Ideas on paper

Thoughts by José Luis Agell

Entrepreneurship: nature or nurture?

After almost 3 years without being in a classroom, I decided to sign up for a course at Stanford University: Starting and Growing Technology Ventures. Taking the viewpoint of a founder who must lead the company, the goal of this course is to cover the critical issues entrepreneurs face in launching a technology venture.

It’s great to be back at University and have a break to learn and formulate some of the issues that I am facing on my daily life. And I am especially happy to (slightly) take part of the Stanford student life.

The first session was about being an entrepreneur and whether entrepreneurship can be taught or has to be part of our genes. It’s tough to get a consensus on this topic due to the variety of factors that define an “entrepreneurial personality”.

There are certainly some aspects that can be learned and developed along the way. We can think about the ability of coping with uncertainty; we can develop a special sensitiveness for business opportunities, and of course, we can learn about management, leadership and communication, which are fundamental skills to start up a business.

Some studies affirm that 30% to 40% of entrepreneurial attitudes come from our DNA (read the articles I mention below). They say that there’s people that naturally feel uncomfortable with the comfortable and are willing to take risks in their daily lives.

However, I believe that the impact of  nurture is much higher than nature. Having close examples of entrepreneurs arounds is the best tool to develop our own entrepreneurial spirit. If your parents have started a business you’ll more easily consider this path in your professional career.

This is actually my case. My parents didn’t start technology ventures but they both created their own businesses (an industrial project management company and a law boutique) and I am sure their example has influenced me. Moreover, my education at the ETH was crucial, since I took a subject that opened my eyes: New Enterprises for Engineers.

Thus, I’d like to finish my post pointing out the responsibility that Universities have, not only as a source of knowledge but also as a factory of professionals who are willing to take risks and make an impact on society.

More about this topic:

Entrepreneurship: is it in the genes? Article from

Can Entrepreneurship be taught? Article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Nature vs. nurture in Entrepreneurship. Panel organized by BASES (Thanks @Ecorner!)

One response to “Entrepreneurship: nature or nurture?

  1. Carlos González de VIllaumbrosia September 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Good post Jose Luis. I aggre with you. Keep us up to date about your Stanford student experience!

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