Bill Glick: Great entrepreneurs are neither made nor born

Brave entrepreneurs step into the arena. If they are lucky, they are nurtured in the right environment. The landscape is littered with collapsed ventures launched in harsh environments. Even passionate entrepreneurs have failed.

The myth of great business leaders is that they are born with the right stuff, gifted with a revolutionary idea that fundamentally changes business. This thread of the special maverick who becomes a successful entrepreneur can be seen running through the narratives of many of our stories about great entrepreneurs — from Walt Disney to Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

But as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Contrary to popular belief, great ideas sprout within a context, not in a vacuum; collaboration with others is a necessary component; and key principles of entrepreneurship can be learned, practiced and implemented to great success. A little knowledge can make the difference between missing the market and growing fast; between yielding to vultures and great personal wealth.

So what’s the right environment?


Community with other players

Just as valuable as a groundbreaking idea, an environment that helps budding entrepreneurs formulate and nurture ideas is key. An entrepreneurial environment provides opportunities to learn from the experience and knowledge of others, to collaborate, to develop alternative business models and to test ideas.

Research and experience have demonstrated repeatedly that entrepreneurs develop more effectively within an entrepreneurial community with access to complementary resources and markets. Even among the top competitors from the premier global MBA programs at the Rice Business Plan Competition, we frequently see teams respond to feedback by pivoting four or five times until they find the right business model to commercialize novel technologies. Shark tanks, incubators and business plan competitions can provide entrepreneurs a safe environment in which to take a risk, test their business plan and make adjustments.


Education and opportunities

Cities play a crucial role in providing an environment that develops and nurtures entrepreneurs. Silicon Valley is famous for the environment it has created that nurtures technological innovation; Austin does the same for musicians. And Houston has created a wonderful environment for entrepreneurial activity. Each of these cities has great universities, and Houston is fortunate to have the top ranked executive MBA program for entrepreneurs at Rice University, several other top ten programs in entrepreneurship at Rice University and the University of Houston, and a rich mix of supporting organizations such as the Houston Technology Center, BioHouston, Houston Angel Network, TiE Houston, Houston Tech Fest, Start Up Houston, and many others. It’s no wonder Forbes recently listed Houston as the No. 10 Best City for Young Entrepreneurs and the No. 2 Best City for Female Founders.

Passionate entrepreneurs need to seek environments where they can learn from others, collaborate and take calculated risks to test their ideas. In these environments, entrepreneurial ideas have the greatest chance to take flight.


Bill Glick is the dean of the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. The Jones School’s graduate entrepreneurship program, currently ranked No. 4 by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazines, has been ranked as a top 10 program in graduate entrepreneurship for five consecutive years.


Twitter: @RiceMBA