Meet SME Assembly 2019 speaker – Daniel Isenberg

Today on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal we have an exciting guest! Daniel Isenberg is the founder of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Platform, adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, and former professor at the Harvard Business School. He wrote “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value“, which discusses the valuable lessons that Dan has collected from entrepreneurs across the globe. Dan has also been an entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Israel and since 2009 has made personal investments in over two dozen technology startups in Europe, Israel and the US.

Let’s meet Daniel Isenberg!

What is your favourite book and why?

To be honest, I learn more about entrepreneurship from history than from books about entrepreneurship, which are often filtered through rose-coloured glasses. But my one of my favourite books about entrepreneurship is a lesser-known, candid and insightful memoir by the pioneer of private equity in Europe, Sir Ronald Cohen, called “Second Bounce of the Ball: Turning Risk into Opportunity.”

What are you looking forward to at the SME Assembly 2019?

I am very interested in dialogue with local leaders about how to increase the culture and practice of growth entrepreneurship (which we call “scale up”) in their communities or regions. Many of them are hearing nice stories about Silicon Valley from our profession, but I think they are hungry for practical ideas that will work anywhere, and have a short time to initial impact.

Entrepreneurship is seen as very hands on and learning from experience. Yet as a professor of entrepreneurship practice, in your opinion, how teachable is entrepreneurship and its accompanying skills?

There is a crucial difference between entrepreneurship being teachable and entrepreneurship being learnable. Entrepreneurship is definitely the latter. I have many dozens, maybe hundreds, of experiences with my students at Harvard, Columbia and the Technion who were committed to learning how to be entrepreneurs and went on to grow successful companies. That does not mean they learned the most from entrepreneurship classes – I believe they learned from a variety of experiences, including formal and informal education, mentors, life experience, positive and negative examples, role models, their own personal networks, and so on. The classes may have helped, but I doubt that they were as definitive as many of we professors would like to believe.

If you could give an entrepreneur a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Listen openly to as much advice as possible, but then evaluate it critically, but then learn mostly from practice and real life, honest examples. In order to learn from practice, you need to be what Noubar Afeyan calls a “paranoid optimist.” You need to continually shake up the “oil” of optimism and even passion, with the “water” of cool-headed realism and even self-doubt. Passion by itself is greatly over-rated, and can get you into trouble unless it is accompanied by often painful objectivity. I wrote about this in the Danger of Entrepreneurial Passion (HBR).

Don’t forget to follow Daniel on Twitter (@danisen), and make sure you are following us on Twitter (@EEPA_EU) and using #SMEAssembly2019 to listen to more of what Daniel has to share in Helsinki.

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