Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) programs and benefits

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
Internal hire
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.

External hire
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.

monster coding logo

Monster Coding founder, Stacey Reiman, says “You can do it from home!”

Stacey Reiman, founder of the educational programming app Monster Coding, wants you to know “you can do it from home.”

stacey reinmanWith degrees in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Political Science, Stacey’s education is well-rounded, but her passion lies in languages. Her love of dialects spread to the language of programming where she quickly picked up coding skills. As a self-taught programmer and entrepreneur, she’s responsible for creating several successful apps, such as ‘Musical Spanish learn through pop music.’

When Stacey encouraged her children to learn programming through Code.org, she found a platform lacking complexity. She quickly sensed an opportunity to educate and founded Monster Coding. Monster Coding teaches children across the world to learn programming with sound-based assistance.

I interviewed her this past week, and here’s what she had to say:

Why did you start Monster Coding?
“My daughter Julia wanted something more complex (than Code.org). She wanted an ‘if’ block and it wasn’t available, so she asked me to edit the app.  I said ‘no, I can’t edit this app, but maybe I can make one like this for you!’  It (Monster Coding) became a labor of love at that point. I quickly found that developing a computer science app for kids was the most exciting project I’d ever worked on.”

How is Monster Coding different than what’s already in the marketplace?
“I see learning programming as similar to learning a foreign language; many of the same core principles apply. If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time. This is why we have the audio component.”

If a kid is learning to program, they shouldn’t have to learn to read at the same time. 

In what ways do you see your app changing in the next year?
“We are in our infancy, (so) we are still trying to catch our breath and understand how this would look like with investment.  There are all these features I’d like to develop, and I know I need investment to grow.”

How do you feel about the current curriculum for children?  Should computer science be included?
“Definitely! There are so many jobs that will be lost in the future if we don’t educate our youth today. There are all kinds of opportunities in tech that aren’t even programming specific. Every kid needs the opportunity to see if any of those things (computer science) are things they could be good at. Computer science really should be taught in every school; everybody should be able to get a job.”

I noticed there was a stats section under the “Country Quest Tab,” comparing the use of your app in various countries.  How important do you feel analytics are in relation to your app?
“I get excited by seeing which countries are using my app.  As far as analytics I pay more attention to, I recently looked at student behavior in the app and noticed that the amount of students who got to the last activity was low.  So I wondered what the problem was.  I began tracking errors, and added a ‘Solve It’ button (so when a child makes a mistake they can click the button, re-read the question and try to solve it again), and then the rate of kids completing increased, which was nice to see.”

As a recent participant in the Hour of Code, how do you feel your app stood out from the crowd?
“I think our use of audio to introduce each activity and provide feedback was really one of the most important differences.  Teachers have given us great feedback about the importance that played for their students.  We were also really excited to partner with a company out of Arizona, called Responsive Voice, which provided on-the-fly audio in foreign languages as well.”

What’s been the toughest or scariest decision for you as an entrepreneur?
“You have no guarantee of a positive outcome.  You walk out on a ledge and have no choice, but to keep going. I know that I will jump into the unknown and am going forward no matter what.”

How do you feel about being a woman in technology?
“Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work.  I want to see more strong women saying they program at work, or program and do it from home.  We can fight the stereotypes.”

Women are powerful, women are resourceful — we work.

What advice do you have for other women?
“I switched my focus from publishing to software and app development because I fell in love with the creation process rather than just the creation.  I also found out that I could build my skillset one project at a time, and craft pretty amazing things just by looking at online examples, and working through them on my own.  All the while, I used online resources to study topics as they came up in my work, which made it easier to learn.

So I learned things as I needed them.  And when I hit a wall, I’d look for a way to climb over it through creativity and sometimes through long hours!  The bottom line is that I would encourage other women to realize that they can do it (learn to program, design or do anything else you put your mind to) from home, too.

I hope someone will see my story and think that they can do it from home and do it with their own time and brain.

Women in all walks of life should know that technology can change their circumstances.  You don’t need be able to get into MIT or get a job at Facebook to make tech work for you.  You can learn all sorts of new skills through online programs, or online courses like Khan Academy, Coursera, and a host of others. Being a stay at home mom, a caregiver, or a housewife doesn’t mean the only jobs you can do from home are related to domestic duties!”

Randi Zuckerberg and I

Everyone Wants to Hire a Techpreneur

Randi Zuckerberg and I
ROCHESTER, NY (October, 16, 2015) — The ambitious, sassy and entrepreneurial Randi Zuckerberg discussed the opportunities and trends in technology during the
Gasser Lecture Series, hosted by the Saunder’s College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

Today, the opportunity to succeed relies heavily on involvement with technology. Radi discussed three things you can do achieve success: (1) participate in a hackathon, (2) pay attention to your brand, and (3) get hooked on technology at an early age.

Everyone should “participate in a hackathon,” said Randi. Hackathon are events that drive out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving. “Hackathons allow people to eliminate the fear of failure,” said Randi; when people feel as though they can speak freely, they share ideas more often and more openly. Companies such as Intuit, Facebook and Google host monthly or yearly hackathons, of which frequently produce the most innovative and thoughtful products to date. By displaying original thinking during a hackathon, or at your current job, people will admire and appreciate your unique perspective; you’ll always be someone who brings new ideas to the table.

Next, Radi discussed the importance of “paying attention to your brand.” Companies, such as Amazon encourage their employees to “
respectfully challenge decisions should they disagree.” It’s important to think differently than others; a unique brand is the most important thing you can have. With the opportunity to interact and “post in real-time,” with social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, people can get ahead of trends (and their peers), said Randi. Your online brand is how people perceive you, so pay special attention to it.

While on the subject of your online presence, Randi urges that you to “get hooked on technology at an early age.” There are so many opportunities that a knowledge of technology can provide. Not only can people learn to build technology, but people can learn to solve problems using technology. “(As we’ve seen with Facebook), advancements in technology can change the world,” said Randi. Some of the most successful tech companies have started with young adults, such as Box, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.

If you become immersed in technology at an early age, you’ll gain skills companies look for when hiring; an innovative and forward-thinking mindset, and a fearless attitude. Wouldn’t you want to hire someone like that?

Dance With Confidence

An Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: Dance with Confidence or Face Reality

Many argue that entrepreneurs succeed because of their confidence. “Fake it until you make it,” will get you you there, they say.  At what point should an entrepreneur look in a mirror and face the facts—that their business is failing?

On Tuesday, June 23 in the Penthouse at One East Avenue in downtown Rochester, an audience of over 80 gathered to hear the lessons learned as told by a handful of local entrepreneurs. Failure Sessions, presented by the Entrepreneurial Special Interest Group of Digital Rochester, brought together three brave entrepreneurs, Pete, Zach and Larry, to share their stories of meteoric rise and fall. (We’ll omit their last names and businesses to maintain some anonymity.)

Interestingly, all three of the stories shared a common theme: the unfailing self-confidence of the entrepreneurs and the missteps they took when they refused to face the truth—that their businesses were fizzling.

Pete started a business young and ran into many obstacles, as any entrepreneur would.  His tech company received a sizable amount of funding, and all things were going well—his was a success story.  With a seeming surplus of funding, Pete thought it was time to expand his business by hiring additional employees and opening new offices. He, blinded by his status as a successful entrepreneur, spent money on a wide range of things without first ensuring his revenue model was well in place.  Meanwhile, he ignored signs that his business was overspending.

Lesson 1: Have a plan to grow your business at a pace that suits your burn rate.

Says Pete: “While you bring in money, make sure that you have plans to sustain the amount of money coming in.”

Zach shared his story of taking on too much too fast, resulting in hasty, poor decision making.  While consistently working 14-hour days, Zach came to a fork in the road: let down his customers or sell to a more powerful owner with the liquid cash to support their immediate needs.  Exhausted and focusing on getting out, he sold his company without taking the time to properly consider the terms.  His loyal customers went underserved by the new management, and Zach ended up with a raw deal.  He proceeded to spend several years disputing the acquisition contract signed after the deal went awry.

Lesson 2: Use caution when selling or negotiating collaborative contracts.

Says Zach: “Know who you are getting into business with and what your contract says; don’t make the easy choice unless it is also the right choice.”

Larry started an online business in the peak of the Dotcom bubble.  Highly successful with over 40 employees and a strong cash flow, his company was operating unaware that the industry was about to hit a wall.  While Larry felt this change coming, his investors told him not to worry and to maintain pace in hopes of finding an exit before the bubble burst.  When the market crashed, his revenue and profits did too.  He had to close his business.

Lesson 3: Pay attention to your instincts about what’s coming next.

Says Larry: “It’s never a good idea to risk everything when you can feel the timing isn’t right.”

Failure causes introspection; it allows people to take a step back and examine what went well and where missteps were made.  Regardless of how much confidence an entrepreneur has in their businesses success, sometimes too much confidence can get in the way of reality.

Dance deftly on the line between confidence and reality, and you will surely maintain your footing—business intact—at the end of the day.