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Starting up growth

Bo Fishback, Vice President of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and President of the Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation and a member of the Startup Weekend Board of Advisors, is featured in the Kauffman Thoughtbook 2011. Fishback takes pride in educating ambitious entrepreneurs to “build the next great high-growth companies that will transform lives.” In his essay, Fishback takes us through the thought process behind Kauffman Labs program.


Guiding entrepreneurs to make an impact in our economy

Recent Kauffman-funded research shows that a small number of high-growth, young companies account for a disproportionately large percentage of growth in our economy. Kauffman Labs develops classes and programs that directly and indirectly assist the entrepreneurs founding these young companies. “Most ambitious entrepreneurs are able to come up with a business concept, show that their product works and is desired in the market, but knowing how to take it to the next steps to significantly grow the business is what they have little understanding of,” says Fishback. Inside the Kauffman Lab experience, entrepreneurs are taught “the markets they are wading into, how to identify and attract the best talent in the world to help them put the right pieces in place, test the market, and iterate ideas, all while learning to thoughtfully pivot into the next stage.”


Learning with a hands-on approach

Kauffman Lab entrepreneurs won’t see much time in a classroom setting. Instead, they immediately apply what they learn. “We provide tools, mentoring, networking, and in-the-field experiences that would be extremely difficult to obtain for even the most resourceful entrepreneurs” says Fishback. Entrepreneurs are able to change the direction and size of business opportunities with access to the world’s leading minds and market experts at Kauffman Labs.


Founders who have unproven but remarkable potential

Fishback and the Kauffman Labs team found that to help companies start and grow fast, they need to work with aspiring founders in similar markets. The Kauffman Labs’ inaugural market sector is education, since it is currently “a booming $1 trillion market in the midst of monumental changes and ripe for transformation,” says Fishback. An amazing thing about the Kauffman Labs program is that is “ not in the business of picking ‘winners’ but innovators who are already on their way to success with traits of ambition, intelligence, and are easy to teach. We’re looking for founders who have unproven, but remarkable, potential.”


Seeing success with Kauffman Labs

The selection process for lab applicants is highly competitive. “For those selected for each program, whether they are sole candidates or members of teams, Kauffman Labs is the runway, the platform, for massive success.” Fishback says that, “success requires unbridled ambition grounded in experience, the ability to iterate, and the right networks. It calls for a rare blend of confidence and humility – everyone involved must be open to learning. Success at Kauffman Labs requires both optimism and a grasp on reality.”

Read Fishback’s full essay Kauffman Labs: Building the Next Generation of High-Growth Companies and other Thoughtbook 2011 essays at the Kauffman Foundation’s website.