A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A key feature of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes is the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset. They have this in common with many other leading entrepreneurial programmes whose focus has turned from content knowledge about entrepreneurship to developing an entrepreneurial mindset. However, what is lacking across the board is a rigorous theorisation and empirical evidence of the term ‘entrepreneurial mindset’.

In response to this need for rigour the Foundation launched an academic investigation into the meaning and measurement of entrepreneurial mindset. The findings of this investigation, which is available in its entirety here , revealed that an understanding of the mindset of entrepreneurs was initially rooted in the behavioural sciences and is based on decades of research within the fields of personality, cognitive and social psychology. It also became clear that multiple definitions for ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ exist, for which reason a combined or synthesised definition was proposed. The literature on which the investigation was based also revealed that there are general themes that characterise an entrepreneurial mindset. Another finding of the investigation was that the instruments and methods for measuring entrepreneurial mindset were limited and unable to account for all its characterising themes. As a result, the investigation concluded by proposing the development of a revised measuring tool. Several aspects of the investigation are discussed in a little more detail below.

This investigation is part of a larger project the Foundation started in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) in 2016. The outcomes they hope to achieve are:

  1. The development of a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset.
  2. The development of a universal methodology for measuring entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. The development of an evidence-based approach for enhancing entrepreneurial mindset education theory and practice.

Psychology and Mindset

Attempts to describe, predict and explain recurrent behaviours that set people apart from one another originated in the discipline of personality psychology. Familiar names in this field are Jung and Freud, but Allport made a particularly significant contribution to the field with his conceptualisation of personality traits in the late 1930s. Allport’s 4500 personality traits were eventually whittled down to five by researchers Costa and Macrae in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The broad traits of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness became known as the ‘Big Five’ personality traits or Five Factor Model (FFM).

The Big Five has since been used as a knowledge base to better understand mindset as well as many other sub-disciplines including everyday behaviour, physical health and psychopathology, to name a few.

Defining Mindset and Entrepreneurial Mindset

Researchers’ focus on personality traits eventually turned to the interpretation of traits and the habituating behaviour resulting from such traits. This research focus was broadly referred to as implicit theories, and it was proposed in 1995 that people’s implicit theories about human attributes influence the way they understand and respond to their world. In 2005 Carol Dweck redefined people’s implicit theories as their ‘mindsets’.

Since then many definitions of mindset have come to light and they have all influenced the multiple definitions of entrepreneurial mindset. Based on all these definitions the following synthesised definition of entrepreneurial mindset was proposed by the Foundation:

Entrepreneurial mindset relates to how a person thinks, their state of mind or the lens through which they see the world, and how this influences their propensity for entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. This state of mind or lens is influenced by multiple factors that include what people know or do not know (related to their knowledge), what people have done or have not done (related to their experience), what people can do or believe they can do (related to their level of competency and self-belief), and who they are (related to their personality, values, attitudes and beliefs ).

Characterising Entrepreneurial Mindset

A review of the relevant academic literature on entrepreneurial mindset revealed 11 themes that are characteristic of an entrepreneurial mindset. They are: (1) lifelong learning and openness to change; (2) engagement in a complex and uncertain world; (3) creative and innovative approaches to problem solving; (4) belief and confidence in one’s own capacity and competency to be entrepreneurial; (5) desire, motivation and intention to practice entrepreneurship and behave entrepreneurially; (6) taking initiative and personal responsibility for actions; (7) a pursuit of goal-attainment through personal mastery and value-creation; (8) recognising opportunities; (9) grit and perseverance in the face of challenges; (10) taking risks that lead to learning, growth and value; and (11) a belief in one’s ability to influence.

From these 11 themes several underlying entrepreneurial mindset dimensions were also deduced. Both these dimensions and the themes they emanate from are discussed in greater detail here .

Measuring Entrepreneurial Mindset

The earliest attempts at measuring a propensity for entrepreneurship occurred around the early 70s and 80s with the adaptation of an instrument used to measure locus of control in psychiatric patients. Since then several studies relating to entrepreneurial mindset have used scales based on the 10-point Likert Scale survey (ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree) or other validated scales to measure specific dimensions of entrepreneurial mindset. However, none of the existing instruments are individually able to measure all or even a significant percentage of the entrepreneurial mindset dimensions that have been identified. In addition, there is a need for developing quantitative items to measure these dimensions as the existing instruments have all made use of qualitative or mixed-method approaches.

For these reasons the Foundation endeavours to develop, pilot, test and refine a revised instrument for measuring entrepreneurial mindset. The instrument will be based on the definition of entrepreneurial mindset outlined above, and it will take the form of a quantitative survey, using Likert Scale questions and possibly Semantic Differential questions.

Further research and expertise will be required to refine the pilot survey and ensure that it is sufficiently valid and reliable for replication in other contexts beyond South Africa. The development of the entrepreneurial mindset survey can lead to significant opportunities for future research, both for the Foundation as well as other organisations and stakeholders.

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

We are pleased to share news of the exciting entrepreneurial mindset research work the Foundation has been involved in over the past 12 months and encourage readers to look out for upcoming thought provoking posts around our findings.

The Foundation has been collaborating with international thought leaders around understanding, defining and measuring the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset. As the curriculum and core essence of the Foundation is centered around cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, it is vital for our understanding to be based on best practice literature and pioneering data within our local context.

In this regard, we have partnered with the Global Entrepreneurial Research Network, received the academic guidance of Professor Kelly Shaver from Mindcette, and contracted with African Response for our data collection, to develop, pilot and roll out the most comprehensive entrepreneurial mindset survey of its kind.

The Foundation has developed a five-phased approach to understanding, defining and measuring entrepreneurial mindset.

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Through the Entrepreneurial Mindset Research study, the Foundation and its partners aim to create value globally through:

  • Building a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset
  • Introducing a data-based system for assessing entrepreneurial mindset development
  • Revealing new insight about entrepreneurial mindset
  • Creating an objective, quantifiable methodology for measuring progress over time
  • Providing an evidence-based framework for developing recommendations for developing new policies and programs
  • Increasing entrepreneurial action around the world.

Moreover, the Foundation aims to strengthen our internal curriculum and programmatic learning through:

  • Developing a rigorous definition and understanding of entrepreneurial mindset based on existing literature and best practice
  • Measuring entrepreneurial mindset within our beneficiaries
  • Improving entrepreneurial development curriculum
  • Improving the measurement of entrepreneurial development curriculum outcomes

 

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We would like to thank our partners and collaborators for their continued support and thought partnership throughout the entrepreneurial mindset project.

We will be sharing findings and results from our project over the coming months and invite you to keep an eye out for and share your thoughts about our findings in entrepreneurial mindset.

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Do you go against, behind and in front of the grain? Are you streetwise running anti-clockwise? Do you see the unseen? Do you dream the undreamed? Are you what the world needs? This is a call to you, future entrepreneurs.

Our 2017 Fellowship applications for 1st and 2nd-year students will be coming to an end on the 18 August 2017. Under the theme, “A call to the curious” we will be selecting individuals who show the potential to become high impact entrepreneurs in the future.

At the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, we believe that entrepreneurially minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the promise of change. We stand behind entrepreneurs improving the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa.

Our mission is to foster such impact by providing youth, demonstrating potential, with access to education and cultivating within them an entrepreneurial mindset.

Watch this video to learn more about the Fellowship experience and download an application form from our website right now to start your journey of curiosity.

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Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Annual Conference | By Teri Richter

Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Annual Conference | By Teri Richter

Pictures from: link https://storify.com/nesta_uk/igl2017
Photo Credit: https://storify.com/nesta_uk/igl2017

Working in a robot economy, evidence based innovation and overcoming policy barrier in entrepreneurship

On the 13th and 14th June 2017, the Annual Innovation Growth Lab conference was held in Barcelona Spain hosted by Nesta in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the World Bank Group, COTEC Fundación para la Innovación, La Caixa Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was represented at the event which brought together around 250 individuals from policy makers, to practitioners and researchers from over 30 countries all passionate about working towards increasing innovation, supporting high growth entrepreneurship and accelerating business growth.

The key aim of the IGL2017 conference included:[1]

  • Learning about the next generation of innovation and entrepreneurship policies.
  • Engaging in wide-ranging discussions on crucial policy challenges including automation, inclusive economic growth, directing public innovation funding, and smart regulation to support innovation.
  • Improving organisation’s capability to design policies that deliver measurable impact, using different tools such as randomised controlled trials and big data.
  • Meeting a global community of peers to learn from and share experiences with.

The IGL conference created a platform for engaging discussions and creative ideas on how to encourage and develop innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities and growth, practical engagement between policy makers and practitioners and academics sharing their experiences and learnings of completed, as well as ongoing randomised controlled trials in the entrepreneurial development space. Each session provided useful take-aways:

Key take-aways from the IGL Main conference

The conference investigated the future of work in a robot economy, specifically suggesting ways in which policy experiments can aid in better understanding the potential impact of job loss compared to the value creation of these entrepreneurial innovations. A central theme to the future of work discussions centred around the need for a creative and growth orientated mindset, which will influence the skills and experience in the future economy. The most important mindset was proposed to be the mindset to learn. This notion links strongly to research being conducted at the Foundation around entrepreneurial mindset and the need to identify opportunities and act on these in a rapidly changing environment.

Key take-aways from the IGL Policy and Practice Learning Lab

The working sessions allowed for engagement between policy makers and programme implementers to share their experiences of challenges in innovation and growth and propose solutions to address barriers facing entrepreneurs. The emphasis on the need for implementing organisations to represent and become more heavily involved in advocacy and policy discussions was of key importance.

Key take-aways from the IGL Research Meeting

The research meeting emphasised not only the importance of experimentation and using experimental research designs such as randomised control trails, however also gave an opportunity to engage directly with researchers currently implementing these trials on entrepreneurial design interventions. These engagements allowed the opportunity to share research ideas as well as future collaborations and best practices.

Overall, the conference allowed for great discussions and sharing of ideas and learning, which emphasised that research is at the heart of entrepreneurial and policy development. Reporting solely on the amount of funding allocated and spent fails to understand the impact of interventions, delivery of results and generation of economic growth. Talking specifically about failure is useful to building the entrepreneurial development sector and can be more valuable than surface level successes. Innovation requires evidence.

To best assist entrepreneurs in their start up and growth, the sector needs to identify key policies that are barriers to entrepreneurs and advocate to remove these. It is important to note that simply developing and upskilling entrepreneurs is not sufficient to aid their growth and development.

Learnings for the Foundation

The strongest messages from the IGL conference that directly relate to entrepreneurial development organisations and apply to the Foundation centred around the need to strengthen empirical research and evaluation practices and sharing organisational and sector-wide learnings, as well as contributing to identifying and addressing policy barriers and gaps that impede entrepreneurial growth.

[1] http://www.nesta.org.uk/event/innovation-growth-lab-global-conference-2017

Teaching reading for meaning: The Funda Wande project | By Dr Nic Spaull

Teaching reading for meaning: The Funda Wande project | By Dr Nic Spaull

Overview: South Africa is virtually unique among upper-middle-income countries in that most of our children (58%) do not learn to read for meaning in the first three years of school[1]. Without this core skill, they fall further and further behind as they are promoted into higher grades. While there are many reasons for this reading crisis one of the most prominent is that Foundation Phase teachers do not know (and have never been taught) how to teach reading. The “Funda Wande: Teaching Reading for Meaning” project aims to help address this course by developing a high-quality, free, open-access and SAQA-approved course: the ‘Certificate in Teaching Early Grade Reading.” All course materials will be available in isiXhosa (the pilot language) and subtitled in English. There will also be an English First Additional language sub-course. It is largely video-based with on-site coaches visiting teachers in their classrooms once every two weeks.

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Photos from the first Funda Wande planning meeting in Port Elizabeth

In the 21st Century we live in a world that is inundated with written language, or ‘print’. We see it in our newspapers, on our contracts, on the screens of our cell phones and the pages of our school books. From the policies of government to the signs on our roads, it is the essential ingredient in modern life. Print is everywhere. And this is why reading is so important. Learning to crack the code of how we represent spoken language using symbols is a big part of why we go to school. We learn the differences between b and d, or between p and q. Moving from letters and syllables to words and sentences we can read about pirates, pigs and pixies or earth-quakes and igloos. Once we have cracked the code the possibilities are endless. This is the joy of being initiated into the literate world.

Aside from the practical importance of reading to make our way through the world, reading (and writing) is essential for participation in formal education since the ability to decode text, read with comprehension and learn from reading is the bedrock of most activities in institutions of learning. If reading is not mastered early on, progress in schooling is restricted. Unfortunately nationally representative surveys (prePIRLS) show that more than half (56%)[2] of South African children do not learn to read fluently and with comprehension in any language by the end of Grade 4. But, as with most averages in South Africa, it hides huge inequalities. If we compare the wealthiest 10% of these learners with the poorest 50% the differences are astounding. Among the richest learners 86% learn to read for meaning compared to less than 30% among the poorest half of learners. Why is this?

One of the main reasons behind this reading crisis is that our teachers have never been given meaningful learning opportunities to acquire this specialized knowledge, neither in their initial teacher training nor in subsequent in-service training. readingThey often do not know what the various components of reading are (phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and motivation) or how these fit together into a cohesive whole. Many teachers are also confused about how to implement different reading methodologies like group-guided reading or shared reading. Currently teachers focus on communalized activities like chorusing and offer very little differentiation or individualized instruction or assessment. There is also little formal teaching of vocabulary, spelling, writing or phonics and almost no understanding of how to develop the most important skill in reading: comprehension. Importantly, while the majority of our learners are learning to read in an African language (70%+), almost all universities only offer pre-service instruction on teaching reading in English.

To help fill this gap, we are designing a new course to help make sure that all Foundation Phase teachers in the country know how to teach reading in their home-language and in English as a First Additional Language. The “Funda Wande: Teaching Reading for Meaning” project was initiated at the start of 2017 at the request of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment Trustees and is now funded by the Endowment together with two funding partners: The Volkswagen Community Trust and the Millennium Trust. The course is currently being developed for two languages: isiXhosa  and English First Additional Language. Using professionally filmed in-classroom videos, animations, info-graphics and other multi-media the course will teach the major components of reading and writing.

The 11 modules are: (1) How children learn to read, (2) Decoding in reading and writing, (3) Comprehension, (4) Vocabulary, (5) Children’s literature, (6) CAPS reading activities, (7) English as a First Additional Language, (8) Writing, (9) Reading assessment and remediation, (10) Inclusive education, and (11) Planning and progression. The course will be a credit-bearing Certificate accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The course and all materials developed in the course will be openly licensed (Creative Commons) and freely available for anyone to use. It will be offered as a Certificate in Teaching Early Grade Reading by at least one public university in South Africa. The course will be evaluated in 2019-2021. If the evaluation of the course shows that it significantly raises teachers’ content knowledge and improves their teaching practice, and importantly raises the reading outcomes of the learners they teach – the mandate is to adapt the course and offer it in all of South Africa’s official languages. Ensuring that all teachers know how to teach reading and writing is the first step in ensuring that all South African children learn to read for meaning and pleasure.

If you are an expert in teaching early grade reading in isiXhosa and would like to be involved in the project or to find out more information please email me nicspaull[at]gmail.com

[1] This statistic is taken from one of the nationally-representative datasets of reading achievement in South Africa (prePIRLS, 2011). See Spaull (2016) for a fuller discussion of the results from the PIRLS and prePIRLS studies.

[2] Spaull, N (2016). Learning to read and reading to learn. Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) Policy Brief. Stellenbosch.

An entrepreneurial awakening

An entrepreneurial awakening

Dominic Koenig_RoosterMore often than not entrepreneurship is something you can feel in your bones. It’s something that is modelled to you by parents or other family members or it’s often a desire, present from a young age, to be independent, to be a pioneer. In Dominic Koenig’s case, however, entrepreneurship is something he learned much later in life – a way of thinking, of questioning the status quo and recognising inefficiencies. Dominic’s entrepreneurial awakening was thanks to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship, and an irritating necessity – a morning alarm.

When embarking on his Fellowship journey with the Foundation in 2013, Dominic thought of himself as more of a humanitarian. In fact, his desire to help people and see South Africa transformed and flourishing is what initially drew him to the Foundation. He recalls: ”I had this burning desire to be a part of a community that sought to improve the socio-economic status of the country I love so much.” But the idea of becoming an entrepreneur was still far from his mind.

Then one morning in 2015 he woke up, for the umpteenth time, to his smart phone alarm. “I hated that sound; just dreaded it,” Dominic explains. That’s when he started questioning why the first sound you hear every day was something terrible and what life would be like if what woke you up “was actually something that’s awesome and amazing and something that you could look forward to.” He immediately arranged with his sister to perform some of her ridiculous accents and recorded them. For the next few days he played her funny recordings, starting his day with a smile instead of a groan. When Dominic eventually grew tired of these same recordings he started questioning again: What if his sister could send him new recordings without him knowing about them?

roosterThat was the genesis of Rooster – a mobile app, available on Android and IOS, that wakes you up with your choice of content, for example inspirational quotes, comedy, news or voice notes from friends. “It’s such a cool experience getting roosters from friends and family,” says Dominic. And the bonus is you wake up easier! “Because you’re comprehending something that’s being said, your brain has to switch on and listen.”

Rooster has the potential of being a game changer in advertising. Given the fact that almost everyone who owns a smartphone uses it as an alarm, the potential user base is colossal. Big brands could use Rooster to connect with these millions of users on a very intimate way – not with advertisements, of course, but with specially crafted content. Imagine waking to an inspiring message from a world-renowned athlete because you selected the content of a sports brand as your Rooster. The possibilities are endless, and imagining them all is what gets Dominic working long hours to make Rooster a success.

This understanding of hard work and determination is something he learned from his father, who, at the age of 40, started studying to be a radiologist. Dominic, his mom and three siblings all have “many memories of him studying for 12 hours a day, setting the best example of what sacrifice, determination and discipline entails.” Seeing how his father’s risk had paid off is perhaps why Dominic thought it worthwhile to give up an opportunity to do his articles at Deloitte in London. Another reason he was willing to dive right into an entrepreneurial venture right after university (he studied Business Science with Accounting at UCT) was the opportunity to work with his co-founder and school friend, Josh Perry. “He’s just the most positive, inspirational person.” Dominic explains that after surviving cancer Josh understood what it meant to live life to the full, which is why Josh quit his job at a very reputable medical tech company after Dominic shared the idea of Rooster with him.

Dominic’s version of entrepreneurial awakening – not experienced at a young age or as a deep-seated knowing – should offer inspiration to many. He and Rooster is proof that your entrepreneurial awakening can happen at any time. All that’s really needed is a new way of thinking, of questioning and solving inefficiencies, and some people to inspire and encourage you to take risks and work hard.

 

Entrepreneurship: The key to financial stability for youth | By: Lethabo Tloubata

Entrepreneurship: The key to financial stability for youth | By: Lethabo Tloubata

IMG_0565 2In 2017, unemployment rates in South Africa are reported at an all-time high, which, coupled with the start of a recession, makes the prospects for young people making a successful living seem impossible. Although corporate South Africa is doing its best to retain its talent at this stage, we need to consider a sustainable way to further develop the economy of the country. The best way thought possible is through the participation of more young people in entrepreneurial activities, however, one may not know what opportunities are there for them in the entrepreneurship space.

With the findings in the GEDI report earlier this year, South Africa was placed second in the continent in Entrepreneurship activity. What this alludes to is that the future is not so bleak.

Let’s take a closer look some of the opportunities that are available for the entrepreneurial at heart.

  1. Skills training for youth in entrepreneurship

Having a natural knack for business is one thing, however, running a successful business requires one to have some knowledge of their customer base, how to recruit and retain the best Talent as well as how to manage financial resources that they may have, amongst other skills. South Africa (and the continent) has seen an increase in programmes that offer basic skills that one may need to run a successful business. These skills-based programmes all have a strong focus on mentorship while running structured programmes that help entrepreneurs take their ideas from one phase to the next.

  1. Funding sources

Banks, angel investors & venture capitalists have been, for a long time, the natural source of funding for ventures. Though these sources are widely and readily available to people who wish to push their ideas to the next stage, it is not easy to get access to them as they often either have hectic requirements to qualify for funding or they may have a specific focus on who they fund, such as tech-based businesses.

Although the above-mentioned are still a great source of funding for entrepreneurs, we have, in the last couple of years seen a growth in crowdfunding sources which enable the entrepreneur to not only get funding from a bigger pool of sources, but to also promote their businesses and share a bit of their story and what influenced their decision to begin their venture. Crowdfunding allows one to request funding from friends, family and anonymous individuals who would identify with the inefficiency that the entrepreneur is hoping to find a solution for.

  1. Further Education & Training

Following the successes that have been seen since the inception of a National Diploma in Small Business Management at some Universities of Technology, more and more universities have included entrepreneurship studies in some form or another in their faculty offerings. These offerings range from either a National Diploma in Entrepreneurship, (which not only gives one the theoretical knowledge behind entrepreneurship but also includes a practical component which enables the student to experience the everyday life of entrepreneurship), to postgraduate diplomas in Entrepreneurship with a similar focus to the National Diploma.

While these are some resources one could use to run a successful entrepreneurial venture, it is important to know that this is not all that is out there. Innovation labs, hubs & other communities are also great resources to help grow your business.

As an entrepreneur, it is very important to explore your environment and see what and who else is there to support the growth of your business. Social network platforms, like Instagram, are being widely used to run online shops. While this does not take away from the traditional eCommerce platforms, it is there to enhance your business.

Here are some links for you to look at when exploring these opportunities that are available to you. You are also encouraged to explore further than this and make the most of the opportunities available to you.

 

 

 

 

The role of education in the Entrepreneurial Journey | By Teri Richter

The role of education in the Entrepreneurial Journey | By Teri Richter

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.55.04 AMEducation and the pursuit of academic excellence are at the core of the Foundations entrepreneurial journey. The Foundation believes that a strong founding and exemplary performance in academics and secondary and tertiary education form the building blocks of the journey for the high impact entrepreneur. The current write up aims to contextualise the empirical argument for this relationship and then define academic excellence in the words of the Allan Gray Beneficiaries.

 

In the words of academics:

The proposition of formal education contributing positively towards entrepreneurship is well supported by the academic literature. As suggested by the 5 key findings of the 2008 meta-analysis by Van der Sluis, Van Praag and Vijverberg (p795):

 

  1. Education does not influence the likelihood of an individual self-selecting entrepreneurship as a career,
  2. The effect of education on entrepreneurship performance is positive and significant
  3. The return to a marginal year of schooling is 6.1% for an entrepreneur
  4. The effect of education on earnings is smaller for entrepreneurs than for employees in Europe, but larger in the USA
  5. The returns to schooling in entrepreneurship are higher in the USA than in Europe, higher for females than for males, and lower for non-whites or immigrants

Further studies in a developing country context support the notion that an added year of education can raise entrepreneurial profits by on average 5.5% (Kolstad and Wiig, 2015). The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) study conducted by Herrington and Kew in 2010 suggests that specifically in the South African context there is a positive correlation between opportunity-driven entrepreneurship and levels of education. Lastly, the link between secondary and tertiary education and formal entrepreneurship is suggested by Jiminez et al (2015), as being an enabler for entrepreneurship through increasing self-confidence, lowering the perceived risk of starting a business and developing human capital.

In this regard, the Foundation has been collecting outcome level data from our beneficiaries over the past three years to build a comprehensive definition of academic excellence according to our own beneficiaries.

In the words of Allan Gray Scholars and Candidate Fellows:

Defining academic excellence:

This work has resulted in the following definition developed through Scholar and Candidate Fellow feedback. The Allan Gray Scholars and Candidate Fellows describe academic excellence as

  1. Doing your best,
  2. Understanding your work and applying your knowledge
  3. Continually improving
  4. Setting targets and achieving them for themselves.

“Doing well is performing to the best of your ability and not comparing yourself.” Grade 8 Scholar, Gauteng

“I just think that doing well means that you’re improving in what you did last time, even if it’s by 1%, 2% you’re still like … you’re nearly there and you’re nearly reaching your goals, so it’s one step closer.” Grade 10 Scholar, Western Cape

“I would really say it’s making knowledge your own and understanding things. Einstein said that if you can explain something to a child then you truly understand it. So I try that – can I really explain this to someone in a way that they can understand. So I thinking of learning as you should really understand it, it’s not just about cramming.” Year Engage, Gauteng, University of Pretoria

Most of the responses highlighted that academic excellence and achievement is about performing to the best of your ability continuously. Beneficiaries noted it is important not to compare yourself to others.

Barriers and enablers

During the pursuit of academic excellence, there are many barriers that beneficiaries must conquer, the most important barriers noted by Allan Gray beneficiaries in the pursuit of academic excellence include:

  • Time management
  • Prioritisation of tasks, activities and deliverables
  • Dealing with pressure to perform
  • Learning to overcome a fear of failure
  • Optimal access to resources

Identifying these barriers is essential for programme development and ensuring beneficiaries receive the optimal support to learn appropriate coping mechanisms and tools to address these barriers. In addition to barriers, beneficiaries also noted the key enablers to their academic performance and mentioned the following:

  • Receiving support from parents, teachers and the funding partner – the Foundation
  • Approaching each task with a positive attitude
  • Being motivated to succeed
  • An optimal amount of competition between peers – but mostly themselves.
  • Being passionate about what you are doing

“Love what you do. You cannot possibly try to be amazing at something that you hate. It’s going to be an upward battle and you’re not enjoying any of it” . Year Explore, Western Cape, University of Western Cape

Academics and entrepreneurship

From the definitions of our own beneficiaries, it suggests that through the outcome of pursuing and achieving academic excellence, individuals learn how to overcome failure, deal with pressure, set goals and meet them, continually improve and do their best. The literature further suggests that secondary and tertiary education further develop an individual’s self-confidence, lower their perception of the risk of entrepreneurship and enhance their ability to develop human capital. These abilities and traits link to those we see in successful entrepreneurs and support the notion that the academic journey can positively contribute to the preparation and equipping of individuals in their entrepreneurial process.

References

Jiménez, A., Palmero-Cámara, C., González-Santos, M.J., González-Bernal, J., Jiménez-Eguizábal, J.A.,            2015. The impact of educational levels on formal and informal entrepreneurship. Business         Research Quarterly Vol 18:3, pg 204-2012.

Kolstad, I., and Wiig, A., 2015. Education and entrepreneurial success. Small Business Economics, Vol        44:4, pg 783-796.

Van der Sluis, J., Van Praag, M., and Vijverberg, W., 2008. Education and entrepreneurship selection and performance: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol 22:5, pg 795     – 841.

 

 

 

10 Entrepreneurial readings recommended by our Fellows

10 Entrepreneurial readings recommended by our Fellows

What websites should entrepreneurs read for inspiration? We asked our Allan Gray Fellows what their daily entrepreneurial reading consisted of for inspiration, knowledge and growth. The top 10 entrepreneurial readings in no particular order are as follows:

  1. Standford e-Corners: A free resource started by Standford University where they share videos, podcasts and articles to support you on your entrepreneurial journey. Standford believes that entrepreneurship is about more than just starting a business.
  2. Medium: An app you can download and receive daily publications on topics that interest you.
  3. Tech Central: A news and information resource aimed at South Africans who are involved in the information and communication technology industry.
  4. For Entrepreneurs.com: A website started by David Skok, a serial entrepreneur who became a venture capitalist. The website is a tool used by David where he writes articles to help entrepreneurs who are starting businesses.
  5. Harvard Business Review: Articles written by academics and experts from different disciplines, where they share their ideas.
  6. TED: A nonprofit dedicated to sharing ideas through video talks which are about 18 minutes or less. TED talks are inspiring and a must see.
  7. Under 30 CEO: A website aimed at young entrepreneurs and professionals. Articles include interviews, start-up advice and finance.
  8. Mixergy: A platform where you can learn from experienced entrepreneurs.
  9. Blake Masters: Peter Thiel, author of Zero to one, start-up course.
  10. This week in startups: Hosts weekly interviews with startups who operate in the interweb space. Tune in weekly to listen to entrepreneurs’ stories, as they share what’s happening in the market and the challenges they face.
Going beyond a profession

Going beyond a profession

With his love of math and science at school, Bradley Wattrus had the makings of a successful actuary right from the start. Yet, the promise of corporate success paled in comparison to the potential impact he could have as an entrepreneur. This is why he applied to the Allan Gray Fellowship – the notion of high-impact entrepreneurship resonated with him. “I remember feeling that this was a vision for the future of RSA that I wanted to be a part of.”

It has been a mere four years since Bradley co-founded Yoco Technologies, where he is now Chief Financial Officer, and a few more since he started his journey as an Allan Gray Fellow, yet there’s already evidence that he’s impacting the financial technology industry in a significant way. The firm is focused on helping SMEs grow by providing integrated payments, point-of-sale software and access to financial services. They now have 5 000 merchants using Yoco, with 300 000 traditional card terminals in the market and 70% of their merchants accepting card payments for the first time.

SMEs are underserved on many levels as traditional organisations tend to focus on larger corporate clients. This means that less than 5% of SMEs and sole-proprietors in the country have access to card acceptance services, while over 70% of the population has at least a debit card. Yoco provides small merchants with a convenient point-of-sale experience, and they’re able to do this under a profitable business model without imposing any fixed fees on the merchant.

It may only have been a few years since Bradley co-founded Yoco, but he’s been flexing his business muscles since primary school. He made his first foray into entrepreneurship as his school’s Coca-Cola vendor and won an award for entrepreneurship. Later on, he was appointed to the school’s newspaper committee and, armed with advice from his dad, generated more money through the newspaper than the school’s fundraising committee. Bradley’s father made a point of teaching his children to think in terms of capital and not pocket money. It is no wonder then that Bradley and his brother “were regularly exploring different side projects.”

At the end of his school career, Bradley applied to the Allan Gray Fellowship and found the challenges it posed enlivening. Though he excelled at school, he seldom felt challenged enough. After school, however, the combination of his BSc (Hons) in Actuarial Science at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme more than made up for that lack. When Bradley was a Candidate Fellow (2007–2011) the Foundation required them to run two small businesses over a six-week period each. Bradley’s first business was a coffee stall at Rosebank Market, which ran on Saturdays, while the second was a service involving crying infants and clowning manoeuvres, i.e. preschool photography.

When asked how he managed to juggle both his degree course and his Foundation commitments, he concedes that it was indeed tough, but the experience trained him in the mechanics of starting a business. And it’s an experience he’d greatly encourage others to explore. Though the Foundation’s focus has shifted away from the intensive six-week-small-business approach, it still challenges Candidate Fellows to cultivate the kind of thinking associated with such an approach. As Bradly puts it: “If you are interested in going beyond a profession and making a significant impact on the region I would encourage you to apply [to the Fellowship]. The value is really in the opportunity to expand your mindset and leave university with a much broader perspective than you may otherwise have had.”