CUE Marketplace founder and investor, Kevin O’Hara (BS ’83, Trustee, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Congruex, LLC) recently sat on a panel hosted by his alma mater, Drexel University. The panel was facilitated by Donna De Carolis, Ph.D., founding Dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, Silverman Family Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Other Panelists:

  • Yi Deng, PhD, Dean of the College of Computing and Informatics, Drexel University
  • Caroline Cummings, BS ’01, Venture Catalyst for Oregon RAIN, Venture Associate for the Willamette Angels
  • Mike Edwards, BS ’83, Trustee, Strategic Advisor for E-commerce and Retail Technologies, Former CEO of eBags.com

Drexel University regularly hosts similar events for their alumni under their InSites program.  For more details on upcoming events: Drexel University Alumni Association InSites.  Here are a few of my distilled thoughts based on the panel discussion and my own experience.

The pace of business, from the smallest, sole proprietor of the largest enterprise, is quickening.  The tools at an entrepreneur’s disposal are more powerful than ever before. How has technology changed entrepreneurship?

The core traits of a successful entrepreneur remain constant.  Passion, drive, independence, commitment, perseverance, creativity, and a bit of recklessness still form the basis of any good business founder.  The list of character traits is long and well understood. It’s the entrepreneur that recognizes an opportunity to solve a basic problem by combining available resources in a unique way.  This should create value and a sound business model is a must.

The road to a profitable business is long and bumpy.  That’s as true today as it was in 1918. The best business leaders make mistakes and learn from them quickly.  Again, this is as true today as it was 100 years ago. However, the tolerance for correcting these mistakes before they result in business failure is razor thin.  Failing fast isn’t a concept any good entrepreneur should adhere to, but rather, it’s learn fast and adapt fast or FAIL.

That brings me to the question of how technology has changed entrepreneurship.  It’s a vastly different world now from even just five years ago. The advantages and opportunities that technology enables are enormous, but so are the pitfalls.  

In my own experience on the leadership team at CUE Marketplace, we are constantly looking for ways to optimize our business by capturing, measuring, structuring and analyzing the data from our sales, marketing, operations and development efforts. Pointing out the obvious, none of that is possible without the right software behind each core business function.

Incidentally, the entire reason Kevin founded CUE Marketplace was that he recognized the lack of an easy to use, online resource to discover, purchase and manage the best small business software that put the entrepreneur’s interests first.  

“I was running a company that had approx. 90,000 small business customers and realized that as good as our customer experience was, the services we offered were limited.  The typical small business owner still needed to spend a ton of their time on things that had nothing to do with serving their customers or growing their business. I started CUE to enable small business owners to spend more time focusing on their business.”

The first step is to move the functional parts of a business into the best software available.  According to Mike Edwards, 70% of business decisions should be driven by data. The next step is to develop a workable model to structure the underlying data such that meaningful, predictive insights can be drawn out.  It isn’t enough anymore to analyze business data to see what happened yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter or last year. That is good for rewarding past performance, but innovation doesn’t come from looking backward.

Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and advanced analytics applications are changing the landscape of what is possible in predictive business decision making.  Dr. Yi Deng, Ph.D. once remarked that Big Data is important because it is becoming a key driver for innovation. Many top universities, such as Drexel, are designing programs that bring tech and entrepreneurship together.  Dr. Yi Deng joined Drexel in January as the Dean of the College of Computing and Informatics because of the University’s entrepreneurial focus.

“This is important particularly at this junction because of the rapidly growing and transformational roles of information and technology in the modern economy.”

Here is a link to a recent Q&A with Dr Yi Deng.

So be courageous and take the first steps to shape your career destiny.  Perhaps that leads to launching a business. Make mistakes, but adapt fast and learn from those mistakes, instead of fearing them.  Find the right software tools, resources, and talent quickly. Combine them. Make 2+2 = 5. Look for help when you need it and especially when you don’t think you need it. Give back and help others launch and grow their ideas. Build a community. Take risks. Have fun.

This blog was originally published on Sean Glynn’s LinkedIn and you can find that post here.