In my experience, two of the key roadblocks that keep people from heading down an entrepreneurial path have to do with risk. The first is the risk that if they start investigating their concept, they will be told they have a “bad” idea. The second is what happens if they start the business and it doesn’t work out?
This is why programs like our practicing entrepreneurs group and our entrepreneurial lab are so important. The practicing entrepreneurs meet weekly (sometimes more) to discuss business concepts, ask the group for feedback on a particular problem, practice investor pitches, etc. It acts as a risk-free venue for pitching an idea and receiving input on how to further investigate and develop it. It also acts as a support group, in which members become interested in and invested in what everyone else is working on. And, over time, it has accumulated a wealth of knowledge that is continually passed on to new members.
Our lab environment provides space from which students and alumni can operate. It provides some of the same support and collaboration aspects mentioned above, but has also given a number of students/alumni a free place to call home. For those who would otherwise need to invest in office space, this substantially reduces their capital requirements.
Combined, these aspects provide first-time entrepreneurs a low-risk way to move through the entrepreneurial process. I have watched several of our students who never considered starting a business attend practicing entrepreneurs, start investigating an idea, and by graduation decide they have an opportunity they should move ahead with. This is a special process to observe, and I believe that doing what we can to remove these two roadblocks has played a key role.