A Lesson in Entrepreneurship: Feat meets Dr. Steve Gedeon
Dr. Steve Gedeon joined the Food Innovation Summer School Mediterraneo for two days of seminars surrounding entrepreneurship and business skills. Currently an Associate Professor at the Entrepreneur Institute at Ryerson University in Canada, Dr. Gedeon came to the entrepreneurship world after various degrees and over ten years of work experience in the engineering world. Dr. Gedeon has experience in founding or leading over 15 private, public, venture capital and non-profit organizations. He has published over 100 articles, reports and patents and delivered public lectures on personal leadership, success and motivation around the globe. In the past two days of seminars, Dr. Gedeon used Feat as a case study for investor pitching and business modeling. I first heard Steve speak when I was immersed in the Food Innovation Program. At that point we had been focusing largely on innovation, design thinking and prototyping and Feat was still a concept, far from being a reality. At the same time I already had a pretty solid understanding of business management from my previous academic degrees, but hearing Steve talk about really opened my awareness to the fact that making and starting a business was much different from walking into an already existing company and managing. Hearing him speak about entrepreneurship in this way was eye-opening, and also came at the perfect time when I was thinking of taking Feat from prototype to product. It was great to see Steve again in the Mediterranean environment. His enthusiasm for what he does and the way he shares information is inspiring. It’s hard not to be motivated! When explaining entrepreneurship, Steve reminds us that, “Entrepreneurs do stuff. They figure out a way to make things happen. It’s not a business discipline. It’s something that human beings do. And it all starts with the needs.” From personal experience, this couldn’t be more true! Feat at first was simply my own way to understand a problem. I saw a need to bring together good food and physical activity. I saw that I personally I wanted a way to motivate more physical activity, and encourage overall well-being with healthy food. From my own needs, I was able to create a prototype that slowly evolved into what Feat is today. But Feat for me never started as a business, it started as a problem I wanted to solve. It was extremely helpful to be reminded that entrepreneurship and success are messy. We have all seen the graphic of what people think success looks like vs. what success really looks like. As Steve said in class, “The entrepreneurial mindset is about rapid prototyping. Iterate multiple times. Learn more with less. Test. Learn. Move on. Test. Learn. Move on.” I realize in my own path with Feat, each day is a test on what might work and what might not. So it’s up, down and all around. At first this type of chaos was intimidating, but I when I try something new, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve noticed that making mistakes is a sign of progress. It shows that as a young entrepreneur I’m moving forward and making steps with Feat. If I get stuck or discouraged, I remind myself of that messy road to success that Steve often alludes to and I know I am in the thick of it, which is better than not being on it! In class on Sunday, Steve devoted a portion to his lecture about pitches, specifically investor pitches. One of the things I have loved about creating Feat is that it has given me the opportunity to share my excitement for the project with others and talk about it in front of a lot of people. Of course, it was intimidating, but I’ve learned to feel more comfortable over time. This time, Steve asked me to give a quick investor pitch. I had no idea he would ask me to stand up and present in class! In front of me were 22 students from over ten countries, and I had to convince them to give me investment money for Feat. After I presented, all the students and Steve gave me feedback. It was amazing to be the center of attention and to get truly global feedback. I want Feat to be accessible and attractive to anyone, anywhere. It was inspiring to hear people from the UK chime in about what their users might need compared to what users in Colombia or the United States might need. From national health care plans to gaming techniques and emphasis on a strong good food network, there were so many ideas brought. Working with a new group of people always helps me find inspiration and motivation personally and for Feat. Steve often talks about the “magic” or the “special sauce” that makes your company different from the rest. Yes, Feat has many key elements that make it unique, important and special. But when he talks about the magic, I can’t help but stop and think of this journey in entrepreneurship as a whole. The magic is in the people. People like Steve who have given their time to Feat, the students at the Summer School who are so excited to be guinea pigs for Feat Summer School Challenge, and the insanely large network of supporters, contributors and fans that have helped bring me and Feat to where we are today! So hats off to the magic of entrepreneurship, and to Steve and the Summer School students for supporting the Feat evolution. This article was also published on Feat’s Medium page.