At last week’s Entrepreneurship 101 session, Tom Rand, senior advisor with the cleantech and physical sciences practice at MaRS and co-manager of the MaRS Cleantech Fund, moderated a panel with cleantech entrepreneurs Chris Reid (president and CEO of Energent), Robert Wong (president and chief operating officer of Agri-Neo) and Henry Chong (founder and CEO of Revelo Bikes).

The discussion centred around the challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurs launching a startup in the cleantech sector. Over the course of the session, several notable topics were addressed.

1. Embracing mistakes

Mistakes are learning opportunities and should be approached as such. Robert spoke about his hesitation to discuss setbacks with Agri-Neo’s board, until he came to see these discussions as a venue for feedback and advice. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to embrace failures and learn lessons from them.

2. Pivots

Tom said, “Pivots can be fought or embraced. They force entrepreneurs to challenge their beliefs.”

Chris had to broaden Energent’s market to include commercial and retail organizations. Agri-Neo was forced to re-evaluate how it ranked and prioritized opportunities. Henry expects that Revelo Bikes will soon face changes based on feedback from its recent Indiegogo campaign.

3. Passion

You need to be passionate about your work as an entrepreneur. Through this drive you’ll be able to stretch outside of your comfort zone and get cosy with learning from your mistakes, which is essential in building and developing your business.

4. First customers

Obtaining your first customer is a significant milestone and it is a process that often has to be approached differently than obtaining subsequent customers. Education is a vital component of that process and can include explanations of your technology’s benefits and your competitors’ performances, as well as emphasize long-term gains and clarify misconceptions. Securing sales from customers will help you to educate new ones.

5. Big corporations, friends or foes?

When corporations are your customers “the prize at the end can be huge.” However, if they are your competitors they “can be pretty threatening.” Perhaps more importantly, according to Chris, “they are an opportunity.”

To hear more about why these topics are so important, watch the full lecture video below.

Produced by MaRS Media.

Next lecture: Intellectual Property Management on November 20, 2013

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Jennifer Minelli

Jennifer manages the accelerating ventures program at MaRS, supporting high-growth ventures in the cleantech, health and information & communications technology (ICT) sectors.See more…