The life of technology entrepreneur is one of continuous learning, as the changes that happen within any ecosystem can be rapid and being caught left foot could most certainly send a venture into the dead-pool. The changes that is speak of are both in the area of running a business and the emergence of new technologies that could disrupt the market that one is currently exploiting.
Our current education system I fear does not fully empower one to boldly go into the world and tackle big audacious problems with inherent gaps in the training and knowledge transfer process. To be nimble and adaptable in a sector that can at best be described as unpredictable, with forecasting being a difficult if not confusing process, one has to figure out how and where to keep themselves sharp and knowledgeable in order to survive. The three approaches that work for me are mentorship, taking executive courses and self learning.
Mentorship is sometimes confused for hand holding, which it is not. I for example seek out people who I feel will challenge me and ask the hard questions about the direction I am taking on matters business. I actively seek those not invested in the sectors that one could say are technology based as they will give a different opinion and offer a refreshing perspective that may challenge what my team and I have been thinking. They are brutally honest and while I feel they sometimes come down hard, the growth always supersedes.
Executive courses were crafted for those who don’t have the luxury of time on their hands, a “condition” that many techpreneurs find themselves in. They offer one the chance to interact with different sectors of the economy that may open up new opportunities for growth or offer insights to what is coming. I keep an eye out for these with my most recent back to school experience at the London School of Economics under the Africa Leadership program exposing me to a pan African network of well connected individuals from many different sectors; not to mention the course content is so diverse it jolts you out of your comfort zone.
Self learning is something that all techpreneurs should do as a default and it carries lowest overheads. The key thing here is to ensure that your source of knowledge has a spine and not some random regurgitation of non-verifiable intelligence pieced together by someone. Some top universities have taken a novel approach to empowering those who seek out knowledge but may not have the opportunity – time, finances etc to attend class full time. Stanford University is one of these varsities that have opened up in this way and have a platform called the Venture Lab that they use to offer free online classes. Their experience is different in the way they make “class” more experiential, interactive, and collaborative. Their fall program has the following classes; technology entrepreneurship, a crash course on creativity, finance, designing a new learning environments and startup boards under the advanced entrepreneurship program. There are many other platforms out there – Udemy, Code Academy, Khan Academy…whatever your flavor or knowledge pursuit.
If you must maintain your edge in a competitive work, you have to keep learning to remain relevant and identify opportunities to scale, pivot or create entirely new markets.