Raising entrepreneurs: The role of education

Raising entrepreneurs: The role of education

Is entrepreneurship an innate trait that some individuals are born with? Or can it be learned, like the ability to do algebra?

We believe very firmly that entrepreneurs can be made. In fact, everyone can – and should – be an entrepreneur. With this in mind, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has introduced the Entrepreneurship Challenge, a programme which nurtures entrepreneurial thinking and problem solving amongst high school learners.

The Challenge is rooted in gamification; important, because it represents a dramatic diversion from the traditional modes of teaching, especially around entrepreneurship. This is key, because the current education system appears to encourage learners to think like employees, rather than entrepreneurs, thereby stunting their entrepreneurial potential. Or, as author, entrepreneur and Foundation consultant Gary Schoeniger puts it, the other-directed approach, which entails telling people when and how to do something rather than allowing them to find their own solution, nurtures a non-entrepreneurial mindset.

Happily, Schoeniger maintains that it’s possible to change this mindset – but only if teachers shift their emphasis from delivery to discovery. Entrepreneurship is, after all, “an opportunity discovery process” – Schoeniger’s words – so, if learners are taught early on to look beyond the obvious, they’ll eventually embrace this as a habit.

Educators and engagement

The question, then, is how do you teach young people to remain primed for discovery? For Schoeniger, this comes down to three critical competencies – creativity, collaboration and critical thinking – which are amplified by personal qualities like resilience, curiosity, social and cultural awareness. Interestingly, these are the very traits which have been repeatedly highlighted as qualities required if human endeavour is to withstand the increasing appearance of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Thus, it is imperative that all people are taught to think as entrepreneurs, even if they do not see themselves becoming business owners in the future.

This is where platforms like the Entrepreneurship Challenge have an important role to play. The Challenge – an interactive national online competition – engages students by encouraging them to find solutions to real problems prevalent in their communities.

During the past two years, more than 8 500 students have taken part in the Challenge. However, the initiative aims to involve teachers, too, by providing collateral and content that helps educators support students on their journey to adopting a more entrepreneurial way of thinking.

This is not the only way in which the Allan Gray Philanthropic Entities are reaching out to educators. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment established the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship (JGF); a community of high impact, expert teachers who understand the need to collaborate in order to solve challenges within the education system. By embracing this approach, teachers are cultivating the very skills they need to pass on to their students.

Added to this, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is working to create a culture of high impact entrepreneurialism in South Africa. This speaks to Schoeniger’s observation that students generally respond to relatable role models; individuals from backgrounds echoing their own circumstances who have shown that it is possible to achieve entrepreneurial success. Sadly, the lack of a thriving entrepreneurial culture in South Africa means that most students look to Silicon Valley and other international case studies for examples of entrepreneurs who have made a difference to society – people with whom they have little in common. Nor do the challenges these overseas entrepreneurs have sought to address bear much resemblance to the local context.

The Foundation’s work to create more relatable role models is carried out by its Scholarship Programme, through which high school learners who have displayed a curious, entrepreneurial mindset, who have established themselves as achievers and who are in financial need are granted scholarships. To date, 208 scholars have graduated from the programme.

Because the Foundation understands entrepreneurship to be a lifelong journey, it also supports students at tertiary level. Allan Gray Candidate Fellows receive funding for university studies, as well as access to resources that will support their entrepreneurial development.

The final arm of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the Association of Allan Gray Fellows, is a network of graduates who have completed the Fellowship programme and have since gone on to pursue further studies, find employment or start their own businesses. There are currently 442 Fellows, who have created 62 new business, providing 820 new jobs.

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

Schoeniger’s answer to the question of whether anyone can be an entrepreneur is an unequivocal “yes”. But, he says, if society is to realise the goal of inculcating entrepreneurship as an innate and common human trait, we need to redefine the meaning of the term.

He points to the fact that extensive interviews conducted with underdog entrepreneurs have shown, repeatedly, that even successful entrepreneurs seldom view themselves as such; rather, their entrepreneurship has come about as a by-product of their pursuit of other objectives.

This is key, he states: while few of us consider ourselves future business owners, almost everyone has a desire to innovate. Even more critically, we are all driven to find solve problems that hamper our wellbeing, and that of our communities. What’s more, Schoeniger contends that, in the future, every one of us will be solving problems within ambiguous environments, and with limited resources. This is why it is essential that every student is taught to think like an entrepreneur.

Schoeniger’s view is that the starting point for any policy maker or educator is the premise that entrepreneurialism is a natural part of life. This goes back to his concept of entrepreneurialism as an opportunity discovery process and the understanding we are all intrinsically motivated to find opportunities that will help us further ourselves, while also betting the environment around us.

He also urges policy makers and educators to discard the notion that entrepreneurs are rare individuals who are born with a special ability that must be supported. This requires recognising that the entrepreneurial mindset is a cultural artefact, bred by our social and educational systems – but so, too, is the non-entrepreneurial mindset. It also requires abandoning a binary view of entrepreneurs; the belief that people either are, or are not, set for entrepreneurial success.

One way to do this, he says, is by putting the curriculum in entrepreneurship, rather than putting entrepreneurship in the curriculum. Viewed from another perspective, this entails asking students which societal problems they would like to solve, rather than asking them which profession they would like to follow. In doing so, the current situation where entrepreneurs are created by accident rather than design will fall away.

From a practical angle, Schoeniger suggests that teachers group students together, and give them free rein to explore alternatives and options that may solve the issues that concern them personally. This stimulates curiosity and self-direction in a way that the rote learning model in place at most educational institutions simply cannot do.

Teachers are bound to notice positive spin-offs, as anecdotal evidence shows that students who are exposed to entrepreneurial training usually see an improvement in general academic scores, he notes. It’s easy to see why: when we’re constantly told what to do, our natural curiosity is smothered. When we’re able to forge our own paths, that flame of curiosity is fanned.

Ultimately, entrepreneurialism isn’t an end goal in itself. Schoeniger sees it as an inevitable outcome of allowing people to follow their passions and natural curiosity.

“Entrepreneurship is the framework for thinking that will allow future generations to adapt and thrive in an unpredictable future,” he concludes.

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Entrepreneurs are always going to face challenges. That much is a given. But what about entrepreneurship itself? Are we, the stakeholders who are trying to create fertile ground for individuals who choose this route, destinated to have a similar struggle?

The answer to this question is critical, because it reveals much about the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. And, at present, it’s an answer that gives cause for concern.

Never in South Africa has there been such a crying need for entrepreneurs who not only succeed, but who have the ability to positively impact and transform their community. However, at the same time, it’s clear that these people are not receiving the support that would allow this to become a reality.

This was highlighted during the State of the Nation Address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa during February. Although Mr Ramaphosa admittedly had a number of challenges that required urgent attention, the omission of entrepreneurship as a national priority was a glaring one. Unfortunately, this concept remains a “by the way” – and, as long as this is the case, our entrepreneurs will continue to struggle.

This is evidenced by the rate of growth in South Africa. Quite simply, the outcomes of entrepreneurship do not keep pace with the inputs.

Compare our playing field with that of other African countries, for example. By all accounts, we are to be envied: it appears as though our efforts and successes in the area of entrepreneurship exceed that of our peers in many instances. However – and this is the crux – our entrepreneurs seem doomed to fail. Yes, we record an impressive number of start-ups, but few of these translate into sustainable jobs. In fact, only 15% of our start-ups go the distance.

This means that entrepreneurship in South Africa is failing in one of the key areas where it is intended (and where it is sorely needed) to have the most impact: job creation.

One of the reasons for this failure is the lack of alignment between skills and ideas. Our entrepreneurs may have outstanding insights that allow them to identify niches with potential to become lucrative businesses, but they don’t have the skills to take the business from point A to Point Z.

At first glance, it may appear that the existence of such a gap is absurd, given the significant array of resources that have been established precisely to provide entrepreneurial support in South Africa. However, the resulting ecosystem is fragmented: yes, there is a wealth of information and infrastructure out there, but none of it addresses the entire spectrum of entrepreneurial support, from end to end.

Moreover, many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of where they are in their journey. Which source do they consult, if they don’t know where they are in their entrepreneurial career trajectory, and what this means in terms of their support requirements and potential company growth? These are not questions that can be answered with a quick reference to company profitability, business valuation and market size, because the entrepreneur’s experience is typically a dynamic one characterised by change, adaptation and iteration – all of which create complications when it comes to accurately predicting company growth. In an ideal world, an individual with entrepreneurial potential would have clear guidelines regarding the support sources available, and which would be the most appropriate and best placed to provide advice and skills based on their current and future developmental phases. But this is certainly not the case at present.

Government’s current focus on FET-related skills poses is a further obstacle. While this is, indeed, a progression from the notion that a professional career is the only (or, at least, the best) option for every individual, regardless of their aptitude, progress in putting in place a future-ready curricula that boosts critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence in addition to fast-tracking the attainment of digital and STEM skills that will enable the workforce of the future to participate in the digital economy – has been stagnant. After all, the digital economy is where the greatest opportunities for today’s entrepreneurs reside, and it is therefore crucial to ensure that they have the requisite skills to take advantage. Our present model does not allow for this, however.

Currently, we don’t have a clear picture of knowledge and skills acquisition as they relate to employment, and how these can be best harnessed to drive rapid innovation and optimise industrial growth. Consequently, the majority of skills development initiatives in place in South Africa are geared towards bolstering existing, established industries and trades – but, since a future shaped by Artificial Intelligence holds very little certainty for any industry, we have to acknowledge the need to take risks on unknown quantities. One way of doing this, is seeking out industries that have the potential to enable, derail or disrupt existing sectors. Difficult though this is – it is, after all, almost impossible to imagine a world that currently exists only in terms of “what ifs” – tools like systems-thinking and design thinking may help us identify the gaps and opportunities offering the greatest potential for entrepreneurial action.

Education is failing our entrepreneurs in other areas, too. We cannot ignore the coming impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on our world; nor can we close our eyes to the fact that the industries which will prove most productive in the years to come probably don’t exist at present.

The skills required to gain mastery over these industries are, naturally, very different from those which served previous generations. But, then again, the people who will work in these industries have shown themselves to be very different, too. Just as workplaces were initially challenged to accommodate the personalities and tendencies of millennials – the pioneers of the ‘slashie’ or gigging generation, for whom it is commonplace to invest time and energy in a number of different jobs rather than pledging loyalty to an organisation – it’s likely that further adjustments will need to be made if we are to optimally harness the strengths of Generation Z.

On the one hand, and working in our favour, is the intrinsic entrepreneurial flair that seems to come naturally to many of this generation. However, they are also hampered by short attention spans. They are, moreover, more global in their thinking, and more individualistic, than any generation before them.

If we are to help them on their path to successful entrepreneurship, we need to take these differences into account and, perhaps most importantly, end our view of entrepreneurs as one-dimensional people.

At a more pragmatic level, entrepreneurial training in the future will need to go beyond focusing on the basic skills that are essential for starting a business. We will also need to tap into the values and motivations of individual entrepreneurs, while helping them leverage their social networks; perhaps one of the most important tools they’ll have at their disposal.

In other words, we need to steer clear of a blanket approach to teaching, and strive instead for methods that resonate on a more individual level. More than anything, we need to get young entrepreneurs thinking: not about the ventures that are most likely to succeed in financial terms, but which are most likely to solve the challenges currently facing our communities and societies.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship programme has been carefully designed to address as many of these challenges as possible. Our chief differentiator, distinguishing us from other initiatives aiming to support entrepreneurs, regards the individuals selected to take part. Rather than honing in on people who have already established startups and require resources to ensure sustainability or take them to the next developmental phase, we target individuals who have displayed entrepreneurial flair, or who have the propensity to become an entrepreneur. We consider the metamorphosis – from potential entrepreneur to actual entrepreneur and, ultimately, entrepreneurial career – to be one of our greatest successes, because it means that people who otherwise would have followed traditional career paths (and thereby entrenched the current status quo) are instead given a chance to realise their full entrepreneurial potential.

That said, the Fellowship programme is neither prescriptive nor restrictive. It recognises that the most fulfilling careers are based on an “either and” rather than an “either or” mindset, and that career paths evolve over time. We accept that for some, entrepreneurship is a goal in itself; for others, it is a milestone that is part of a greater journey. We encourage participants to adopt a similar understanding of their careers, and the open-mindedness which develops as a result is a powerful motivator when it comes to taking risks and engaging with the process of starting a business. This milieu has allowed some Fellows to acquire the work experience required to establish their own start-ups, while others use their learnings from this environment to create a clearer idea of what kind of business they would ultimately like to create.

One of the instruments we have employed to nurture this mindset is the Dual Track Programme, introduced in 2018. Cognisant of the struggle for the many entrepreneurs who do not want to concentrate solely on academics or the theoretical side of entrepreneurial training, this initiative provides support for those who have already launched their own businesses, allowing them to take a sabbatical from their studies for a year to extend their degrees. The remarkable take-up of this programme pays credence to our belief that although entrepreneurship may well be an inherent skill, it can also be developed, provided the individual receives appropriate inputs, including opportunities for collaboration, personal mastery, networking and lifelong learning.

We have set up a variety of other tools to fashion a safe environment where they may flex their entrepreneurial muscles without fear of failure. These include the Ideation, Validation and Creation programme, our Accelerator programme and our annual jamboree, all of which are platforms for developing essential entrepreneurial skills and networking.

We have, furthermore, consolidated our learnings over the past 14 years, tweaking our curriculum to ensure a greater chance of success for our programme participants. Of most significance here is the abundance of information regarding entrepreneurship that has become available since the Foundation was first established in 2005. From being a relatively unknown quantity, entrepreneurship has become far better documented. Consequently, we have more accurate insights regarding the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and how best to leverage these.

As a result, our programme has become considerably more structured. We have also adjusted the criteria of our Selection Camps to accommodate potential high impact entrepreneurs whose previously limited exposure may disadvantage them. In this, we have worked towards greater objectivity and consistency. With this in mind, we have, moreover, reviewed our successful profiles and application forms.

While these triumphs speak to the efficacy of our programme, we regard them not as our own successes, but as successes for the field at large – and, hopefully, we will see them create a springboard to boost entrepreneurship in future years.

Download infographic here

Greater rigour, greater impact

Greater rigour, greater impact

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is looking forward to a new era, integrating assessment processes and development processes for greater impact and enhancing the predictive value of tools.

When the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was founded in 2005, it was with an eye to nurturing a culture of entrepreneurialism that would not only result in job creation; but which would also ultimately benefit the entrepreneurs’ communities. There is no doubt that it has been successful in these aims: now operating in four countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia), the Foundation has received more than 33°000 scholarship applications, and funded over 3°500 years of education. Consequently, the Foundation has provided funding to more than 157 scholars to attend school at reputable high schools and has seen Fellows go on to establish businesses valued at over R1.5 billion, which have created 679 jobs.

However, in spite of this success, the Foundation identified a need to review its selection processes, ensure the validity and reliability of its tools, and entrench greater objectivity during the recruitment process, so that it could improve its results further still.

Download report here

Download infographic here

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

What are the dimensions that drive entrepreneurship? And how many of these traits are present in the general population?

The ongoing search for answers to these questions raises a new one: Is it possible to develop a single set of measures that can evaluate the multiple drivers of entrepreneurship, from mindset to behaviour and belief, and apply these not only to South Africa, but to the entire world?

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Foundation), in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) and Mindcette, an international organisation providing guidance and support for entrepreneurs, set out to find out if this can, indeed, be done. To this end, the Foundation commissioned African Response to undertake a survey, conducted amongst 3 661 randomly selected individuals representative of South African society, with questions crafted to uncover the DNA of successful entrepreneurs.

Of course, this is not the first time that the concept of entrepreneurship has been probed. Given the important position that start-ups hold in our economy, it’s not surprising that several organisations have tried to distil the essence of entrepreneurship. By delving into theory, it is able to provide more practical, workable programmes – and, in so doing, amplifies its credibility as an organisation dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in South Africa.

But back to the questions surrounding the concept of entrepreneurship and the arguments that have been put forward to explain it so far. Some theorists have focused on the fact that entrepreneurs who thrive seem to relish taking ownership and accountability for their own successes; they also have a greater degree of self-confidence and aren’t threatened by the thought of taking risks. On the other hand, some researchers have concentrated on motivational factors like the role played by the drive for achievement, entrepreneurial passion, or even the practical factors that might make an individual consider self-employment.

The reality is that any – and all – of these might be significant, and in varying degrees – and that’s why the use of a single set of scales is so important. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore appointed a researcher to review all current literature, using this to extract the 11 most commonly occurring themes that appear to characterise entrepreneurship. Each of these themes can be further unpacked, to create 76 separate descriptors of characteristics – but, since many of these differ slightly, the researchers found that it was more appropriate to focus their questions around 37 critical descriptors. These ranged from the individual’s creativity and conscientiousness to whether they found it easy to be coached; from their resistance to conformity to their persistence and personal goals; their passion, resourcefulness, ability to accept risk, leadership ability, innovativeness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, financial goals, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Put them altogether, and a picture emerges of a person who believes in themselves strongly – so strongly that they feel it’s not possible to fail. But, even if they do, they won’t be deterred. They’ll simply keep trying – either because they feel their product or service truly can make a difference in their customers’ lives, or because they want to prove to themselves that they can succeed. Of course, no single individual can possess all of these qualities; even if they did, the traits themselves would fluctuate according to circumstances. It’s possible to be brimming with self-confidence one day, and fearful the next.

With this in mind, African Response created four categories of respondents: the omnibus survey, which was a nationally representative sample and a booster sample, where locations were chosen depending on how many business owners were present. Additionally, a separate sample comprising female business owners was included  allowing research into gender differences, while the remaining survey respondents were made up of fellows of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

The content of the survey and the questions put to these participants were significant, because this is the first time that existing entrepreneurship literature was drawn upon in a nationally representative sample.

So, what exactly did the survey find? Will it be possible to create a survey instrument that adequately describes the mindset of an entrepreneur?

Signs are hopeful: according to the findings, there are 11 dimensions which may be used to commonly describe female entrepreneurs, and 10 that appear to characterise male entrepreneurs. Only two of these dimensions (Entrepreneurial Desire and Focus) are identical in male and female sample participants (with Allan Gray Fellows scoring higher in these dimensions), although seven additional dimensions are common to both, varying only in terms of the extent to which they characterised the sample members. These dimensions included Confidence, Diligence, Innovation, Leadership, Motives, Resilience and Self-Control. Among the male respondents, five of the ten dimensions distinguished those who reported being self-employed full time from those who did not. That is, Focus, Confidence, Leadership, Resilience, and Self-Control.   This contrasted the findings for female respondents, for whom only Desire and Focus showed differences between the self-employed and other respondents.

The survey also found that the nine core dimensions were statistically reliable, while several showed significant differences when the respondents were self-employed on a full-time basis, or if they were not self-employed.  What does this all mean for would-be entrepreneurs? Obviously, the ultimate goal is to identify the traits shared by entrepreneurs, thus providing a basis for describing the entrepreneurial mindset, and to create a single instrument that can be used to identify and measure the presence of these traits would be an enormous help in this regard.  Furthermore, some of the differences obtained between women and men could inform modifications in entrepreneurship programme structure, in order to tailor entrepreneurial training more closely to the individual strengths of both sexes. This survey brings stakeholders one step closer to achieving this goal – but there is a caveat: according to Mindcette, the results of the survey will be most useful if the study is repeated in the future, as this will determine whether the national mindset is changing. Added to this, it would be beneficial if the survey was adopted by other countries, so that an international benchmark can be established. It is also recommended that participants in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes are assessed when they exit the programme, to gain further insight into their mindsets.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation will further use the information gathered from these assessments to determine whether there are differences in the beliefs and drives of male and female entrepreneurs and will structure future programmes accordingly. Of course, the information contained therein will prove useful for other organisations operating in the entrepreneurial space, too.

Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and exciting field, but the risks associated with self-employment are very real. Every tool available to entrepreneurs as they pursue success brings them one step closer to achieving their dreams – and that’s what makes this survey such a vital undertaking.

Download report here

Download infographic here

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.

Min-1

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

 

Capture

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.

_BP_9153

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.

 

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.”

 

The Heart of Tech

The Heart of Tech

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 7.35.17 PMWhat is the essence of innovative technology? Is it about creating the next desirable tech accessory or finding the simplest, fastest way to get something done – usually involving fewer if any people? Or perhaps it’s just about making a name for yourself in Silicon Valley. For Naeem Ganey, the heart of tech, in fact, the heart of business, is and will always be people.

As Founder and Co-founder of two tech startups, Naeem certainly knows what he’s talking about. In 2015 Naeem started EduTree with a friend while finishing his Honours degree in Computer Science. EduTree is a mobile-friendly platform that focuses on revision aid in high school. Students can login to EduTree and practice Mathematics and Science. The system then analyses the student’s answering patterns, identifying strengths and providing teachers with deep analytics about a student’s learning. It being an educational business, the company’s business model and choice of tech is completely guided by the principle of providing access as widely as possible – no sign-up fee is required, basic smart phones can navigate the platform easily and, best of all, it’s data-efficient.

This kind of thinking – about what people need and what they have to work with – lies at the heart of Naeem’s business initiatives. In fact, he has a vision of “a digital Africa that is inclusive and revolutionary.”

A year after co-founding EduTree, he founded Media Measure, a media monitoring business that checks broadcasters’ compliance in the interest of clients who buy airtime for their ads. This was a pioneering venture in more than one way. It operates in Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Malawi, empowering advertisers with alerts and evidence that can hold broadcasters to account for the first time ever. Being based in Johannesburg meant that Naeem had to provide these services remotely, which in turn meant setting up data centres in each of these countries – one more thing that hadn’t been done before, except by banks or other huge companies. “We’re the first small startup to actually do what we’ve been doing in some of these countries.”

When Naeem talks about tech, he can’t help talking about Africa and vice versa. Explaining that in Zambia, for example, there are two cell phones per person or that it’s a common occurrence in most of these countries to find someone selling their shoes in order to pay for a smart phone, immediately puts to rest any fears that Africa is a dark continent. It is in fact brimming with opportunities for technological innovation, but, warns Naeem, it comes with its challenges. For one, the way most Africans still do business is face to face. If telephone calls, emails or messages are what you rely on, clinching a deal might take months, if it is ever clinched. Innovators are also limited to providing services that solve an immediate need, and tech that works on not-so-smart devices. Yet, in spite of these challenges, Naeem believes that “we – the African people are the most equipped to solve these challenges … we have the ability to connect with people, different types of people, the ability of understanding people.”

His understanding of the importance of the human element stems from both his upbringing and his participation in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship Programme. Thanks to his parents, he has received business training all throughout his youth. From counting stock and tending to customers at Bingo Cash and Carry in the small town of Vryburg to managing the start of a new fish and chips take away restaurant in Mahikeng, and coming up with ways to attract more customers – Naeem has seen it all. He attributes the meticulousness with which he approaches writing code to having had to carefully count viennas and pieces of fish as a youngster. He also noticed that customers kept coming back to his family’s business because his parents knew their customers, their families, who was sick and who baked the best cookies. So, in effect, customers returned not just to make a purchase but to visit their friends.

At the Foundation this sense of connecting with people was echoed. Referring to the blend of unique characters in the Fellowship programme, he used to call it a “fruit salad”, especially when comparing it to other scholarships where everyone either looks the same or operates in the same way. “The Foundation appreciates the unique abilities in each person … and they taught us how to appreciate the unique abilities in each person.”

Naeem’s view of both technology and our potential as Africans in Africa is a breath of fresh air in an industry enamoured by Silicon Valley and the drive to automate.