What is an Entrepreneur in Residence? Learn about entrepreneur in residence programs and benefits from a former entrepreneur in residence.
To be successful, change through innovative thinking and decision making is inevitable. One way to stay innovative is through an Entrepreneur in Residence program.
An Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) is someone who acts as a consultant traditionally in a business setting. Often focused on research and innovation, EiRs provide new perspectives on a current or future idea, or challenges a company may currently experience or expects to encounter. An Entrepreneur in Residence is a subject matter expert and is often hired to work in a company, community, or country which lacks the necessary skills or expertise that would otherwise enable them to succeed in a particular business area or market segment.
I served as an Entrepreneur in Residence in the Balkan region from May to June 2018, as part of the the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program, SwissContact. Through my experience as an EiR, I came to understand the several types of EiR programs, and realized first-hand the benefits of EiR programs embedded as an integral part of a community; supporting local and international companies.
Based on my experience, this article outlines one way to infuse innovation in a country, company, or community by outlining the types of EiR programs, and EiR program benefits.
Types of Entrepreneur in Residence programs
1. Within a country
As part of the Entrepreneur in Residence program I participated in, I traveled to three countries in the Balkan region (Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia) and worked with various startups, accelerators, and incubators. Compared to the US, these countries needed education and support from external subject matter professionals in the form of business, marketing, and technology expertise.
I visited these countries and shared knowledge, best practices, and trends in innovation, user research, SEO, website design, branding, trends in mobile shopping and e-comments, and the importance of diversity in the workplace.
By working closely with students, CEOs, entrepreneurs, educators, and the business and academic community, I verbally received positive feedback on how useful the knowledge sharing experience was; a few pieces of direct feedback received included:
“That was so great; I’ve never seen the students ask so many questions. Can you please come back?”
– After teaching innovation and the importance of user research at the Telekom Digital Incubator, Telekom executive.
“I’m really happy you shared that story; I forgot that that happens, and that I shouldn’t allow that to happen; it’s not right.”
– After sharing a story of encountering sexism and agism during my work as an EiR, student in Macedonia.
“Your story really inspired me.”
– After sharing my story of starting at a community college and now working at Amazon, entrepreneur in Macedonia.
“Maybe I will start a business, now.”
– After sharing my story of having no business background, then stating a business in college, students in Macedonia.
“Now we know how to think big and start small.”
– After giving a talk on how to think big and start small, GSIX team.
Overall, each country and its’ culture is unique. By teaching and sharing my experiences, it reminded people in the countries which I worked that they are intelligent, empowered, and should take a chance if they want to make a change; and ultimately that that they can become who they want to be within their own country and that resources are available to compliment their experience.
2.Within a company
An internal Entrepreneur in Residence is someone who challenges the current way of thinking and impacts the overall strategy and development of a business, product, culture, etc. They encourage the company to think like an entrepreneur; making quick decisions with sometimes limited information; testing assumptions and learning quickly.
Major companies like Google, Dell, and Target have EIR programs encompassed of a handful of people, or dedicated teams whose sole job is to research and think about ways to address new or existing problems in innovative ways.
By hiring an external Entrepreneur in Residence for a period of time, a company or organization can benefit from an entirely new, and unbiased opinion and perspective in business strategy and execution. Employees can be biased in their thinking and decision making, and afraid to disagree with others if they have differing opinions.
3. Within a community
Often as volunteers, employees of a company will donate their time, knowledge, and skills to a community as an Entrepreneur in Residence. They will educate others about their expertise or work with a group or community program to help achieve their business or organizational goals.
Alternatively, a community or city may invest in funding a community-centric EiR program which focuses on brainstorming and solving problems in the community, such as becoming more technology-centric, supporting small businesses, and attracting large businesses.
Benefits of Entrepreneur in Residence programs
By hiring an Entrepreneur in Residence, or creating an entrepreneur in residence program, you have dedicated experts in a space which you may not normally have easily accessible to you. If your company feels stagnant, hiring a EiR can re-ignite innovation in the workplace; they will see things from a new perspective and challenge previous decisions and strategic direction.
To learn more about the Entrepreneur in Residence program that I was involved with, please visit https://www.entrepreneur-in-residence.net.
Disclaimer: This post does not represent the views of opinions my employer, Amazon, or the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program. Copyright, Carolyn N. Spencer.