Set an Entrepreneur to Teach an Entrepreneur

In the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie “To Catch a Thief”, Cary Grant plays a retired jewel thief, forced to hunt down a burglar who was impersonating him. When asked how he could succeed in catching the slippery thief where the police could not, Grant says,

I’m the only one who could, because I can anticipate him, figure out his next move and catch him with his hand in the jewel case.”

Cary Grant, To Catch a Thief

The same holds for startup founders! Read on to see how.

Do Entrepreneurs Need Peer Learning?

Ishan Nadkarni, a brilliant engineer from IIT Bombay, started his “kindness+fitness” startup in 2016. One day, he was sitting with this founding team one day chalking out the company’s value proposition for a customer pitch. He read about this online from B-School articles and felt overwhelmed by all the “gyaan” thrown at him. He then watched a video of an entrepreneur-turned-investor. That investor shared a story of how talking to customers had given him an in-depth customer understanding and influenced his marketing strategy, unique differentiation and product development. The video motivated Ishan and his team to go out and talk to a hundred customers. The end result? Ishan’s team redefined their product’s Unique Value Proposition. Their app “Impact” saw installs grow from 4000 to 1 million in a short span – demonstrating the power of Peer Learning.

A short anecdote with pithy insights from an experienced entrepreneur gave Ishan what no amount of academic knowledge and reading could!

What is Peer Learning?

In the world of teaching and learning, the phenomenon of “Peer Learning” is where the acquisition of knowledge and skills happens through the experience of peers, not from an expert authority. This mode of upskilling is gaining preference amongst the entrepreneur community. In a recent study entrepreneurs were asked, “Which method played the most important role in preparing you to be a startup founder?” 78% of business owners cited “learning from other entrepreneurs.” 

According to British Council, there is a clear distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge:
In contrast to explicit knowledge, which helps us ‘know what’, tacit knowledge can be understood as ‘know how’. Tacit knowledge is something that we often can’t learn by reading books; it is acquired by addressing real problems and practice, it relates to experience, intuition, values, creative thinking, emotions, skills and attitudes. This kind of tacit knowledge that startups acquire from Peer Learning can be a critical input in the innovation process.  Maybe that’s why Naval Ravikant has 600k followers on Twitter – more than 100x times the following of an academician.

Peer Learning in Action

At VentureBasecamp, we conducted an entrepreneur focus group study in India in 2018. We learned that entrepreneurs needed a peer-based knowledge sharing community with a focus on current ecosystem experiences. A majority of the people in the startup ecosystem agree that learning and coachability is an important attribute in a startup founder. However, no startup founder would want to spend an hour in a (virtual/real) classroom listening to a management professor waxing eloquently about the role of Pricing in the Marketing Mix! Instead, the founder would rather watch this video:

The next time you find yourself asking questions, remember, you are likelier to find answers through Peer Learning. So, learn from a former entrepreneur or investor or what we call, at VentureBasecamp, your Head Sherpa! 

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