When I started to study entrepreneurship a bit more critically some years ago I came up with a simple question that would take me to Haiti in 2007: Are there innovative entrepreneurs in places where stability is often put in jeopardy by political and socioeconomic adversities? How do they emerge and survive? This question annoyed me because I wanted to know if innovative people inventing new marketable services and products could exist in the worst slums of Brazil, South Africa, India or Morocco.
By visiting Haiti in the end of 2007, one of the 15 poorest countries in the world (this was before the disappointing earthquake of 2010), I could see that yes, despite of their incredible difficult situation, either politically, socially or economically, there were amazing people creating new forms of doing business that no one, even in a world top MBA could ever imagine. It was hard to find, but I found at least 5 cases in which entrepreneurs had to overcome all the adversities present in their market and developed an innovative business that could be probably replicated in any developed, developing and underdeveloped region of the world even today, in 2010. Olivier Barrau was one of those cases, creating an innovative Insurance Company that soon became one of the largest in the country.
This sort of finding take you back to one of the first economists to perceive the key role that entrepreneurs played in market-oriented societies: Joseph Schumpeter. Schumpeter is a classic reference in the academic literature on entrepreneurship. This gentleman perceived, still in the first half of the 20th century, that some specific people in societies had the ability to come up with innovative ways to produce and market products and services in such a manner that the capitalism itself evolved and kept existing due to his actions.
It is important to notice, however, that not everybody who starts a business can be considered an entrepreneur. I said that in a previous post and would like to reinforce this position. As the term gains legitimacy, most of the press around the world classify anybody who starts a business as an entrepreneur. This is not true even in the classic definition of the term because an entrepreneur HAS TO BE innovative by definition, either in a very poor country or in highly developed one. In my case, for example, I have taken part or started different businesses in my life but I do not consider myself an entrepreneur because none of the businesses I was involved were innovative neither tried to be. It does not matter, I believe, because most of the entrepreneurial ventures you come across in life were born from a non-innovative previous business experience. So, by exercising starting and running a traditional business you gain experience to start an innovative one someday or right after. But the issue of innovation has to be connected to entrepreneurship either in an emerging market or a developed one, in the past of in the future.