Special guest at Agile&Innovation People inspiration article series, Tal Catran is a leading voice on entrepreneurship, start-up ecosystem and innovation. The first time I met Tal he told me I was wrong. In just 5 minutes he managed to make me change the way I was designing my business plans. I can only recommend his "say the truth into the face" attitude to all entrepreneurs willing to reset the standard way of thinking and doing, and go "innovation way".
When we talked, he was just at the end of a busy normal day, after finishing 2 lectures and a huge 800 people conference in Lithuania and preparing for his flight to Baku.
Do you believe in innovation frameworks or in canvases (like business model canvas)? Are they the solution that can be applied to any entrepreneurial problem?
A canvas or an innovation framework have two main purposes for the entrepreneur: to put order in the way of thinking and to better understand its meaning, value or purpose. Canvases are helping then to arrange issues that the entrepreneur is facing. They talk in a way everyone understands and help the entrepreneur better understand the problem or identify the solution.
What do you think the role of a consultant or facilitator is, in this entrepreneurial setting?
No one thinks that everyone can do entrepreneurship alone. Even as a mentor, you have to be trained first. Can anyone read a book and become a doctor overnight? Our mission is to show that mentor-ship and business consulting needs a training and even a certification.
You know, in some countries, in Israel, real estate brokers need a license to sell property. Even if it seems like the easiest thing, like anybody can take a piece of land, show it to someone and sell it. But, by law, real estate brokers need to be licensed because it is considered that the most expensive thing a person can buy in his private life is buying a home.
So, by analogy, mentor-ship is not for everyone, it can harm and destroy a business, can even steal the soul of the entrepreneur if it isn't done right. It has to be done by someone professionally trained, hence the reason for having a professional trainer or consultant in your team.
Do you believe that Iasi and Romania's North East region are ready for entrepreneurship, for innovation? Are there other things to be solved first?
It doesn’t matter if it’s ready or not, although from what I have seen in Iasi, people are ready. I did some lectures there, and the startups went to me, so I talked to everybody around the room. It’s still an emerging ecosystem, with a lot of young people that still lack experience. But I found that people are inclined to listen.
What is important to say is that, although not everyone is meant to be a successful startup or high potential company, everyone should have the chance to try entrepreneurship. People need that chance. I said the same thing today in Lithuania. They are slightly more prepared than you, and their ecosystem is also waking up.
Everywhere in Europe people are building the ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship: there are pre-accelerators, hubs, co-working spaces, they are making the infrastructure ready. But infrastructure also means having access to mentors, training, people who know entrepreneurship.
You have talked to me about your project, that you have in front of your eyes when waking up- an academy of innovation and entrepreneurship with your name written on the wall. Part of getting ready is people having access to training. So you should go and train people, mentor them, train chief innovation officers, decision makers, government officials, politicians. Because everyone needs to be ready and prepared and properly trained as part of the working infrastructure of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Everyone should have the chance to be an entrepreneur, to take part in meetups, hackatons, have at least access to the library, or have any information available. That you are ready or not is not relevant.
Are you ever ready?
In Israel we are always ready. We are the country of entrepreneurship, so maybe we know a thing or two about it.
If you were to be a Lego mini-figure, how would you look like?
Can I have a cap like Superman’s?
Today, after the conference in Lithuania, an elderly man came to me, and said to me, "Mr Tal, thank you very much, I enjoyed your talk the most, because it seemed to me that you had two faces on stage: a professional man a stand up comedian". I managed to get that iceberg of people, 800 people, to warm up and respond to my lecture, with no presentation in Powerpoint. I invented it all on stage. And they said it was the best lecture of the day. Because I say things in the face, in a smiley and polite way, things that people are feeling in their heart and are not ready to admit. More direct and honest they are, the more they love you, and the more you are motivating them to fail and succeed.
So I'm one part Superman, and one part nice guy.
Thank you, Tal, for agreeing to be part of my inspirational project! Looking forward to have you here back in Iasi, as a mentor and, why not, partner in entrepreneurial education projects.