is littered with
the ashes of failed start-ups. J. Robert Baum, associate professor of
entrepreneurship, is tracking the trials and travails of 122
entrepreneurs over four years until they either start their dream
company or quit, interviewing them every six months along the way. Some
patterns have emerged through content analysis and direct evaluation by
three experts that distinguish those who are successful from those who
Specific, Challenging Visions
“The first thing that stands out is the scale and detail of the visions
of the more successful entrepreneurs. “‘Some people say ‘let’s open a
bar.’ It's the people who say ‘I want to have five bars and I want them
to have a special theme’ who tend to be successful,” says Baum. “In
short, those with clear, challenging, stable visions did better.” What
Baum learned from this as a teacher, he said, was how important it is to
help students develop and organize their dreams.
Relevant Automatic Compressed Experience
Automatic compressed experience is tacit knowledge based on experience.
Relevant experience for successful entrepreneurs appears to be venturing
and industry - technical experience. Successful entrepreneurs apply that
experience on the fly to solve problems quickly.
Ability and Inclination to Borrow Financial and Human Resources
Resource acquisition turned out to be a key factor. Surprisingly,
successful entrepreneurs didn’t just get money from their
supporters—they also solicited expert advice and guidance from others
who could help. Baum found that there is a strong relationship between a
challenging vision and the ability to acquire financial and human
Willingness to Adapt Goals to Manage Emerging Problems and
Almost as vital as the initial goal-setting in terms of a detailed
vision, was the successful entrepreneur’s willingness to change goals
Willingness to Experiment
“When confronting barriers, we saw that successful start-ups took small
steps to see if an alternate strategy might prove successful,” says
Baum. Baum cites the example of a man who started a leather business
making high-design belts. He tried to sell the belts in custom shops
without success, and then tried consignment shops, also without success.
Finally he convinced a Crate-and-Barrel type chain store to take a small
display of belts, and used the name of that store to place displays in
other venues. This entrepreneur was successful because he tried over and
over to find the right market, and didn’t give up until he succeeded.