Sunday, May 01, 2005

The big, messy opportunity in the middle

I'd like to define the ground I know something about. It's a MIGHTY short list compared to the long list of things I don't know jack about.

I work in an area of startups between the business schools and the Grameen Bank (bless them 100 ways). I think this messy, unglamorous, middle ground needs attention. This is what I know about. This is where I work.

Many business schools are all over this entrepreneurship thing. I truly applaud them for doing this, and I think they're putting out a pretty good product for the most part. Many biz school graduates even come out as start ups. Good on ya. Go! However, most Biz School programs typically focus on case studies related to projects and businesses well above what most of us will deal with in our own start up enterprises. I certainly don't begrudge this. Somebody has to fix those big-business messes and I believe this new generation will do just that. I'm very glad they're there.

At the other end of the start up food chain, heroes live. The Grameen Bank (bless them) has changed the world with micro capital. It's a business model for which I have nothing but awe and admiration. I think it can work in even the most developed societies, and I think many of us can learn much from the fearless start up geniuses at Grameen. However, that's not my gig either.

I work in the messy middle, between the MBAs and the Grameen Bank.

For those of us in the middle ground, there are many good paths to successfully starting your own enterprise. Almost too many.

You can start it up part time. No sin there. Probably advisable in most cases. Work out the bugs, find out if you're really interested in doing this, and most importantly, get the cash flow moving. That's a hard stream to initiate.

You can set up your enterprise in the background without going live until you're ready (hopefully giving you time to locate all the things you forgot to think about in the first place).

You can take your enterprise live next week and shoot for the stars from day one. Good on you, also, friends. Clear sailing!

Whatever your timeline though, I'm pretty confident it will be wrong. You'll probably need more time than you anticipate until it throws off the numbers you want.

So, where are we? This middle ground between MBAs and the Grameen Bank looks hard and messy. It will probably take longer than you want. There are a million choices, which is worse than having just a few sometimes. Nobody quite knows what to do in this middle ground or how to proceed. Most people are dissuaded from even trying.

I call this about perfect. High ground, my friends, for anyone scouting their own enterprise. Welcome to the big, messy, wonderful opportunity in the middle.

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