Reaching Out to Young Entrepreneurs


Juris Ulmanis, Co-Founder at Experiential Simulations, has vast experience in both the education and technology fields. Juris provides a unique view on how entrepreneurship is growing and changing in Europe, where he is based. He brings his incredible experience and insight to a post about the young entrepreneur. 

This content originally appeared here, on Juris’ LinkedIn blog.

In Europe, entrepreneurs look at the market as global from day one; something I’ve learned as an ex-pat living abroad. We are all increasingly globally connected and mindful of current trends in entrepreneurship, especially in Riga, Latvia, where I am teaching entrepreneurship through simulations and lectures at Turiba University. Sadly, most MBA programs teach students to be managers, not entrepreneurs. There is a big difference. It’s a mindset that comes from solving real-world problems, a very chaotic environment, with real-world hurdles that requires responding in real-time.

It’s a myth that entrepreneurs are “born”, not made. The reality is that entrepreneurship is a skill that can and must be developed by doing. It’s something to keep in mind when determining whether there’s a noticeable consumer need which entrepreneurship can address. It’s something to consider when encouraging students to hone their thinking and entrepreneurial mindset. It’s something to remember when moving your startup overseas, and when building relationships with others for funding, networking, and partnership purposes.

There is much to consider when honing one’s entrepreneurial skills by doing. One needs to avoid making products no one wants. One needs to make the most of a business day. One needs to rethink education, the gamification of the MBA, and the subsequent imperative to become more tech-savvy. One also needs to become more aware of entrepreneurial ecosystems and learning communities; online and offline, which is where government policy and social media come into play.

Social media has given me access to very interesting, helpful, and global conversations. Conversations about the connections between education and entrepreneurship. Conversations about the myths and realities of entrepreneurship. Conversations about the growing role of women leadership and women entrepreneurs, both of which are shaping the future of business, not to mention politics!

Incidentally, the prime minister of Latvia is Laimdota Straujuma; a woman. Also, the State Department’s Advisor for Entrepreneurship of European and Eurasian Affairs is a woman; Anita Ghildyal. She is traveling through Europe to determine what the State Department can do to foster entrepreneurship. I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting her last week Tuesday; at the U.S. Embassy in Latvia‘s first Entrepreneurship Club Meeting, an initiative spearheaded by the current Charge d’Affaires, Sharon Hudson-Dean and Kathy Giles-Diaz, the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S Embassy in Latvia; women.

Its purpose was to analyze a Harvard business case, discuss the successes and takeaways from the first ever Latvia Entrepreneurship Day on November 13th, 2014 (entrepreneurship workshops for about 35 potential entrepreneurs), and brainstorm about a program called Start Strong, whereby we educate Latvian youth about career options, presentation skills, resume writing, setting goals, and other skills related to entrepreneurship. Like many students in universities around the globe, Latvian youth also forget that being an entrepreneur is hard, hard, work! They imagine that success and opportunities “fall out of the sky” and they could also get as ”lucky”’ as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg did. In reality, the road to becoming a bona fide entrepreneur involves four things:

  1. Listening and learning what customers need and want.
  2. Finding mentors who teach, encourage, inspire, empathize, and instill self-confidence.
  3. Developing a business model, product, strategic network, and customer base.
  4. Figuring out funding, as most startups do not need a lot of money to get launched.

The classic Harvard definition of entrepreneurship is: ”the pursuit of an opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled”. Today’s entrepreneur thus needs to ask these three questions, and rethink the concept of opportunity. It is very fortunate that Nils Students, from the U.S. Embassy, has had us read the following books at previous Embassy Book Club gatherings, which fall in line perfectly with the newly formed U.S. Embassy Entrepreneurship Club:

For our next Entrepreneurship Club meeting, I will recommend we read:

Entrepreneurship goes beyond making a pitch and receiving funding. The successful entrepreneur is one who saw an opportunity because of his/her experience, figured out what he/she had or didn’t have re: resources, and determined how to get what was needed. The leading cause of entrepreneurial failure is a lack of customers, not lack of ideas or a lack of non-disclosure agreements. We need to start a different kind of conversation about entrepreneurship success and failure. We need to rethink entrepreneurship’s global impact, and the role of education in facilitating entrepreneurs involved in doing and leading. It’s time.

Dr. Juris Ulmanis, PhD, is the co-founder of Experiential Simulations, a company that develops simulations and gamification software programs to help students learn and professors teach “by doing”. His prior experience includes various leadership and management positions for Motorola Inc., in the United States and Europe, being Vice-Chairman of the European Scout Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, Vice-President of the Latvian Swimming Federation, business course design, and professorships in various universities, writing and public speaking. He can be reached at: Twitter: @Jurisu


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