Just browsing the news during lunch I see the conservative American radio-tv commentator Glenn Beck, apologizing or something he said. This picture is shown in the article:

I focus in the poster behind this gentleman. Entrepreneurship it says, and then two hands trying to grab or magically making float a light bulb.

I have the impression that this is a promotion of the classical idea of Entrepreneurship. The 1000 times repeated mantra that anyone can have an idea, work hard and become rich. The proof is the thousands of individuals who have done it.

Light bulb is a popularly known icon for an idea. This was “coined” by Alva Edison. I mean, I don’t think that anyone took a picture with a light bulb before him :)

We all have seen this picture below. And perhaps listened to the stories of how patience he was. How he tried his experiments over and over… Persistence is the key ingredient to success…. bla, bla, bla…

They have put in our mind the idea of Edison working in his lab, coming up with something that we all admire. Sure, he was a genius, but he was not alone.

Successful entrepreneurship is about working with people. Even though Edison is alone in the pictures, there should have been a picture of many. He had a strong network of people who provided valuable ideas, not only for the light bulb, but many other inventions. See for example the article in Wikipedia: Edison Pioneers.

Entrepreneurship is not about individualism. I thought that, but I was wrong. Ideas are good, but are worthless until someone get things done. That is an entrepreneur. But entrepreneurship lives within a system. And if we want economic development, and progress we need the right socioeconomic innovation system. An environment, that I would say in most of the times it’s not necessarily accord to the ideas aired by Beck.

I come from a family of entrepreneurs, some firms did ok but the majority failed. I know how the lives of these people are, because it was mine. The vast majority (for example in the US, every year 2 million Americans start their own business) is a bad life. It really breaks my heart to see people buying the story of a successful individual, and just keep trying day after day, without the right network. Let’s not encourage wrong ideas about entrepreneurship.

So, Mr. Beck, I really like this promotion of entrepreneurship. But maybe you could have, instead of two hands reaching the light bulb, maybe a diverse team holding it…


Along other projects, I have been working on a paper (so far) titled: “Geography and the Entrepreneurial Profile
– A Study of Rural and Urban Populations in Denmark”. It is coauthored with Kristian Nielsen, a great economist from the Business Department. He’s like me, a PhD candidate, but he has many more skills, including the crucial econometric and statistical analysis. We have done a paper based on a survey conducted to more than 2000 people, of which 3/4 were successful entrepreneurs and the other 1/4 were employees.

Today there is a huge debate about the importance of living in the city vs. living in the country and its influence in entrepreneurship. We wanted to see if they had any difference in their networks, identity and start-up motivation. More or less the question we rise is: Where do you have more differences: between the urban and rural population, or the entrepreneurs and employees (regardless of geography)?. We have asked this in two conferences we have presented the paper the DRUID and the AAG, and answers are split. What do you think?

At the end of the paper, we wrote a fictional story, but based on true research! to summarize our findings. Here I share with you the story, which probably will not be in the paper for space and copyright reasons. The paper? Soon in your best journal :) If you want to give us some feedback (before we send it to the journal!) we could send it to you, I guess.

The Story

To illustrate some of our main findings regarding entrepreneurs we will present a simple example. – Imagine you have two friends, Ruben and Urban. Ruben is from a rural area, and Urban is from a big city. You talk with each one of them once in a while. You are an equally important friend for each one of them, since they have around the same number of friends. Ruben, earned a three-year technical degree and Urban got a university degree. When you hang out with Urban and his friends you talk about ideas for businesses. He is a very creative guy. – Some time passes – Urban is about to get married, and Ruben, although slightly younger, already has. Interestingly, they both started a business in the service sector. Urban proposed that you and another friend join him in his business adventure. You did not join. Urban borrowed some money from family and friends. – A few more years pass, and both of your friends have become successful entrepreneurs – By reading the results of this paper, you know that you are equally as likely to receive a call from either of them to have a drink. But you are more likely to have Urban ask you for help, with for instance, a computer problem. If you do not help him, you should not worry a lot; he’s the type of person who will soon call an IT professional or another friend. It’s not that Ruben won’t have a problem with the computer, but he would not bother you about it. Ruben would probably ended up spending a few days fixing it himself.

This was a didactic example based on some of our results, overemphasizing the main differences. The differences between age, marriage, and education of these characters can probably be explained by socio-economic and cultural values for each region. Whether this is true for the difference in personal traits and work values could be important to further investigate. Also, the reason for the different use of networks is unclear, however, this behavior is probably related to geographical proximity and/or agglomeration issues. It seems that, while much has changed over the last centuries, in today’s economy the rural entrepreneurs still share a certain resemblance to the rural tradition of surviving without division of labour. This behavior was pointed out in the introduction, with the examples by Adam Smith and the ancient Greeks.

Another main finding of our research is that entrepreneurs are similar, regardless of geography, when compared to wage earners. Going back to the fictional case of the story of our two friends; – The most interesting thing happens the day you introduce Ruben and Urban. They start talking about their businesses, and get along very well. They talked about their employees, and complain about the routine problems of their providers, customers and government bureaucrats. However, they both agree on how much they like having the freedom of being their own boss. They exchange cards and comment on how many things they have in common. – And they are right; these guys have always been one of a kind.

L.C. Freire-Gibb and K. Nielsen, forthcoming

Every time I get into a second hand book I always find something ‘super interesting’. My wife picks on me about it. Earlier this semester I found the book of The Prince [Translated by Daniel Donno. Bantam Classic. 2003], for 1 dollar. I already read some parts but now I want to read the whole thing. I liked most of it, and it is true, that he is not that “Machiavellian”, as the people say. Come on! he was born in 1469! Governments were all about realism.

Because he was leaving in near poverty, he was trying to find a position back in the government. He had to convince the guys in power that, he was a good and useful guy, and even if they tortured him before!

I transcribed the last paragraph of the Chapter 21, ‘What a Prince Must Do to Be Esteemed’. Here it is Machiavelli discussing entrepreneurship policy, local economic development, “cultural economy”, and the importance of having a charismatic/catalystic local government.

For the ones unfamiliar with the term, a prince, was what he was referring to the man in power of the Italian city-states. And the Lorenzo de Medici, which he (or one of his friends) later hired Niccolo.

A prince should also demonstrate that he loves talent by supporting men of ability and by honoring those who excel in each craft. Moreover, he ought to encourage his citizens peaceably to pursue their affairs, whether in trade, in agriculture, or in any other human activity, so that no one will hesitate to improve his possessions for fear that they will be taken from him, an no one will hesitate to open a new avenue of trade for fear of taxes. Instead, the prince ought to be ready to reward those who do these things and those who seek out ways of enriching their city or state. In addition to all this, at the appropriate time of year, he ought to keep the people occupied with festivals and spectacles; and since every city is divided into guilds or other corporate bodies, he ought to take these into account and assemble with them on occasions, thus giving proof of his affability and munificence, yet never failing to beat the dignity of his position in mind, for this must never be lacking.

Niccolò Machiavelli, 1513

In his grave it says: TANTO NOMINI NULLUM PAR ELOGIUM (No eulogy would be adequate to praise so great a name)

Books recently read

July 20, 2010

Books I’m about to return to the library (actually 4 different ones) on the Berkeley campus:

  • Goodman, Robert, (1979) The last entrepreneurs : America’s regional wars for jobs and dollars [In the book he refers to the local and state government workers, and how they act as bad entrepreneurs. I quoted him here once talking about energy]
  • Richard D. Bingham, Robert Mier (1993) Theories of Local Economic Development: Perspectives from Across the Disciplines. [I started reading their books in 2006, and I love their different perspectives. When I grow up I want to be like them]
  • B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore (1999) The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage [If you want to know more about this, see my slides about it]
  • Daniel Hjorth and Monika Kostera (2007) Entrepreneurship and the Experience Economy [Their point of view on “The Rise of the Experience Economy”]
  • Norman Walzer (2009) Entrepreneurship and Local Economic Development. [Very good book, with out of the box ideas. Recommended reading for LED specialists]
  • Henri L. F. De Groot, Peter Nijkamp, Roger R. Strough, and Roger Stough (2004) Entrepreneurship and Regional Economic Development: A Spatial Perspective [It includes 25 contributors, including my affiliated supervisor Phil Cooke. It has a focus on quant research]
  • Jane Jacobs (1983) Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. [She should have got the Nobel Prize in Economics, even if she was not an economist. Here I comment on one of her books.]
  • Jeffrey Scott Luke, Curtis Ventriss, Betty Jane Reed, and Christine Reed (1988) Managing Economic Development: A Guide to State and Local Leadership Strategies (Jossey Bass Public Administration Series) [This book is made by these four authors. I recently commented on this book]

  • Richard Walker (2007) The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area [This is from my advisor here at the Dept. of Geography in Berkeley. He recommended to me, in order to learn more about the efforts that the Bay Area have had on trying to promote a more cohesive regional government. Too bad they failed. See more on chapter 6. The book explains why San Francisco has so many parks (relatively) and nature around. I theorize this makes it different and attracts people. Excuse, DW, to mention Richard Florida, but he would say that these outdoor amenities attract the creative class. And I think it’s right in this one. It’s a good reminder for cities to keep green places.]

Ok, I admit it, I have not read the whole books. But I tried to find the useful things for my project and papers I’m working on now.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present to the Team Project at Frederikshavn. My supervisor and my colleague Isaac were with me. I’m really excited with the project, meet the people and specially getting an outstanding feedback. I have to say that this is a raw presentation that will be improved after the discussion we had.

The other day I met Google Trends, a powerful tool. I think still some unprecise, but it can bring useful info. I started looking at some of the keywords of my research interest, like “innovation” & “entrepreneurship”,  

Comparing searches of \

We can comment a few things. First, people are more interested in “innovation” than “entrepreneurship”. Even if some of us, keep saying that “Entrepreneurs or Intrapreneurs, We Couldn’t Innovate Without Them” (Mary Key, today). Second thing is that Copenhague and Singapore, are the  most interested city/regions in the world about innovation (Google dixit). Third thing, is that entrepreneurship is much more googled in developing countries. Which makes sense as they have the highest entrepreneurial rates in the world, and are the ones kicking Europe and US. Last thing to point out, that always in Christmas, people don’t care about these things, that’s funny to see in the graph. I always like to see things from a multilevel perspective.  

The experience economy

Aalborg learns about Experience Economy

Aalborg learns about Experience Economy

I looked at other words, but probably the most interesting is “experience economy“. Notice, that Aalborg (or Ålborg), it’s ranked as the number one place in the world more interested in this concept. In fact Denmark its by far number one country googling about it. My supervisor got quite excited when yesterday I saw her that. Of course that is not only my Department that has been interested in this subject, other in Aalborg also do.

So if you are interested in this issue, stay tuned. In fact, the word in the street says we will soon open a website about it.

Here is the power point presentation I prepared for the conference. It was really exciting and I meet many great people in the conference. It’s so exciting to find that many other academics are studying these issues. I also enjoyed the atmosphere of Prague.

In my presentation there were 3 other presentations, and I got 3 or 4 questions that I loved to answer. Many never heard about the “experience economy” so it was nice to see their faces.