as we’re concerned,” said Professor Azoulay. “Choosing your customer, choosing your technology, choosing your identity and choosing your competition. And typically the classes really focus on the first one, and focus on doing a good job of it too.”

The course itself aims to strike the perfect balance between teaching entrepreneurial strategy and entrepreneurship practice – both of which are essential to any entrepreneurial venture, according to Professor Gao.

Written by Stephanie Lukins

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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