Startup Survival Tips by Prof Galai

The great thing about being part of the MAP community is having access to a large pool of mentors. These range from academics to corporate experts, including all manners of entrepreneurs in between. Professor Dan Galai is a successful entrepreneur and visiting professor at the Melbourne School of Business. He was invited by MAP last week to host a DICE (Dialogues on Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship) presentation. Prof. Galai drew on his wealth of experience in academia and industry to offer insights into the startup space in Israel, and the lessons that Melbourne can learn from it. Below are some key points that might be of interest to the MAP audience.

 1.     Foster a failing culture

That’s not to say that we should aim to fail. Rather, it involves consciously building an environment that values failing as a learning process. This includes the environment that you build around yourself, the one created in teams, and that which surrounds the broader MAP and entrepreneurial communities of Melbourne. Prof. Galai argued that where there is not a culture of appreciating and allowing failing, it is difficult for individuals to engage in innovation. This may seem like an obvious point, but acceptance of failure is difficult to put into practice because cultural change is always gradual. He suggested that more could be done by institutions, including the University, to actively foster a culture of experimentation. The same could be said of individuals.

2.     Train yourself in relevant skills

Young adults in Israel enter mandatory army service upon high school graduation. As such, they delay entrance into tertiary education by at least two years. During this intervening period, they are taught technical knowledge and trained in creative problem solving skills. Prof. Galai believes this arrangement contributes directly to Israel’s success as startup nation, because the creative problem solving skills taught in military training is the kind of thinking that results in innovation.

The point to take away from this example is not necessarily to drop out of uni, but rather that it is worthwhile to look for opportunities that cultivate different modes of thinking. Entrepreneurship involves the identification of gaps, needs and pain in a current situation, and then creating a solution to fulfill that need. This requires both lateral and analytical thinking, both of which can be developed through training. It may be inadequate to expect your formal education to give you everything you need.

3.     Diversify

Prof Galai believed diversification of industries in a small economy is important. He illustrated his point with Finland, a country in which Nokia has such expansive reach that much of the economy is now reliant on its success. Any shocks suffered by Nokia would reverberate throughout the economy, potentially causing widespread pain.

Among startup founders, diversification of skills and personalities acts as an insurance policy for the team’s longevity. Prof. Galai suggested that founders should have only two things in common – loyalty and dedication. All must believe in their ideal and in each other, but beyond that, founders should be different so as to absorb setbacks felt by one another. If one founder is having a bad day, it’s important that he or she has somebody there who will keep the team afloat. It may be tempting to form a founding team with your best mate, but friendship alone isn’t enough to carry a business.

4.     Can entrepreneurship be taught?


While it is both possible and desirable to instill certain principles in aspiring entrepreneurs, Prof. Galai believes successful entrepreneurs share common traits. He described this as people who have a spark that can be ignited with guidance.

The nature versus nurture debate is an age old one, but is of strong interest to MAP and the University. If we are trying to create a culture of entrepreneurship, and it is a natural trait, then should we not target our efforts at those who show potential? On the other hand, if we don’t provide opportunities for people to discover their ‘spark’, other than the self-identified, we won’t know who will benefit most from our resources.

For the purpose of fostering entrepreneurship, we should continue to enhance the opportunities available to aspiring entrepreneurs, while also expanding our reach to connect with those who may not yet know what we provide. To this end, MAP, with the support of the University, regularly hosts public events. Like us on Facebook to receive updates.

 Professor Dan Galai will be holding a Master Class on Friday 30 August. For more information, please click here.

This post was contributed by Wen XiHer views do not necessarily reflect those of the Melbourne Accelerator Program or the University of Melbourne.  

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