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“The future consists of those who create it”

“The future consists of those who create it”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Archive Sarasvathy

SBE organises Europe’s largest conference on entrepreneurship

Banks demand solid business plans from new entrepreneurs, certainly in times of crisis, but in practice, everything depends on creativity. This is what prominent American professor Saras Sarasvathy will argue during the four-day academic conference on entrepreneurship RENT, the largest in Europe and for the first time in the Netherlands.

Compare it to cooking. There are people who have a dish in mind and then go and purchase the appropriate ingredients. There are also those who first look at the available ingredients in the house and make a dish based on those.

In other words, says Anita Van Gils, one of the organisers of the conference: “Entrepreneurs who are able to work creatively with the means available to them - so type two - are more successful than the planners. Business plans remain important, but part of them is based on guesswork. After all, you never know what your competitors will do or how the economy will develop.”

Saras Sarasvathy, one of the most influential researchers in the field of entrepreneurship, speaks of the bird-in-hand principle, which means that you must ask yourself what you have and what you can do with that, instead of starting out with a predetermined goal. She also speaks of the pilot-in-the-plane principle: ‘the future consists of those who create it, not of unavoidable trends.’

The main problem for new entrepreneurs these days is how to raise the starting capital. “Initially, they approach what the literature refers to as ‘Family, Friends and Fools’, where the last category often consists of investors who believe in the idea and sometimes takes very big risks. Sometimes the latter are established entrepreneurs who take on a coaching role, also known as ‘business angels’.

The fact is that banks are becoming more and more strict when assessing new initiatives. “They demand that entrepreneurs also approach other financiers, such as investment companies or funds. The reason is that risks are spread this way. The banks get confirmation that others also believe that the plan might be successful. In short, it is important that new entrepreneurs should tap several sources. At the moment, they may also approach the provincial government of Limburg, which has recently set up an innovation fund with twenty million euros.”

The conference starts off with a policy workshop on the pre-conference day (Wednesday, 17 November); on that day, the current economic climate for entrepreneurship will be discussed. Students are welcome on that day, as they are on Saturday, when the topic will be entrepreneurship in practice. On Thursday and Friday, everything will focus on the theory, and 130 researchers will give short presentations.


Maurice Timmermans

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