Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Shortly after we started in February 2020, COVID-19 hit the world and we had to shut down all travel and meetings in person. So, like true entrepreneurs we pivoted! We learned to live and thrive in the present. We created or continued all of the activities mentioned below in 2020-2021 and we did them all virtually — which demonstrates our resilience and our ability to adapt!
Our goals were to understand our IEEE Entrepreneurship’s ecosystem’s needs, to be relevant to them, and to produce products and services that provide value to them. Entrepreneurs and investors strive for “product/market fit.” So, we asked our ecosystem how to be relevant and what product or services they found valuable.
We found out that our IEEE Entrepreneurship ecosystem is approximately 17,000 virtual members. Using questionnaires, we learned that our ecosystem is made up of Academic Research Start-ups (23%), Aspiring Entrepreneurs (22%), Start-ups with a few people (26%), Growth and Scaling companies (12%), and Investors of all types — Incubators, Accelerators, Pitch Competitions, Grant Funders, Angels, and VCs (7%). IEEE Entrepreneurship is unique in IEEE because we don’t have official membership. We are made up of every group within IEEE — Young Professionals, Women in Engineering, Regions & Sections members, Technical Society members, and even those who aren’t IEEE members, but see the value in being connected. About 73% of the IEEE Entrepreneurship Network are IEEE members, so we are also engaging and inspiring new participants! All of this was documented in a May 2021 IEEE Potentials magazine, which has a readership of 140,000 undergraduate and graduate readers.
Not surprisingly, the number one valued product/service for our ecosystem was mentoring. During the last 2 years, IEEE Entrepreneurship’s Founder Office Hours Program conducted over 53 mentoring sessions with entrepreneurs in countries all over the world, with aspiring entrepreneurs, start-ups, and growth companies. The evidence that our mentoring had an impact is reflected in the exit surveys with participants who indicated that the in terms of quality of mentoring (4.71 out of 5 points), and mentor meeting your expectations (4.65 out of 5 points) was meaningful. Thanks to all of you who volunteered your time to be mentors; you made a difference in someone’s life!
Another product we developed was the virtual IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops for Scientists and Engineers in Latin America and Africa. We had 39 participants in both workshops who devoted a month’s worth of time to develop an idea into a product/market-fit and pitch it. Those feedback scores were also quite high on how successful we were in achieving an increase in your understanding of entrepreneurial skills (4.93 out of 5 points). Thanks to everyone who made that possible — IEEE staff, local organizers, speakers, mentors, and judges!
Other products we developed were our self-paced ILN courses, where we got some great feedback on our Introduction to Digital Marketing Course from an IEEE Entrepreneurship Patreon subscriber who said, “It is great, so far…” — It had just gone live a few weeks earlier and he just started taking the course. By the way, our presence on Patreon is another IEEE Entrepreneurship product.
Our Demystifying Series of 13 videos tackled topics like: Start-up Funding, Pitching, VC Term sheets, Standards, Intellectual Property, Diversity, Global Start-ups, etc. These products have had many views — several had over 100 views per video. Our video Demystifying Business Models – an IoT Example was used as a resource by the African Council for the Africa IoT and AI Challenge. Thank you to everyone who helped in creating those thought-provoking videos and courses!
Other resources were IEEE Entrepreneurship Video Library videos about how you got to where you are today. Thank you to all of you who sent in videos!
We launched a very successful Women Entrepreneurs’ survey to ask about their specific needs for support and received 1608 responses — by far the best response rate for research by anonymous link sharing that IEEE has accomplished! Thanks to all of you who shared your networks to make it so successful!
Over the last two years, we supported IEEE Conferences like IoT, WCCI, 5G, Quantum, TEMs, IST-Africa, PowerAfrica, etc. At PowerAfrica 2020, our Entrepreneurship Tutorial was ranked #1 for that conference in terms of attendance, having more than 100 attendees. We also supported non-IEEE conferences like the G-STIC Conferences which included the IEEE Entrepreneurship G-STIC video pitch competitions and the Global Public Policy UN-SDG Labs.
We enhanced the Powered by IEEE Program by adding a 50% discount for IEEE DataPort™ Institutional Subscriptions, US$10,000 in Freshworks Product Credit, and Amazon Web Services Promotional Credit. [*Note: The Powered by IEEE/AWS Activate Program is not active at this time.] We also collaborated with our partners at the UN-ITU, UN-Major Group on Children & Youth, CERN Entrepreneurship Student Program, VITO, and the American Libraries Association.
To create greater awareness about our group, both internally to IEEE and externally to potential new members, we created the first IEEE Entrepreneurship Impact Award and gave it to Samantha Snabes — Congratulations to her!
Most importantly we continued our commitment to full diversity on all IEEE Entrepreneurship events, teams, panels, etc. This included gender, ethnicity, and age diversity.
All the achievements I mentioned were only possible because of you — a dedicated and committed group of individuals who understood the power of the moment, the opportunity to innovate in the midst of a worldwide crisis, and the willingness to make a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs. My best wishes to Joanne Wong, the new chair, as she continues this exciting work.
Stay safe and stay involved with our IEEE Entrepreneurship ecosystem! If we could meet in person, I’d give you a huge hug and say, “Thank You,” — or if you speak Swahili, Asante Sana!
Virtual hugs, I miss you all dearly!
Ken Stauffer, 2021 Chair, IEEE Entrepreneurship Steering Committee