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The REAL Education Of Tech-Founders

By George Gray

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk. Game changing innovators who have made an undeniable impact on the world. If you are anything like me you were inspired by these amazing individuals.

Clean tech is soon becoming this decade’s version of the dot com boom so it’s likely there are some other inspired engineers, researchers, and scientists ready to make and impact.

“Vision without execution is hallucination” – Thomas Edison

Although many people dream of becoming a founder of a successful technology startup, you’ll find there is no guide-book, no how-to program or even a master’s course that can directly prepare you for such a position.

But all you need is some new technology and a garage to found a company in, right?

I’ve spent the last 5 years studying these legendary innovators and entrepreneurs. I’ve come to realise that success doesn’t happen overnight. More than that, I’ve learnt that the gaming-changing innovations these entrepreneurs come up with were generally not their first business ideas.

So what is the actual path to becoming a successful innovator?

I remember wondering this very question many years ago when I was studying for my undergrad. I’d always dreamed of making it big one day. I didn’t really care for working my way up the corporate ladder. Instead, I wanted to innovate and make a big impact on the world. But as I learnt more from the great innovators and meeting with successful business owners, I began to see a pattern.

Success in business doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey.

I could see that the best innovators were those who were able to persevere through failure and continue to execute, over a long period of time. Great ideas seemed to be of less relevance when you learn of the ups and downs that these innovators went through to in order to achieve.

“Ideas are commodity. execution of them is not” – Michael Dell

So this presents a dilemma for anyone who wants to walk the path of a successful innovator. We need to find how we can reverse engineer their success so that we too can become great innovators in the future.

  • How much formal education do you need?
  • What skills will you need to learn?
  • Who will you need to meet?
  • How will you gain business experience over time?

To backwards engineer the successful innovators, let’s look at some common trends amongst startup founders.

The Real Education of Tech Founders

What does it take to become the next Steve Jobs? In this presentation, you’ll learn how you can craft your own career to become a successful tech founder.

From the findings of the “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur”* report, I have distilled 6 steps that you can follow to become a successful startup founder:

  1. Work for someone else first
  2. Launch multiple ventures
  3. Nurture your professional networks
  4. Work long and hard
  5. Be prepared for the long haul
  6. Don’t worry about getting an MBA or PHD

The Golden Rule: Plan Your Career for the Long Term

It’s unlikely that your first idea will be the one that makes the largest impact in your career. From learning about the common trends of entrepreneurs, it’s easy to see how a long-term career strategy is needed to reach the level of a successful innovator. Depending where you are on your journey, it’s important to assess how you can prepare yourself for where you want to be in 10–15 years time.

Being smart about the education you acquire, the work experiences you gather, and the people you meet, will put you under the best possible conditions to achieve success.

What’s your plan?

P.S. If you interested on gaining some tips on clean-tech innovation, I have prepared a new, free e-book Most Engineers Make These Fatal Mistakes in Business, Do you?” for readers of CleanTechnica which I think you’ll love.

*Source: Wadhwa, V., Aggarwal, R., Holly, K., & Salkever, A. (2009, December 1). The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur. . Retrieved July 28, 2014, from 

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