The world is hungry for innovation. Existing systems and “ways in which things are done” have become stale, are inefficient, or non-inclusive of those who need the service. In short, they need fixing. Healthcare, the environment, housing, accessibility and many other areas of our lives would benefit from new ways to solve an old problem.
Enter the engineer. Driven by an urge to “build a better mousetrap,” engineers should, and often do, see problems everywhere. They don’t take existing systems for granted. Instead, they see opportunities for improvement. Engineers, by definition, are entrepreneurs. They are accustomed to operating in the unknown. As an engineer who doubles as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that these two roles have similarities that make their pairing advantageous.
Framing the problem
For engineers to venture into entrepreneurism, the first and most crucial step is to find a problem that: (1) is worth solving, (2) is economical, (3) is interesting, and (4) is marketable. Successful companies solve a simple problem but execute the solution methodically. Engineers should ensure there is a clear problem statement for a project. The steps mentioned above rule out problems that may seem exciting but might not be worth solving for finance, engineering, or other practical reasons.
Engineering parallels entrepreneurship
Risk is the biggest downside to becoming an entrepreneur. However, risk is everywhere, and although risk is greater for a small business or a self-contributor, the need to innovate is a standard requirement in any job, and innovation involves risk. With any new business comes the challenge of learning the ropes and creating partnerships, but engineers are trained to tackle a challenge. The lifestyle for both engineers and entrepreneurs is one of constant learning. Business savviness comes with practice and with the right partnerships. Today, technology cannot exist in a vacuum or self-market itself. It takes a balance between innovative technology and good business acumen to build a successful company and product.
Most importantly, an engineer should stick to their guns. Do not assume that because it hasn’t been done, it shouldn’t be done. Never assume you can’t do it, and of course, never stop innovating.