November - 2015 - issue > CXO Insights

Helping Engineers Become Successful Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Today's entrepreneurs have different needs in terms of fund-raising, product development, and social marketing. More often, the startups are not just developing new technologies but also creating innovative software for existing ones. Creative thinkers enjoy going to networking events and academic conferences with like-minded individuals. They are more likely to subscribe to credible sources that curate content they're interested in includingresearch articles, videos, and other materials related to their product ideas.

These are just some of the findings from a year-long analysis conducted by the 2014 IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on Entrepreneurship. The IEEE Board of Directors established the committee to recommend programs, products and services that the organization should provide to help encourage more engagement with these individuals. After all, the number of young people who are starting their own businesses is at a record high – just the type of people IEEE wants for future members.

"It's not that engineering research isn't helpful, but today's entrepreneurs are looking to network with other talented & creative people, investors, and entrepreneurs in order to develop their companies, markets, and products," says Ken Stauffer, Vice Chairman, IEEECommittee. "These unmet needs are some of the reasons why it's not easy for entrepreneurs to find a home within IEEE".

In 2003 Stauffer co-founded Technology Assurance Labs, an independent laboratory in Orlando, Fla., that provides business-focused solutions and products."Forty years ago people looked at you cross-eyed if you came out of college and wanted to be an entrepreneur," he says. "With the proliferation of software that allows people to develop apps role models like Facebook's Mark Zuckerbeg and easier accessibility to money through venture capital & crowdfunding, starting your own business is much easier and more acceptable for a young graduate". In fact he adds , in some areas of the world, entrepreneurship is a young grad's default occupation because of weak economies and limited number of corporate positions.

"Additionally, a growing number of large tech companies regularly invest in purchasing and integrating with startups, rather than creating an internal R&D department," he notes. 'The world of technology business is changing, and IEEE is working to ensure we add value to this changing model". Stauffer chairs the 2015 Technical Activities Ad Hoc Committee on Entrepreneurship, which has been asked by the IEEE Board to carry out some of the recommendations the committee made last year. Those include the creation of a Web portal to IEEE services and programs relevant to the startup community, holding a global networking event for entrepreneurs, investors & others; and creating an entrepreneurs section in IEEE Collabratec, a suite of online tools to network, collaborate, and create. The committee is composed of volunteers who have experience with startups, plus a team of staffers led by Mary Ward-Callan, Managing Director, IEEE Technical Activities and Randi Sumner, Director of Volunteer Engagement & Strategy, both in Piscataway, N.J.

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