Emre Toker: Empowering entrepreneurs with GRID
Emre Toker is a scientist, professor of entrepreneurship & innovation, and angel investor who began his entrepreneurial journey in the bazaars of Istanbul. He has served as senior Mentor-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship as well as the Managing Director of Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Emre to discuss The Pantheon and the Mortuary: Why successful entrepreneurship is so rare, a textbook he wrote jointly with Dr. Michael Kinch. GRID features prominently in the text as a tool for students of business and entrepreneurship to explore assumptions and learn how to better inform and articulate their ideas.
"[GRID] provides a perfect platform for students, entrepreneurs, and even myself, to deal logically with the fact that we're swimming in a sea of unknowns,” Emre tells us. “We need to put some structure on those unknowns and not let uncertainty dissuade us from continuing with [an] idea."
A valuable tool for objective analysis
Combining principles of the scientific method with entrepreneurship, Emre encourages his business students to state hypotheses, make assumptions, and deal logically with uncertainty.
In his opinion, one of the most common reasons for a startup’s lack of success is the failure to truly synthesize idealism with realism. This can mean that practical issues like how much a particular solution might cost, and how to successfully disseminate that solution are overlooked in favor of other, more idealistic goals.
Emre sees GRID as a valuable resource for entrepreneurs to perform more objective, “arms-length analytical assessments of their situation,” within a logical framework.
“GRID allows [students] to make concrete, quantitative assumptions and paints a picture of the future. That picture will get less and less fuzzy as you shrink the uncertainty ranges associated with each of your assumptions.”
Looking at this from the perspective of an early-stage investor, we were curious to learn Emre’s thoughts on GRID as a tool for potential investors. “I use GRID in every single investment decision” he replies.
“GRID provides a tremendous capability for people to augment their understanding when thinking about what they need to do and how they need to do it. GRID allows you to be far more successful in terms of quickly validating or invalidating your ideas.”
Overcoming common errors in startups
Emre emphasizes that the failure to strike a balance between idealism and realism is often driven by passion for an idea, which can lead entrepreneurs to believe that their innovative solutions will automatically be embraced by the market. However, many don’t consider the actual value of their solution and the willingness of customers to pay for it. The reality, he tells us, is that the picture of the future will most often converge toward a failure scenario, and only occasionally toward one of success.
GRID's role in addressing this issue lies in giving users the ability to create interactive, structured scenarios with quantifiable assumptions. By allowing people to minimize the uncertainty ranges associated with each assumption, GRID helps entrepreneurs visualize potential future outcomes more accurately, ask the right questions, and do the necessary math before committing to a certain direction. This allows people to pivot their ideas based on more realistic scenarios with a higher likelihood of success.
Learn more about creating interactive board reports in GRID.
Understanding why entrepreneurs fail
Not asking the right questions and/or working with unclear analyses can potentially lead to failure, but entrepreneurs also experience failure that results from a lack of wisdom (more so than a lack of knowledge), Emre explains. He points out that gaining knowledge can be relatively straightforward, where anyone can study the approach and execution strategies of successful entrepreneurs to build understanding. Wisdom, however, is attained through experience and entails overcoming a fear of rejection and failure – a more complex, psychological challenge.
Besides this fear of failure, an inability to read the behavior of others and act accordingly – whether that’s in customer spaces, co-founder spaces or employee spaces – can also signal a lack of wisdom.
95% of what I do is human psychology, 5% is everything else, including all the technical training I've had.
In Emre’s mind, success relies on the development of essential soft skills like effective communication, sensitivity to customers' needs, and the ability to learn from each failure. GRID enhances these skills by offering entrepreneurs the opportunity to experiment with assumptions, visualize results, and learn from potential failure scenarios in a risk-free environment.
Empowering students, entrepreneurs & investors
Emerging as a powerful ally for entrepreneurs, students, and investors alike, GRID helps to structure decision-making, identify successful scenarios, and create more comprehensive analyses on the way to formulating better business strategies. Entrepreneurs can focus on optimizing their ideas and business models, reducing uncertainty, and increasing the likelihood of success.
Emre reiterates that GRID as a tool isn’t only for entrepreneurs, but is equally valuable to angel investors making early-stage investment decisions. As an aid for investors performing rigorous assessments of startups, GRID contributes to well-informed decision-making and helps to highlight promising startup ventures.
Emre’s insights on entrepreneurship and the analytical capabilities of GRID shed light on key factors that contribute to both success and failure in the startup world. By striking a balance between idealism and realism, developing wisdom through experience, and utilizing tools like GRID, entrepreneurs can make more informed decisions and increase their chances of thriving in the competitive business landscape.
Whether you're a student eager to explore the world of startups, an entrepreneur, or an investor seeking opportunities, Emre’s guidance (and a little help from GRID) might just lead you on a more successful journey.
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