Starting a thesis is nothing like what I expected it to be. I had thought that the biggest challenges in gaining my Masters would be actually doing the research or the first year papers, I had no clue that getting my research off the ground in the very first phase would be something that forced me adapt and grow as much as it has, more than anything else I’ve encountered. Ironically, in attempt to get my thesis progressing I’ve been learning a great deal about the start-up phase of successful entrepreneurs, and have found the number of similarities between what I’m researching, new venture start-up, and the process I’m going through, the thesis “gestation” phase, surprising.
The “challenge” with my thesis is that I want to satisfy a research need which can be applied to helping entrepreneurs in successful new venture creation within a specific programme in Chile, yet while meeting the university requirements and achieving a high standard of academic excellence. I’ve had a failure to launch into actually doing my thesis, to get past the known academic milestone of the research proposal. I get one piece of the puzzle fixed, (maybe funding, but not a good gap, maybe the gap but not the right data set) and it doesn’t fit with the others. It’s been frustrating, like solving a Rubik Cube for the first time.
The amount of reading I’ve done on specialised entrepreneurship topics, writing potential proposals, examining research methods – only to discover that the given research is not feasible for the size of my thesis/the data set or doesn’t satisfy the criteria mention above, and then to start over again – are too many to count. I have moments where I feel like I’m one of those cyclists who peddle with their bikes on high gear: their legs are moving like crazy, but they are barely moving. On the flipside of this uncomfortableness of the phase, I have this realisation that this experience has been one of the most, sorry to be so cliché, but character building experiences. I’ve had to learn to change, to alter my approach, to learn new disciplines, and to overcome the feeling of failure. Quite honestly at times it has been a demeaning experience, and I have questioned myself at the very core, the process and even my goals. And yet at times I have this glimmer of hope and enough insight to push me on. It’s been interesting, because I see the entrepreneurs around me, or in the studies I have been examining, landing upon similar discoveries and going through a comparable psychological process in the start-up phase of their business. I now feel that I identify better with the entrepreneurs I study than ever before because of the process that I am going through.
There are so many start-up reflections from entrepreneurs that I have heard time and time again, that I can apply to the thesis context, just swap the words venture with research, product for proposal, for example:
- The first product you start with will not be the product you end up with. Fail your way to success.
The first proposal you start with will not be the research you end up with. It’s a constant refinement of the original idea.
- The first step is finding a gap in the market and how your product/service will fill that gap
The first step is finding a gap in the research and how your research will fill that gap
- Explore the “solution space” and discover where in your solution fits, often it will be using combinations of things all ready done.
Often the research will be fill a research gap by using combinations of studies already done.
- You have to toil in building a product before you actually have something to show people
You have to toil in building a research proposal before you actually have a thesis in progress to show people
- Focus on building a minimum viable product to get feedback from your users
Focus on building the academic framework for your research first, to get feedback from the academic community
- It’s a hard job to get it off the ground, it helps having a team of passionate and knowledgeable people around you.
It’s a hard job to get it off the ground, it helps having a passionate and knowledgeable people around you.
- Getting the product to launch in a timely manner requires a sacrifice of other things in life, putting in 12 hour days is the new normal
Getting the thesis underway in a timely manner requires a sacrifice of other things in life, putting in 12 hours in a day is the new normal
- The reality of managing time in a start-up and building a firm requires a lot effort in administrative aspects such as tax, team building, funding etc, and only 50% about the product you end up with.
Only a small percentage of the learning that is undertaken will get written into the final thesis.
- Building a firm doesn’t happen overnight. “Twitter was an overnight success that took 5 years” – Biz Stone
Doing a thesis doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process, write daily.
Like all these inspirational quotes you read that posit the importance of the journey, not simply the destination, it seems that most entrepreneurs look back at the process of getting their firm to “xyz” to be the significant thing, not the simple fact that they did indeed get it there in the end. To face the daily challenges of being an entrepreneur, to overcome barriers, and to independently navigate somewhere new and unknown is in itself a victory.
Like how the entrepreneurs I talk to fantasise in the short-term about getting their products to launch, I’m dreaming about the day that I get approval from academic supervisors encouraging me to progress with my proposal. Until then I’ll be toiling away on my product, and by product I mean proposal, with a little bit more of an entrepreneurial spirit than before.