Always New Mistakes

December 13, 2010

Beware of those who say they help entrepreneurs

Filed under: Conference, entrepreneur — Tags: , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 3:00 pm

I recently attended one of the most shameful events I’ve been to in a long time. Being and entrepreneur myself and collaborating in so many ways (Tetuan Valley, Okuri Ventures, Sandbox, Startup Digest) with other entrepreneurs around the world, I was excited to attend the opening of the MIT Enterprise Forum chapter in Spain. Nothing could have prepared me to the disastrous event I was about to attend. So many people share my views, but no one wants to write them down, so here there are:

I got to the event just in time, just to realize that something was extremely wrong, the president of the MIT Spanish chapter was reading the presentation speech. Having been to so many events and talks, I can tell you, that’s never a good sign. As it happens, it wasn’t, things got much worse as time went by. A round table of “experts” talking about how Spain should help entrepreneurs just made my day. The amount of incoherent ideas, half truths, PR bullshit and just plain ignorant talk was overwealming. I just have to feel sorry for one of the speakers which is a friend and by the look of his face you could see he was as shamed as we were.

Anyhow, one of they things I realized is how dangerous these people can be. There we were, a room packed with people, everyone listening. The problem was, except for our friend, none of the speakers had real entrepreneur experience. Maybe it’s me, being an engineer turns you into a meritocratic person by default, nevertheless, I’ve always thought that if you want to fix a something, first you need to know where the problem is. In my eyes, that was the biggest problem, none of them knew anything about where that laid. Now, it wouldn’t be a problem if these people were regular folks, but they weren’t. They were smart and powerful people. They run big VCs (or so they call themselves in Spain), entrepreneur programs, consulting firms, etc.

What baffled me was that they hadn’t a clue about entrepreneurship, startups or their suffering. Even among them, they couldn’t agree as to what was best for entrepreneurs. The amazing thing was that, from the amount of suits I counted in the room, the percentage of entrepreneurs attending the talk was below 1%. So, in the end, you had, a packed room of non entrepreneurs, listening to a bunch of people talking about a topic that they had absolutely no idea.

This is the thing, a banker that creates a startup competition thinks that gives him uber knowledge on their problems. Truth is, the banker never gets to talk with the entrepreneurs. Not the ones attending his program, not the ones elsewhere. An MBA person, with expertise in finance and buyout operations, that has being doing buyouts and M&A for large (> 100) corporations during the past 6 years thinks he knows entrepreneurs. But I wonder if he’s ever seen a startup with less than 3 people or even talks with entrepreneurs. I’m sorry but working with a corporation has absolutely nothing to do with bootstraping a company in the turmoil of a worldwide economic recession. A doctor working at a hospital has even less idea of what’s in an entrepreneur’s mind. Yes, he opened several new facilities within the hospital, but excuse me if that’s even remotely similar to trying to raise capital for a crazy risky idea. Then we have the typical VC profile. X years in a consulting firm doing private equity and M&A operations. Yes, you meet so many entrepreneurs doing that… and of course, regular VC has so many real interactions with entrepreneurs I just can’t imagine why I’m even writing this (for the record, there is sarcasm here). An finally, but not least, you have the MIT Enterprise Forum chairman. First of all, how can you even speak of funding in Spain when you’ve never started a company in Spain. It just amazes me how easy it is for him to repeat what others say with absolutely a complete ignorance of a countries specific problems. But most importantly, how is it possible that being an entrepreneurs himself, he allows this mummers farce to go on. Shame on him and shame on the MIT.

If MIT thinks that having such a sorry lot talk shit about how to help entrepreneurs, giving a talk with NO Q&A and call it “Forum” and most interestingly, stressing the importance of doing networking, but kicking everyone out to the street after the talk is done, then that’s the reason why most real entrepreneurs end up in California an desert Massachusets.

So, people, please, be critic, and be careful with those that preach that they are champions of the entrepreneur cause when in reality they’re far detached from their real day to day world.

Oh, by the way, I would link to their webpage but they’ve run out of quota: “This account has been suspended. Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.”

23 Comments »

  1. This sounds eerily similar to the so-called startupscene in Denmark.

    The events revolve around bankers, bureaucrats, lawyers and consultants trying to make a buck off the entrepreneurs. This is an evil spiral since nobody knows what the heck they’re talking about, and drain the few startups of the money and resources they’ve got. The result is that there are very few startups that succeed, thus fuelling more of the same bullshit with the state giving grants to entrepreneurship events and programs that are promtly sweeped up by aforementioned consultants and lawyers.

    And the state keeps pouring money into the black hole not understanding why the new Google doesn’t emerge.

    Two years ago Ernst and Young’s highly publizised entrepreneur of the year in Denmark managed to give the first prize to a company which two days after the event was exposed as one of the biggest frauds in Danish history. A few years earlier the prize was given to a company with 500 employees that was founded in 1956.

    I stopped going to these events years ago – they’re a total waste of time.

    It’s a structural problem – if there aren’t any successful entrepreneurs there’s noone to turn for for guidance, no capable investors and no role models. Which of course leads to even less successful entrepreneurs.

    Maybe this is a European problem?

    Comment by Max Kim Tobiasen — December 13, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  2. Wow Max, great comment. If you switch Denmark for Spain it would totally work too.

    What u say is totally true, although I’m sad about it because I know there are people within these organizations that really want to help. I feel bad for bashing them like these, because they’re not to fault, but I feel that if we don’t call the bullshit we won’t advance.

    I’m sure the same happens elsewhere, not only in Europe. Take some Asian countries for example.

    Do you know the guys at Startup Bootcamp in Denmark? I know them and they’re the only ones I know of that are also pushing the entrepreneurs in a good way! Let me know if u need an intro :)

    Comment by Alex Barrera — December 13, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    • hey alex, so this year I totally got taken advantaged of by a guy who got his mba from MIT when I went to him for mentoring…. he advanced on me sexually … major creep, which I later found out also conducted unethically towards the end of the last company he was with

      also, the guy who is in charge of the MIT NYC chapter is a complete douche bag as well, a bit of an alcoholic & drunk, I met him while he was a bit shitfaced, and all he could go on is about how unsuccessful he has been with all his startups…

      after meeting these two ppl this year, am def rethinking MIT as a place of higher learning, seriously this year the two biggest douche bags I have met in the startup field, happens to be associated with that school, and they were complete psychopathic liar & gigantic loosers!

      seriously disappointing,

      Comment by dora — December 28, 2010 @ 2:44 am

  3. If it is any consolation, the MIT Enterprise Forum events in Boston are really very good. It sounds like there attempt to move to Spain didn’t translate.

    Comment by Craig Schmidt — December 13, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

  4. I’m very sure of that, which is why it really pissed me. I wonder though, why do they lend their brand to someone without imposing a minimum quality criteria :(

    Comment by Alex Barrera — December 13, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  5. [...] conference on entrepreneurship in Spain became a place where people of high status could talk about how much they love entrepreneurs. Few [...]

    Pingback by A conference on entrepreneurship should have some entrepreneurs at it | Smash Company — December 13, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  6. We have a similar problem at the conferences in Brazil. Fortunately their are at least two angel investors in the market here that I know of that have entrepreneurial experience and really want to help entrepreneurs, Pierre Schurmann and Michael Nicklas. Pretty much all the rest of the VCs are posers who think that just because they have money they are gods.

    Comment by Andrew de Andrade — December 13, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

    • Interesting! I actually have to talk with Pierre :D We’ve been wanting to chat for some weeks now. It’s good to get such good references :D Thanks Andrew!

      Comment by Alex Barrera — December 13, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  7. That sucks. Sorry to hear the MIT event was like that in Spain. I just wanted to chime in and offer that it’s an isolated instance per my experience w/ that program. I’ve been to two of the MIT Ent Forum events here in Phoenix, AZ and both were top-notch. There were speakers but they Q&A, free food and networking was indeed encouraged and facilitated. The caliber of people there was better than many events I’ve been to in AZ. I don’t know the structure of how the satellite offices relate to the mothership w/ that program but it sounds like Spain got some bad apples. I wouldn’t write off the program completely though. Here’s the phx site FWIW: http://www.mitefphoenix.org/new-events/venture-ready

    sean

    Comment by Sean Tierney — December 13, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

    • Hey Sean thanks for the input and links. As I said, it’s not my intention to bash the program. I do know it works and that there are some cool people behind these type of events. People that really want to help. That’s the reason I attended on the first place :)

      That being said, it baffles me why would MIT put their brand on something without applying some minimum quality checks. But the post wanted to highlight a deeper problem, apart from the MIT thing, which was just used as an example.

      Comment by Alex Barrera — December 13, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

  8. This post is unreadable due to all the bolding.

    Comment by JJ — December 14, 2010 @ 12:56 am

  9. What would a conglomeration of socialist possibly know about entrepreneurship. And on top of it conglomerating in Spain which is about to go broke and have to be bailed out. They should really love entrepreneurs in Spain, they’re the only one making any money that the socialists can grab.

    Comment by fastsharp — December 14, 2010 @ 4:14 am

  10. You have to remember that the majority of Spain is still like a third world country.
    Give it a few decades and it will come in line with the rest of the developing world hopefully.

    Comment by Earl Grey — December 14, 2010 @ 4:48 am

  11. Alex, would it help the ecosystem at all if entrepreneurs in Spain reached out to the VCs and policymakers to start dialogue in the reverse direction? If we assume that some of these people are well-intentioned, maybe all they need is a bit more education.

    Comment by Sean Yu — December 14, 2010 @ 9:09 am

    • It would help if they understood. One of the problems is that most VCs don’t know anything about tech companies, that makes it hard for us to get investment or even to get listen to. One of the things we’re doing at Tetuan Valley is precisely train Angels so we, at least, have some common ground with some of them. The thing is that this isn’t a fast process, takes time, but we’re working on it as we speak. Any help though is highly appreciated ;)

      Comment by Alex Barrera — December 14, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  12. [...] Beware of those who say they help entrepreneurs I recently attended one of the most shameful events I’ve been to in a long time. Being and entrepreneur myself and [...] [...]

    Pingback by Top Posts — WordPress.com — December 15, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  13. OH, you are so right: be careful with feedback and go efor the help of Entrepreneurs. From Entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs! Don’t hesitate to ask for..

    Comment by Thomas — December 17, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  14. I am a big believer in networking and indirect business contact, and I try to attend to events when my own entrepreneurial activities let me some spare time, and sadly many of them are a waste of time. When the topic is really talked, often lots of bullshit. Still, it is worth it for the couple of guys I met surpringly…

    But the situation described, with M&A suits talking about startup in Spain really sound SURREALISTIC!

    Will look at it differently…

    Comment by Thomas — January 14, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  15. “You have to remember that the majority of Spain is still like a third world country.” ???

    Seriously?

    Comment by Thomas — January 14, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  16. Hi Alex, thanks for this blog entry. I have some start up ideas that will eventually require capital. My impression is that in Spain startups don’t get much visibility because of the risk-averse nature of business. In a couple of years I am certain things will change – it has to there is no other alternative
    Gerson

    Comment by Gerson Bergeth — January 21, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  17. Someone commented above that it might be a “European problem”. Oh believe me it’s not. This exact same situation is happening in Singapore (yes I’m born and raised there, not some outsider with ill-informed opinions).

    Technology Incubation Scheme – flop flop flop. Oops.

    Comment by Jamie — February 24, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  18. [...] Beware of those who … table of “ experts ” talking about how Spain should … But I wonder if he’s ever seen a startup with less … even remotely similar to trying to raise capital for a … [...]

    Pingback by Why Start-Ups Should Beware of Investment Capital » Mamie Hatfield — March 13, 2011 @ 2:31 am

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