In the summer of 2004 arrived at the University of Michigan to pursue a PhD degree in aerospace engineering. On the second day there I drove four hours each way to visit the SPRI office in Chicago, as it was the only Basque connection I knew of in the area. The reason I knew about its existence was from watching a television news piece where the lehendakari visited the SPRI office in Chicago.
I was fascinated to learn about the effort by the team there to help Basque firms establish themselves in the midwestern part of the United States. We often tend to forget the dedication and hard work that is required for a local company to successfully compete in a highly competitive marketplace, but Basque people have been doing this for many generations. Farmers, ranchers and other fellows came to a completely unknown land, without even speaking a word of English, and they not only made a living for their families, but established themselves as hard-working and charismatic people with a deep entrepreneurial spirit.
Basque people have always had an innate drive to create a sustainable venture from a seemingly impossible situation. Just take a look at the rugged terrain of hills and mountains we are surrounded by and imagine the difficulty of building successful farms even on steep slopes. Yet it was done repeatedly through hard work, sweat, and tears, but with a never-give-up attitude and a determination to make it work.
We must not forget people like Juan Sebastián Elcano, the fishermen and whalers that went all the way to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and the entrepreneurs of industrial companies such as Gamesa and Irizar, that started small but have become world renowned in their fields. These are just a few examples of the people that throughout history have had the drive to succeed, giving their best effort and aiming high while never giving up.
In recent visits to my hometown of San Sebastian, I have noticed that although the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive, some entrepreneurial firms lack the “finishing touch” that can be the key to making a company succeed. Local entrepreneurs have the necessary technological talent and business development skills but are sometimes unaware of the preparation required to convince investors, clients and collaborators to contribute to their firm. In my opinion this essential preparation includes the following:
- A focused strategic plan and a full commitment to execute it
- Awareness of how actions affect business collaborators and investors
- An “all-in” attitude and a drive to succeed
From my personal experience in the United States, start-up companies usually have these three ingredients when they interact with commercial partners or investors, and promote their ventures. They may come home empty handed, but without demonstrating their vision and commitment to the development and growth of a new company, it is virtually impossible to survive in a complex entrepreneurial world.
This lack of preparation among many local entrepreneurial firms is not something to be discouraged about. On the contrary, the right tools and channels to better prepare entrepreneurs exist. They just have to be properly channeled.
Policy makers, big-sized companies, successful start-ups, and other organizations must develop an environment that provides the necessary education, coaching, and guidance in order for entrepreneurial firms to develop the “finishing touch”. Such environment will lead a healthier and more successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. Orkestra has already created the Crecer+ platform to address this issue and continues to develop it further, offering their expertise that helps build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The Basque region has become one of the most prosperous places in Europe, despite its small size, rugged terrain and complex history. This development was possible due to the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that was always present. We can’t let ourselves rest in the laurels and lose the spirit that has made us so successful, we must encourage and nourish it.