Building an Entrepreneurial Culture

By Carley Jacobson, Techstars Innovation Coach

I recently participated in a webcast hosted by SHRM on “Three Strategies for Building an Entrepreneurial Culture: Learn how to attract, manage, and build entrepreneurial talent.” You can watch a recording of the webcast here.  

As an Innovation Coach at Techstars I help organizations build internal programs and processes around innovation by finding and growing their entrepreneurial talent. I was fascinated to get additional insight from my co-speakers on attracting and managing entrepreneurial talent. Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, president of HRU Technical Resources, has 20 years of combined executive HRT and talent acquisition experience. Steve Cadigan, founder of Cadigan Talent Ventures is a talent advisor to leaders and organizations across the globe advising on talent management. 

Attract Entrepreneurial Talent

One of Tim’s insights that I found particularly fascinating was the impact of personality. When you’re trying to hire people with an entrepreneurial attitude, part of this will be about inherent personalities: who the person is. Some people love to try new things and explore alternatives to the status quo. Some don’t. How can you tell? 

As a kid, did that person mow lawns or babysit constantly? Are they always growing and building things? This might be a for-profit business, but it might also be community building, changing their local community for the better. 

These are activities that you can ask a candidate about as you get to know them, to see if they bring a problem-solving attitude to all aspects of their life. 

Tim has five great ways to attract entrepreneurial talent, from employee referral automation (he recommends specific services that he likes) to AI sourcing to eliminate bias to throwing a competition to surface entrepreneurs in a marketplace. I highly recommend listening to his perspective generated from years of expertise!

Manage Entrepreneurial Talent

Steve had some terrific statistics about changes in the way people work. The one that really caught my attention is that people between the ages of 25 and 35 average just 2.8 years at a job. He got this number from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He estimates that in Silicon Valley, that same age range probably stay at jobs for less than two years. 

Another great stat that Steve shared: 65% of current students are going to be working in jobs that don’t even exist today. 

Put these—and a bunch more great info that Steve shared—together, and the conclusion is that you need self starters, people who can learn, grow, figure stuff out, prioritize, and, as Steve put it, “operate in a high degree of ambiguity.” These are all descriptions of people with an entrepreneurial mindset. 

I won’t steal Steve’s thunder by telling his stories about working as LinkedIn’s first head of HR. I do highly recommend that you listen to him tell these tales. But the part that stayed with me most is the consensus he found around what kind of culture everyone there—including him—immediately knew that they wanted to build: one where people can do great work, where they can have a life outside of work, where they feel valued and their work matters. And, just as importantly, where they are surrounded by people who feel the same. 

That’s absolutely the kind of culture I want to work in—and I suspect you do, too!

Build Entrepreneurial Culture

This was my part of the webinar. I’m not going to try to summarize a 20 minute presentation in a couple of paragraphs, but I will give you the headline. Here it is: Creativity can be taught. By learning and applying creative thinking processes, we can teach creativity. 

Take this one step further, and you realize that you can teach your employees to think and work like entrepreneurs. 

This is crucial, because you’re not going to replace your entire workforce. You wouldn’t want to even if you could. What you can do is identify the people who are already thinking entrepreneurially, and help teach others how to be more entrepreneurial in their approach. I’ll let you listen to my whole spiel yourself, but spoiler alert: the process involves both design thinking and lean startup methodology. Good stuff! 


I hope that by now you’re feeling excited to go watch the recording of our webinar on how to build an entrepreneurial culture at your organization—you absolutely should do so, right now

Want to learn even more—and get a chance to ask your questions, live, to a panel of experts? Register for our upcoming AMA “Techstars Innovation Bootcamp: Learn how to empower and transform internal teams in just 54 hours.” September 10, 2019 at noon Eastern Time, featuring Laurent Poncet, Innovation at Equinor, John Beadle, Product at Product Habits, and Carley Jacobson, Innovation Coach at Techstars. 

Register now —> 

Creating an Entrepreneurial Culture at Your Organization

By Carley Hart, Techstars Innovation Coach

At Techstars, we talk a lot about “cultural transformation” and how we can support large corporations’ core objective to become more innovative and agile.  As corporations strive to innovate in order to survive, creating an entrepreneurial culture has become a critical advantage.

The truth is, large corporations can learn a great deal from startup culture as it relates to fostering a more adaptable, nimble, and entrepreneurial mindset. The benefits and competitive advantages run deep. But what exactly is an entrepreneurial culture and how do you foster it, so that your organization can thrive?

This New Future

To better understand the how and why of fostering an entrepreneurial culture, we talked with our in-house expert on the subject, Carley Hart. Carley is our Innovation Coach at Techstars, and she runs Techstars Innovation Bootcamps, which are designed to stimulate cultural transformation and drive an entrepreneurial spirit.

Carley works with organizations looking to make business model shifts or explore new opportunities. “At the heart of a business model shift are shifts in customer needs and in global trends,” Carley says. “To seize these new business opportunities, organizations need to transform their cultures so they’re prepared for a new future.” These organizations may be hoping to become more entrepreneurial—more adaptable, lean, and resourceful. They can see what they want to become, but aren’t sure how to get from here to there.

Creating an entrepreneurial culture is step one in driving innovation at your organization; helping you to attract and retain top talent; managing a workforce that is entrepreneurial, global, and often remote; and truly changing entrenched systems that are no longer working for you.

The Opposite of Business As Usual

There are a lot of reasons why your corporation might feel the need for a more entrepreneurial culture. Carley pinpoints triggers like competition, new business opportunities, shifting customer or employee needs, and more. Corporate leadership may respond to these changes by creating a new vision or setting a lofty goal that will help realign the corporation with these changing situations.

“Internally, cultural transformation to a more entrepreneurial way of doing business involves shifting attitudes, relationships, and best practices to help an organization reach this new vision,” Carley explains.

Fundamentally, cultural transformation is the opposite of business as usual. It means shaking up not just what you do as a corporation, but who you are, and the attitudes and perspectives that all the people in the organization—from the CEO to the newest hire—bring to their work.

Angling For Success

If this sounds big and amorphous—it is. And it can be hugely challenging for any organization, especially a large one, to change direction in this profound way.

Carley suggests that in order for it to succeed, transformation to an entrepreneurial culture must come from many angles within the company:

  1. From the top down: This is where cultural transformation starts. Leaders must provide the will and create the space for the organization to make a shift to becoming more entrepreneurial.
  2. From the bottom up: The real shifts start to happen on a small scale, team by team, project by project, as these new entrepreneurial values are assimilated into day-to-day functions.
  3. From outside perspectives: The company brings in outside thought leaders and experts to support cultural transformation. Employees learn from perspectives that are outside the organization in order to truly understand what an entrepreneurial culture looks and feels like.

For large corporations that are facing disruption from new technology and fast-moving startups, and that want to attract and retain top talent, transformation to an entrepreneurial culture is a crucial part of the package.

Want to hear more from Carley and other experts in creating an entrepreneurial culture at your corporation? The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Techstars partnered on a webcast: “How to Build an Entrepreneurial Culture” featuring Carly Jacobson, Tim Sackett, and Steve Cadigan. Check out this post for Carley’s takeaways, and watch the replay yourself.