Which Came First: the Entrepreneur or the Idea?

Group brainstorming sessions create an entrepreneurial mindset ripe for innovation.

Some people come up with a great idea for a product or service and become entrepreneurs to turn that idea into a business. Others start with an entrepreneurial mindset, then begin casting around for ideas.

I’ve been speaking with entrepreneurial types around the country recently, and there are a surprising number who fall into the latter category. One particularly interesting model is a group that includes Patrick Traughber of San Francisco. He and a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs follow running or cycling outings with brainstorming sessions.

Traughber worked for city government and a video game company prior to launching his own business. Both environments promoted innovative thinking and problem-solving, which he says is the genesis of many ideas the group hashes out.

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“We look for something that solves a problem, or improves on an existing solution,” he explains. “When my partner and I started our business, we made a list of things we wished we had, then began researching from there.”

Traughber says he also looks at ways to break down larger problems. “Sometimes finding a partial solution still provides a viable opportunity, which in turn can lead to larger opportunities,” he says. “You might start with a better way to make seat selections on plane flights and end up creating a new airline.”

Traughber emphasizes the positive nature of the group’s brainstorming. “There are always a million reasons why something won’t work,” he says. “We focus on ways to make it work.”

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Though not formally structured – they don’t even have a name for themselves – most members of the group have known each other for many years. This creates a level of trust that enables a free flow of ideas, Traughber says, noting that there are so many opportunities that there is little concern over competition.

Today’s fast-paced world also means that ideas can be tested quickly.

“With the technologies we have today, you can build a prototype over the weekend and show it to your friends on Monday,” Traughber says. “If they like it, you pursue it. If not, you drop it.”

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He notes that the same principle holds true in the marketplace. “Many ideas can be rolled out on a small scale first, and if they don’t work, it doesn’t cost much.”

Above all, Traughber and his group maintain a constant level of excitement. “You can build stuff so quickly that can affect so many people,” he says. “This is a really fun time to be creative!”


It Pays to be Social

They say nature abhors a vacuum, and entrepreneurs should as well. While it is natural to want to protect your ideas, they will almost certainly benefit from some focused brainstorming with other forward-thinking, innovative people.

Plugging in with fellow entrepreneurial types offers you more than just a sounding board for your ideas. You’ll access tips on financing, marketing and other key aspects of launching and operating a business. You may also find opportunities to participate in entrepreneurial workshops, contests and seminars, and you’ll have the support and motivation of people who are experiencing the same challenges, frustrations – and hopefully successes – as you.

Local organizations like Propeller and Idea Village are a great source for events and gatherings – such as Entrepreneur Week in March – and other functions that bring together adventurous, enterprising minds.



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