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How to force a moment of entrepreneurial epiphany

on February 9, 2011

Here’s some of my coverage from the ICIS Conference in St. Louis. I was covering the event for Dice and Dice News.

When have you had enough? When do you realize you could do it yourself and you no longer need to “work for the man?”

This voluntary moment of “I’m quitting and going to start my own business” was the focus of the paper, “From IT Employee to IT Entrepreneur: The concept of IT Entrepreneurial Epiphany” written by Gaëtan Mourmant, Assistant Professor at University of Strasbourg and Katerina Voutsina of the London School of Economics.

How does an IT worker get to that moment of epiphany where they decide to quit their job and become an entrepreneur?

Mourmant and Voutsina interviewed entrepreneurs as to why they left their job with an “I’m done” and decided to become an entrepreneur. The goal was to try to understand what brought people to that specific moment. According to their findings, it all boils down to five different factors:

1.    Understanding the business game – You know the rules, you agree or disagree with them, and have the necessary skills to play the game.

2.    Risk reduction – Even if you don’t know all the facts, you’ve assessed the situation and your ability to mine your social network. There’s also a level of voluntary naivety that contributes to this lower perceived risk. Plus, having a well established network of business acquaintances also reduces this perception of risk.

3.    External Environmental Context – Opportunity awaits.

4.    Timing – The opportunity is now, and the window is closing.

5.    Long term reasons – More personal self realization. Choose to do this to increase your pleasure, home life, or to make more money.

The implications for IT managers is they should be aware of these warning signs and act early on if they want to retain top employees. As for potential entrepreneurs, if they know what the five factors for entrepreneurial epiphany are they can spur them on instead of waiting for things to happen.

Stock photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Gmourmant February 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

Hi Dave,

Thanks a lot for bringing all this together. It is always a pleasure to see research outside university.



David Spark February 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

You're welcome. Thought it was a really interesting study.

John Heinrich February 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Very interesting study, but it misses a few things:
1. When does the idea for a business occur? What's the role of the subconscious?
2. No mention of doing a market study to reduce risk by validating the idea.
Not surprisingly, we have a course on validating your idea (A02)
John Heinrich
Chief Mentor, American School of Entrepreneurship

Gmourmant February 15, 2011 at 3:22 am

Hi John,
Thanks for your interesting comments.
Of course, this presentation is a simplified version of my papers, so some parts are missing or lack explanations. Here are more precisions.
1. I think you are raising two interesting questions that would require additional researches and/or references to other areas such as opportunity recognition (at the very least) and psychology (although, I don't know what is the subconscious).

Regarding No 2 :
I see the entrepreneurial epiphany as the result of a specific event (e.g. a market study, but also a business discussion, a life-threatening event, an opportunity recognition, a promotion, etc) or the result of a gradual evolution of some dimensions (e.g. day after day, I hate more and more my job). So such market study may generate an IT Entrepreneurial Epiphany related to a better understanding of the business game and/or, as you mentioned a decrease of the perceived risk.
Interestingly enough, among all the IT employees we interviewed, none of them mentioned a market study. I can think of the following explanations (to complete with additional research) :
a/ the first and natural entrepreneurial step for IT employees is to start as an IT consultant, therefore, their product (i.e. their skills) may require less market study at the beginning. Later on during further development, they may then proceed to market study.
b/ Most of them already have a network of clients, because of their situation of IT employee (and not young students, for example). In that sense, they may feel that they already know their market and its needs. Very often, they decide based on their IT Ent. Epiphany related to the opportunity recognition.
c/ For IT people, marketing appears to be a sort of opposite skill, therefore, that would not be their first thought to do a market study (although, it could of course be a good idea).
d/ A market study costs some money and small business may choose to invest in other areas.
That said, the market study is of course an important step to consider when you launch your business!
I hope this will clarify my work and give you more thoughts ;-)
Take care.
Gaetan Mourmant

Cliff Bachman February 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Interesting read .. Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? How do you measure up?

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