What makes an Entrepreneur: 14 Behavioural Competencies

What makes an Entrepreneur: 14 Behavioural Competencies

From the time the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was established in 2005, our aim has been simple: to nurture high impact, responsible entrepreneurs. However, it’s one thing to implement a programme with a clear objective, and quite another to prove – scientifically and empirically – that the programme is achieving its intended goals.

That’s why the Foundation embarked on a formal validation study in 2017. By this time, the success profile methodology used to select participants for our programme had been in place for five years. We wanted to be sure, beyond doubt, that our tools were optimally accurate and effective in terms of assessing candidates. We also wanted to determine whether our selection and development framework was the right one. Could we be certain that the competencies we selected for were, indeed, indicators of academic performance and entrepreneurial potential?

Our validation study was informed and underscored by our understanding that, when establishing a business, success is largely determined by three critical elements: the Person (their skills, competencies, mindset and values) the Context (political and socio-economic) and the Process (the steps taken to start the business). The Foundation’s work is unique in that we select young people at pre-ideation stage; in other words, we select for individual entrepreneurial potential, rather than the business idea. This means that an individual’s mindset and competencies are of paramount importance, because they are indicative of the ability to develop into a responsible, high impact entrepreneur.


Our journey to greater effectiveness began with testing all the selection tools employed in our Scholarship and Fellowship programmes. We followed this with a qualitative review of our success profile framework and methodology.

Our initial findings revealed three critical insights. For a start, we learned that there was limited insight into our theory and rationale. For instance, we might select for resilience, but the theoretical link to this construct was weak. In fact, if you asked two different people to link resilience to high impact entrepreneurship, you’d receive two different responses.

Our second finding related to the lack of outcomes domains. We hadn’t provided an unambiguous definition of our outcomes, which meant that even though we were doing great work around entrepreneurial development, the impact of our initiatives couldn’t be measured in terms of predictive validity towards entrepreneurial performance and/or development. We therefore had to formalise the links between outcomes and constructs.

Finally, we found that the success profile competency framework lacked discriminant validity between our various constructs, and, in many cases, they overlapped.

The reasons for these areas of improvement were manifold; the relativeness newness and complexity of the field of entrepreneurialism being one of the most significant. There is, consequently, limited research available on the topic, especially pertaining to what makes an entrepreneur. This is particularly true of the age group targeted by the Foundation. Thus, our selection process was the most rigorous in place when it was first formulated, in spite of its shortcomings. Nonetheless, as a learning organisation, we were eager to address these and enhance the process wherever possible – as we will continue to do in the future.

Our quest for improvement meant that we had to return to the beginning, to take a fresh look at our theoretical and empirical roots and, in so doing, establish more clearly defined entrepreneurial competencies with a South African-centric focus.


The first phase of the project centred around generating a literature review and developing our entrepreneurial research survey. Using desktop research, we conducted an empirical analysis of both local and global data to identify 17 models of high impact entrepreneur-ship.

Next, we hosted a workshop with our reference group – which comprised external experts, internal stakeholders, and established entrepreneurs – to extract key competencies from these models.

We had now identified 19 key competencies, all of which had been shown to lead to entre-preneurial action. More than this, we also gleaned an understanding of where to pitch our entrepreneurial outcomes: where previously we had concentrated on CEO or conductor levels, we realised the need to establish a greater degree of involvement, earlier on in the entrepreneur’s journey. We therefore shifted our emphasis to start-up entrepreneurs, whose abilities may then be nurtured, allowing them to follow different paths.

We concluded this phase with a literature review, drafted by the University of Pretoria, which created conceptual and operational definitions of each competency and assessed the developability of each construct, also noting whether each could be measured. We now had a conceptual and operational definition for each construct, and a clear path on how to take each forward.

This led us to the second phase of the project: finalising our research survey on the 19 competencies. This included a survey on entrepreneurial action, so that we were better equipped to measure such action.

The entrepreneurial action scale (McMullen and Shepherd, 2006) consists of 17 items to measure the business start-up activities on a five-point Likert-type scale where respondents were asked to what extent they have engaged in the listed activities toward venture creation in the last three years, ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always) (see Table 1). Entrepreneurial action was split into three constructs using the Exploratory Factor Analysis. The entrepreneurial outcomes for each entrepreneurial action phase are listed below.




we piloted the study among Allan Gray Fellows, then incorporated their feedback and refined our questionnaires before distributing them among our sample of 1°200 start-up and established entrepreneurs-noteworthy for being the third largest entrepreneur sample in South Africa. The hybrid nature of the sample is noteworthy, too, as accessing start-up entrepreneurs is difficult. We were aided in the data collec-tion process by a company that enjoys relationships with a number of entrepre-neurial agencies and institutions.

Once we had collected the data, it was time for analysis, a phase that took place between December 2018 and February 2019. One of our aims here was to refine the 19 competencies identified during the previous phase, narrowing them down to those which had been shown to be most closely aligned to entrepreneurial action.

We were now set up for Phase Three: moving data analysis from our respondents, using a structural equation modelling process. We also undertook statistical analysis to examine the strength of each construct compared to the entrepreneurial action outcomes, allowing us to target the constructs with the most significant relationships to entrepreneurial action.

The ultimate result? A scientific, empirical model that shows a good fit between 13 constructs. Further, the reference group who assisted throughout the research project, believed that as a precursor to opportunity assessment is opportunity recognition, which did not fall into the 13-competency model and subsequently decided to add Opportunity recognition as a competency.

This is important, because we now know beyond any doubt that if we select for certain constructs, and develop them, entrepreneurial action of some sort is guaranteed. Empirically tested and proven, these constructs now form the basis of the Foundation’s selection and development initiatives of its candidates and beneficiaries. Consequently, our already carefully formulated selection process has been enhanced by our increased knowledge of entrepreneurship, which has allowed for our more scientific approach.

Our scrutiny of all constructs and their relationship with entrepreneurial action was significant in another way, too: it confirmed findings from a previous study we conducted in partnership with the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI), where we had attempted to establish a growth mindset model. During this study, five competencies had emerged as key: a growth mindset, self-efficacy, locus of control, resilience and attribution theory. Interestingly, four of these (resilience, locus of control, growth mindset and self-efficacy) were once more revealed as statistically significant, reaffirming the model developed in collaboration with ELI and ensuring that we have now validated, and empirically tested, the constructs leading to entrepre-neurial action.


Having defined scientifically and empirically tested competencies required for successful entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial action at a startup level, we’re now poised to apply our research at high school and university level. This will enable us to develop candidates at these levels with optimal efficiency, so that they are able to kickstart their entrepreneurial careers as soon as they graduate from our programmes or best case, during.

Our way forward lies in using the research and customising the competencies to enhance the selection processes for our Scholarship and Fellowship programmes, and to ensure that we are developing each competency, for each individual, optimally.


Our final task lay in aligning our new entrepreneurial competency and mindset framework throughout the Foundation’s pipeline – and, moreover, ensuring that the results are available to our ecosystem partners.

This is, perhaps, one of the most important steps in the process, because the ramifications of our competency review are tremendous. Obviously, the outcomes hold clear advantages for the Foundation itself, enabling us to select candidates with far greater efficiency. What’s more, because we have established which competencies are trait-based and which are developable, we are able to nurture our candidates at different levels – and, if a certain competency is not greatly developed, candidates can learn which they can strengthen in order to become a more well-rounded entrepreneur. This insight is particularly heartening when it comes to the mindset constructs, as each of these can be developed. This gives credence to our belief that entrepreneurship is not an innate quality but can, in fact, be taught.

This study could help the entrepreneurship community understand why entrepreneurial intention does not always translate into action, because we know which specific mindsets and competencies are predictors of entrepreneurial action. These competencies can be measured using validated tools in various programmes for baseline data, which can then be used to tailor or customise development programmes for future entrepreneurs.

Moreover, helping entrepreneurs become aware of their entrepreneurial potential can allow them to enter the space with greater confidence, as the findings emphasise the role of personal development and self-mastery.

The implications for organisations and business owners are interesting, too, especially in terms of team recruitment, allowing companies to identify the complementary traits required to build an entrepreneurial, cohesive and effective team. These measures could also assist in profiling various types of entrepreneurs going forward.

Finally, entrepreneurship accelerators and incubators stand to benefit from our findings by applying the knowledge of which competencies to use when selecting participants. This affords accelerators greater clarity in terms of the traits they are looking for, as well as the traits that need to be developed.


Our research showed the following competencies to be crucial:


The ability to evaluate an opportunity and make a decision around it.

Conceptual definition:
The process of evaluating an idea, concept, or opportunity to determine whether there is sufficient strategic, market, and financial merit for continued consideration and possible development into a product. (Moris, et al. 2013)

Operational definition:
The ability of the entrepreneur to evaluate the opportunity before them and to make a decision regarding the opportunity. Testing a gut feeling of good versus not-so-good opportunities. (Baron, 2006; Haynie, Shepherd & McMullen, 2009)

Link to entrepreneurship:
Opportunity assessment increases the probability of entrepreneurial success, as the opportunity is analysed to ensure the performance of an identified opportunity. This can be developed by encouraging entrepreneurs to meet with the customer, review internal resources, develop a strategy, conduct a risk assessment and plan (OBrochta, 2001).

The developability:
Measuring elements in the window of opportunity and the viability of an opportunity can increase a person’s chances of becoming an entrepreneur. This is done by the opportunity assessment process that evaluates the viability and of profitability of the window of opportunity, an assessment of the opportunity over time and its long term viability (Lévesque & Maillart, 2008).

Can it be measured?
Yes. We used a scale developed by Moris et al. (2013) and obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.94.


The ability to identify problems, redefine them and create opportunities out of them.

Conceptual definition:
Creative problem solving is a skill that is based on the accumulation of effort, imagination, knowledge and evaluation of the problem (Turker & Sonmez Selçuk, 2009) (McMullen & Kier, 2017:2).

Operational definition:
Creative problem solving is described as the ability to identify problems, redefine the problems and create opportunities out of the problems by developing new and innovative solutions to problems (McMullen & Kier, 2017:2), (Morris et al., 2013:357).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Creative problem solving (CPS) builds entrepreneurial mindset. CPS is defined as seeking original ways to reach goals when the means to do so are not readily apparent. Entrepreneurship involves recognising a business opportunity, mobilising resources and persisting to exploit that opportunity. Esomonu (1998) defined entrepreneurship as the effective manipulation of human intelligence as demonstrated in a creative performance. This singular risk-taking act leads an individual to create something of value from practically nothing.

The developability:
Creativity and CPS can be developed by stimulating creative thinking and the ability to tap into one’s inventive side. This can be measured by determining how creative one is, how inventive, how often one comes up with novel ideas and the ability to identify opportunities (Hmieleski & Corbett, 2006).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Creative problem solving (creativity) scales have been developed and tested by (Kristiansen & Indarti, 2004), and obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.85.


The ability to be creative and turn ideas into reality.

Conceptual definition:
Innovation can be described as the development of a new idea, method or device (Dahlander & Jeppesen, 2014).

Operational definition:
The ability to turn imaginative and creative ideas into reality (Jain, 2011:130-139), Boyles (2012)

Link to entrepreneurship:
Innovation is the mechanism by which organisations produce the new products, processes and systems required for adapting to changing markets, technologies and modes of competition. Innovation represents today’s competitive advantage, supported by strong mainstream capabilities in quality, efficiency, speed and flexibility. Innovation can help firms play a dominant role in shaping the future of their industries. High performing innovators are able to maintain a giant juggling act of capabilities, and consistently bring new high-quality products to the market faster, more frequently and at a lower cost than competitors. Moreover, these firms use process and systems innovation as a way of further improving their products and adding value to customers. This combination creates a dynamic and sustainable strategic position, making the organisation a constantly moving target to competitors (Lawson & Samson, 2001).

The developability:
Innovation capability is proposed as a higher-order integration capability; that is, the ability to mould and manage multiple capabilities.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Innovation scales developed and tested by (Lukas & Ferrell, 2000; Mitchelmore & Rowley, 2010), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.78. Innovation scales developed and tested by (Higgins, 1995), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.70.


The ability to work through challenges.

Conceptual definition:
Resilience can be described as an entrepreneurs’ ability to face challenges and still persist (Ayala & Manzano, 2014:128).

Operational definition:
Resilience is measured through the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten system function, viability, or development (Fisher, Maritz & Lobo, 2016:40).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Resilience, according to Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004:4), is an entrepreneur’s ability to continue living a resolute life, no matter the adversity or difficulties that are faced.

The developability:
Operational flexibility enables resilience through allowing the organisation to respond quickly and effectively to disruptions (Sheffi 2007). As such, the organisational capabilities offer the potential for adjustment under conditions of uncertainty and encompass the notion of innovation within organisational systems.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Resilience scales developed and tested by (Sinclair & Wallston, 2004) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.69


The belief that, as an individual, you have control over your outcomes.The belief that, as an individual, you have control over your outcomes.

Conceptual definition:
Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control (Lefcourt, 1991).

Operational definition:
To measure whether a person enjoys being in control of every aspect of their business (Spector, 1988).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurs tend to have a strong internal locus of control. Locus of control is a concept defining whether a person believes he/she is in control of his/her future, or someone else is in control of it. For example, we all know people who believe they have no control over their lives. They believe that what happens to them is dictated by outside forces.  People who feel they are victims of outside forces have an external locus of control – “it’s not my fault this happened to me.” By contrast, entrepreneurs have a very strong internal locus of control. They believe their future is determined by the choices they make (Hansemark, 1998)

The developability:
Rotter (1966) made a significant contribution to this tradition with the development of a “locus of control” construct. According to Rotter, an individual perceives the outcome of an event as being either within or beyond his or her personal control and understanding. In individualistic cultures we found an increased likelihood of an internal locus of control orientation. There was also support for the hypothesis that an entrepreneurial orientation, defined as internal locus of control combined with innovativeness, is more likely in individualistic, low uncertainty avoidance cultures than in collectivistic, high uncertainty avoidance cultures (Mueller & Thomas, 2001).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Locus of control scales developed and tested by (Spector, 1988) obtained a Cronbach alpha of a range from 0.91 to 0.94.


A drive to find out information without being prompted.

Conceptual definition:
Curiosity is the catalyst ingredient, which leads entrepreneurs to pry into status quo products and services to find new solutions to better solve customers’ problems. A sense of curiosity means you look at even the smallest problems and seek a better solution (Steyaert, Hjorth & Gartner, 2011).

Operational definition:
Curiosity arises when an entrepreneur is bored or interested in gaining additional information that is specifically linked to entrepreneurship. It is measured when a person is no longer comforted by the novel stimulus surrounding them and wants to find new opportunities or information necessary in business (Fletcher, 2011).

Link to entrepreneurship:
There is a link between entrepreneurial curiosity and entrepreneurship results in learning tasks related to entrepreneurship and the ability to incorporate new experiences to improve or develop a business.  Curiosity can further be described as finding answers which enable a person to improve decision making. An entrepreneur who has a high level of curiosity will be interested in understanding how the economy works, how to improve results and how business works (Fletcher, 2011).

The developability:
Curiosity is made up of perceptual curiosity (intellectual information), epistemic curiosity (experience) and operationalised international curiosity (new information of people). Entrepreneurial curiosity is the desire that drives the individual to learn how to perform specific tasks which are directly related to entrepreneurship, such as how to conduct market research, the development of new ideas, financial analysis, how to achieve and set goals and the use of marketing.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Curiosity scale developed and tested by (Fletcher, 2011) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.94.


The extent to which an individual is committed to their personal or organisational values.

Conceptual definition:
This is a type of leadership that puts values into practice, where they act as guiding principles with regards to business and personal lives (Mussig, 2003).

Operational definition:
Examines the extent to which a person has values and how committed they are to follow those values (De Bruin & Buchner, 2010).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Generally, there is agreement that a vision is a pattern for a future; having elements of time and scope, it is values driven, has a purpose, and often evokes a mental image or picture that can be communicated (Bird & Brush, 2003). People with protean career attitudes are values-driven as they shape their careers according to their own internal values and beliefs (Uy, Chan, Sam, Ho & Chernyshenko, 2015). Entrepreneurship is the driving force in economic development throughout the world. Yet, some have argued that entrepreneurship is fundamentally a values-driven activity (Berger 1991; Lipset 2000).  Kilby (1993) notes that values are instrumental in advancing a constructive understanding of human behaviour and consequent change. Thus, it would seem that personal values should have important implications not only for the decision to pursue entrepreneurship, but the way in which the entrepreneur approaches a venture. Values reflect the entrepreneur’s conscious view of himself or herself (Feather 1990). In addition to this, the view (or belief) that one has about himself or herself directly shapes movement toward action, or one’s motives (McClelland 1961).

The developability:
What values will drive the company? And what will your role be in this organisation? The vision of your venture should be a short statement that can be easily communicated, or presented in an image (Brush, 2008). The values that the Foundation drives, can be developed.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Value driven scales developed and tested by (De Bruin & Buchner, 2010) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.654.


The extent to which a person is willing to take action to solve a problem without being prompted.

Conceptual definition:
Action orientated is when a person is willing or likely to take practical action to deal with a problem or situation (Low, 2001).

Operational definition:
Measures the extent to which a person is willing to pursue development and hopefully a business (Frese, Kring, Soose & Zempel, 1996).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Action orientation or personal initiative is a proactive, self-starting, and persistent long-term orientation that attempts to shape environmental conditions (Frese, Kring, Soose, & Zempel, 1996); extending proactiveness to personal initiative which, over and above proactiveness, entails approaching business issues in a persistent and self-starting manner which forms the basis of entrepreneurship (Krauss, Frese, Friedrich & Unger, 2005)

The developability:
Action orientation can be measured by enquiring about attitudes and values concerning change and initiative, as well as about entrepreneurial intentions (Johannisson, Landstrom & Rosenberg, 1998).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Action orientation scales developed and tested by (Frese et al., 1996) obtained a Cronbach alpha between 0.67 and 0.87


The ability to identify, manage and take risks to improve the ultimate chance of success.

Conceptual definition:
Risk management/mitigation involves the systematic monitoring, assessing, hedging, transferring, and/or exploiting of multifaceted risks encountered as an innovation initiative unfolds (Baum et al., 1998)  (Pillay & Morris, 2016), (Thekdi & Aven, 2016:278)

Operational definition:
The successful identification and management of risks leading to a reduction in potential losses but still enabling the small business to pursue opportunities (Brustbauer, 2016:70; Murmann & Sardana, 2013:192).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Risk taking propensity makes it easier for the firm and the entrepreneur to adapt to environmental changes, consumer preferences, technological developments and competitor moves (Kellermanns, Eddleston, Barnett & Pearson, 2008:5). Risk taking management (Miller & Friesen, 1978:926; Park, Min & Min, 2016:122).

The developability:
Calculated risk taking involves a successful identification, coordinated valuation and prioritisation of risks in order to reduce, monitor and control the likelihood of an unforeseen event (Vonortas & Kim, 2015:122).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Calculated risk-taking scales developed and tested by (Morris et al., 2013) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.826.


The ability to evaluate the potential to create new value for a client or organisation.

Conceptual definition:
Value creation is an integral part of the business model, as it is the process of pursuing new markets, new revenue streams and new business opportunities, while determining how the business products or services will create sufficient value for the customers (Bocken, Short, Rana & Evans, 2014:43; Teece, 2010:172).

Operational definition:
Evaluates the extent to which new value can be created by the entrepreneur in his business, products or services (Dyer et al., 2008).

Link to entrepreneurship:
At a societal level, the process of value creation can be conceived in terms of programmes and incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation intended to encourage existing organisations and new entrepreneurial ventures to innovate and expand (Lepak, Smith & Taylor, 2007).

The developability:
Business begins with value creation. It is the purpose of the institution: to create and deliver value in a way that is sufficiently efficient to ensure it generates profit after cost.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Value creation scales developed and tested by (Dyer et al., 2008), obtained a Crobach alpha between 0.74 and 0.78.


The ability to evaluate the potential to create new value for a client or organisation.

Conceptual definition:
The belief that intelligence is not fixed but can be developed is a comparably strong predictor of achievement, and exhibits a positive relationship with achievement (Dweck,2015)

Operational definition:
The growth of business activities is evident if entrepreneurs consider this a priority in their businesses (Gundry and Welsch, 2001).

Link to entrepreneurship:
The literature existing on entrepreneurship implicitly assumes that entrepreneurial orientation (EO) and growth orientation are positively related with each other.

The developability:
Some research has identified factors that enhance or reduce the willingness of the entrepreneur to grow the business. Factors include the strategic origin of the business (i.e., the methods and paths through which the firm was founded); previous experience of the founder/owner; and the ability of the entrepreneur to set realistic, measurable goals and to manage conflict effectively (Gundry and Welsch, 2001).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Growth mindset scales developed and tested by Dweck (2015) and Gundry and Welsch (2001), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.86.


The ability to lead a group of people towards the attainment of a specific goal.

Conceptual definition:
The action of leading a group of people or an organisation (Yıldız et al., 2014).

Operational definition:
Leadership involves establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realise that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stake-holders. A leader steps up in times of crisis and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations (Daft, 1999).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is a special case of leadership (social leadership) and is distinguished from other forms of leadership because in this instance, the leader is one who created a company rather than manages an existing one. The underlying premise in entrepreneur-ship research is that it is the entrepreneur (that is, the leader) who makes the difference in new venture success, often through risk-taking propensity. (Cogliser & Brigham, 2004).

The developability:
No one is a born leader but everyone can develop leadership skills, and everyone can benefit from using them. The following steps may help to develop leadership:

  1. Communicate effectively.
  2. Keep everyone working toward agreed upon goals: ·
  3. Get to know the people around you
  4. Treat others as individuals
  5. Accept responsibility for getting things done
  6. Problem solves in a step-by-step way

Can it be measured?
Yes. Leadership scales developed and tested by (Rush, Thomas & Lord, 1977) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.74


An individual’s belief in her own ability to solve problems and achieve goals.

Conceptual definition:
Self-efficacy is a motivational construct that has been shown to influence an individual’s choice of activities, goal levels, persistence, and performance in a range of contexts (Zhao, Seibert & Hills, 2005).

Operational definition:
Self-efficacy appears to be similar to self-esteem, expectancy, locus of control, and attribution concepts of personality and motivation; however, self-efficacy beliefs emphasise an assessment capability (can I do this?) as opposed to a concern with outcome expectations (if I do this, what will happen?) (Urban, 2006).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in his or her innate ability to achieve goals. Self-efficacy is a construct first devised by Bandura (1977) in the psychological field, and is understood as the strength of people’s convictions of their own effectiveness in executing the behaviour required to achieve certain outcomes. People with a high level of self-efficacy tend to set challenging goals, persist even in the face of failure and approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than issues to be avoided (Botha & Bignotti, 2016). Entrepreneurs are known for having high levels of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy also has a very strong relationship with entrepreneurial intention (Thompson, 2009).

The developability:
Self-efficacy is a motivational construct that has been shown to influence an individual’s choice of activities, goal levels, persistence, and performance in a range of contexts.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Self-efficacy scales developed and tested by (Spector, 1988) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.91


The ability to understand information and identify the potential of something to be of value.

Conceptual definition:
The capacity to perceive changed or overlooked possibilities in the environment that represent potential sources of profit or return to a venture (Morris, et al. 2013).

Operational definition:
This is based on the development of patterns that recognise the link between an identification of a business opportunity, measuring the ability to discern information and whether a person can identify the potential of something to be of value (Baron, 2006).

Link to entrepreneurship:
In earlier studies, opportunity recognition or identification was referred to as entrepreneurial intention. For example, Shaver and Scott (1991) state that entrepreneurs have the type of motivation to make the entrepreneurial process result in opportunity realisation, which is known as entrepreneurial intention or intent. Likewise, Krueger et al. (2000) found that the opportunity identification process is an intentional process and therefore also offers a means to better explain and predict entrepreneurship. The role of the entrepreneur in opportunity search and identification is controversial, because intention models posit that entrepreneurs intend to be entrepreneurs before they locate opportunities (Krueger 1993). In later studies, it is proposed that individuals with a stronger desire to be an entrepreneur will have the ability and competency to identify opportunities (Volery, Müller, Oser, Naepflin & Rey, 2013). Krueger (1993) associated self-efficacy with opportunity recognition, and Short, Ketchen, Shook, and Ireland (2010) later proved that self-efficacy is directly related to entrepreneurship, thus deducing that opportunity recognition and entrepreneurship have a bidirectional relationship.

The developability:
SThe pattern recognition of opportunity recognition is used as it integrates three factors into a basic framework that is comprised of assessing a person’s alertness to opportunities, prior knowledge of the industry and actively looking for opportunities. Pattern recognition helps explain why one person is able to identify certain opportunities and while others do not. Pattern recognition suggests specific ways in which an entrepreneur can be trained to identify opportunities (Baron, 2006).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Opportunity recognition scale developed and tested by Morris et al. (2013) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.71 and 0.90.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows dominate award categories at the USAF Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows dominate award categories at the USAF Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final


The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation enjoyed a strong presence at the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), a division of Universities South Africa (USAf), Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Finals, with Candidate Fellows scooping awards in each of the competition’s four categories.

The Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final took place on the 19th September. The initiative represents a collaboration between the Department of Higher Education and Training and Universities of South Africa through the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education Programme, and is supported by The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation , the SAB Foundation and Seda. The inaugural event aimed to identify, recognise and support entrepreneurship at student level, thereby encouraging studentpreneurs to take the next step towards entrepreneurial success. Each of South Africa’s 26 public universities took part in the challenge, with 1 155 valid entries received.

Candidate Fellow Mvelo Hlope of the University of Cape Town was named Studentpreneur of the Year, winning R50 000. Hlope also won the award for Best Existing Social Impact Business. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Candidate Fellows further dominated the Innovative Business Idea category, which was won by Penang Shirindza of Rhodes University, while Denislav Marinov, also from UCT, was named winner of the Existing Tech Business award. Musa Maluleka from Wits University won the Existing General Business category. Each of these category winners took home R10 000 in prize money.

“We are extremely proud of our winners,” says Nontando Mthethwa, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Head of Public Affairs and Communication. “Obviously, winning these awards is a significant achievement in its own right, and an acknowledgement of the excellence that we believe is characteristic of our Candidate Fellows. From the Foundation’s point of view, the Candidate Fellows’ outstanding performance is an endorsement of our programme and proves the effectiveness and efficacy of our approach.”

Hlope’s win reflects the innovativeness of his gamified online platform ZAIO, which enhances problem solving skills and improves users’ employability by providing free access to training in software development and coding. This business idea speaks directly to AGOF’s goal of developing high impact entrepreneurs who have the potential to address social challenges while contributing to employment and job creation. Shirindza’s company is a digital advertising company called Urban Play, while Marinov’s DVM Designs produces 3D printing machines for use in industry. Maluleka won for his design of Disktjie, a soccer boot boasting innovative features, purpose built for the South African environment.

“It is an enormous privilege to be able to contribute to the development of South Africa’s economy by fostering tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. We are greatly encouraged by the success of the participants in the EDHE Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Finals, and look forward to seeing how our winning Candidate Fellows continue to shape the business space going forward. We’re also looking forward to playing a role in nurturing more winners. Watch this space!” Nontando Mthethwa concludes.

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Entrepreneurs are always going to face challenges. That much is a given. But what about entrepreneurship itself? Are we, the stakeholders who are trying to create fertile ground for individuals who choose this route, destinated to have a similar struggle?

The answer to this question is critical, because it reveals much about the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. And, at present, it’s an answer that gives cause for concern.

Never in South Africa has there been such a crying need for entrepreneurs who not only succeed, but who have the ability to positively impact and transform their community. However, at the same time, it’s clear that these people are not receiving the support that would allow this to become a reality.

This was highlighted during the State of the Nation Address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa during February. Although Mr Ramaphosa admittedly had a number of challenges that required urgent attention, the omission of entrepreneurship as a national priority was a glaring one. Unfortunately, this concept remains a “by the way” – and, as long as this is the case, our entrepreneurs will continue to struggle.

This is evidenced by the rate of growth in South Africa. Quite simply, the outcomes of entrepreneurship do not keep pace with the inputs.

Compare our playing field with that of other African countries, for example. By all accounts, we are to be envied: it appears as though our efforts and successes in the area of entrepreneurship exceed that of our peers in many instances. However – and this is the crux – our entrepreneurs seem doomed to fail. Yes, we record an impressive number of start-ups, but few of these translate into sustainable jobs. In fact, only 15% of our start-ups go the distance.

This means that entrepreneurship in South Africa is failing in one of the key areas where it is intended (and where it is sorely needed) to have the most impact: job creation.

One of the reasons for this failure is the lack of alignment between skills and ideas. Our entrepreneurs may have outstanding insights that allow them to identify niches with potential to become lucrative businesses, but they don’t have the skills to take the business from point A to Point Z.

At first glance, it may appear that the existence of such a gap is absurd, given the significant array of resources that have been established precisely to provide entrepreneurial support in South Africa. However, the resulting ecosystem is fragmented: yes, there is a wealth of information and infrastructure out there, but none of it addresses the entire spectrum of entrepreneurial support, from end to end.

Moreover, many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of where they are in their journey. Which source do they consult, if they don’t know where they are in their entrepreneurial career trajectory, and what this means in terms of their support requirements and potential company growth? These are not questions that can be answered with a quick reference to company profitability, business valuation and market size, because the entrepreneur’s experience is typically a dynamic one characterised by change, adaptation and iteration – all of which create complications when it comes to accurately predicting company growth. In an ideal world, an individual with entrepreneurial potential would have clear guidelines regarding the support sources available, and which would be the most appropriate and best placed to provide advice and skills based on their current and future developmental phases. But this is certainly not the case at present.

Government’s current focus on FET-related skills poses is a further obstacle. While this is, indeed, a progression from the notion that a professional career is the only (or, at least, the best) option for every individual, regardless of their aptitude, progress in putting in place a future-ready curricula that boosts critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence in addition to fast-tracking the attainment of digital and STEM skills that will enable the workforce of the future to participate in the digital economy – has been stagnant. After all, the digital economy is where the greatest opportunities for today’s entrepreneurs reside, and it is therefore crucial to ensure that they have the requisite skills to take advantage. Our present model does not allow for this, however.

Currently, we don’t have a clear picture of knowledge and skills acquisition as they relate to employment, and how these can be best harnessed to drive rapid innovation and optimise industrial growth. Consequently, the majority of skills development initiatives in place in South Africa are geared towards bolstering existing, established industries and trades – but, since a future shaped by Artificial Intelligence holds very little certainty for any industry, we have to acknowledge the need to take risks on unknown quantities. One way of doing this, is seeking out industries that have the potential to enable, derail or disrupt existing sectors. Difficult though this is – it is, after all, almost impossible to imagine a world that currently exists only in terms of “what ifs” – tools like systems-thinking and design thinking may help us identify the gaps and opportunities offering the greatest potential for entrepreneurial action.

Education is failing our entrepreneurs in other areas, too. We cannot ignore the coming impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on our world; nor can we close our eyes to the fact that the industries which will prove most productive in the years to come probably don’t exist at present.

The skills required to gain mastery over these industries are, naturally, very different from those which served previous generations. But, then again, the people who will work in these industries have shown themselves to be very different, too. Just as workplaces were initially challenged to accommodate the personalities and tendencies of millennials – the pioneers of the ‘slashie’ or gigging generation, for whom it is commonplace to invest time and energy in a number of different jobs rather than pledging loyalty to an organisation – it’s likely that further adjustments will need to be made if we are to optimally harness the strengths of Generation Z.

On the one hand, and working in our favour, is the intrinsic entrepreneurial flair that seems to come naturally to many of this generation. However, they are also hampered by short attention spans. They are, moreover, more global in their thinking, and more individualistic, than any generation before them.

If we are to help them on their path to successful entrepreneurship, we need to take these differences into account and, perhaps most importantly, end our view of entrepreneurs as one-dimensional people.

At a more pragmatic level, entrepreneurial training in the future will need to go beyond focusing on the basic skills that are essential for starting a business. We will also need to tap into the values and motivations of individual entrepreneurs, while helping them leverage their social networks; perhaps one of the most important tools they’ll have at their disposal.

In other words, we need to steer clear of a blanket approach to teaching, and strive instead for methods that resonate on a more individual level. More than anything, we need to get young entrepreneurs thinking: not about the ventures that are most likely to succeed in financial terms, but which are most likely to solve the challenges currently facing our communities and societies.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship programme has been carefully designed to address as many of these challenges as possible. Our chief differentiator, distinguishing us from other initiatives aiming to support entrepreneurs, regards the individuals selected to take part. Rather than honing in on people who have already established startups and require resources to ensure sustainability or take them to the next developmental phase, we target individuals who have displayed entrepreneurial flair, or who have the propensity to become an entrepreneur. We consider the metamorphosis – from potential entrepreneur to actual entrepreneur and, ultimately, entrepreneurial career – to be one of our greatest successes, because it means that people who otherwise would have followed traditional career paths (and thereby entrenched the current status quo) are instead given a chance to realise their full entrepreneurial potential.

That said, the Fellowship programme is neither prescriptive nor restrictive. It recognises that the most fulfilling careers are based on an “either and” rather than an “either or” mindset, and that career paths evolve over time. We accept that for some, entrepreneurship is a goal in itself; for others, it is a milestone that is part of a greater journey. We encourage participants to adopt a similar understanding of their careers, and the open-mindedness which develops as a result is a powerful motivator when it comes to taking risks and engaging with the process of starting a business. This milieu has allowed some Fellows to acquire the work experience required to establish their own start-ups, while others use their learnings from this environment to create a clearer idea of what kind of business they would ultimately like to create.

One of the instruments we have employed to nurture this mindset is the Dual Track Programme, introduced in 2018. Cognisant of the struggle for the many entrepreneurs who do not want to concentrate solely on academics or the theoretical side of entrepreneurial training, this initiative provides support for those who have already launched their own businesses, allowing them to take a sabbatical from their studies for a year to extend their degrees. The remarkable take-up of this programme pays credence to our belief that although entrepreneurship may well be an inherent skill, it can also be developed, provided the individual receives appropriate inputs, including opportunities for collaboration, personal mastery, networking and lifelong learning.

We have set up a variety of other tools to fashion a safe environment where they may flex their entrepreneurial muscles without fear of failure. These include the Ideation, Validation and Creation programme, our Accelerator programme and our annual jamboree, all of which are platforms for developing essential entrepreneurial skills and networking.

We have, furthermore, consolidated our learnings over the past 14 years, tweaking our curriculum to ensure a greater chance of success for our programme participants. Of most significance here is the abundance of information regarding entrepreneurship that has become available since the Foundation was first established in 2005. From being a relatively unknown quantity, entrepreneurship has become far better documented. Consequently, we have more accurate insights regarding the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and how best to leverage these.

As a result, our programme has become considerably more structured. We have also adjusted the criteria of our Selection Camps to accommodate potential high impact entrepreneurs whose previously limited exposure may disadvantage them. In this, we have worked towards greater objectivity and consistency. With this in mind, we have, moreover, reviewed our successful profiles and application forms.

While these triumphs speak to the efficacy of our programme, we regard them not as our own successes, but as successes for the field at large – and, hopefully, we will see them create a springboard to boost entrepreneurship in future years.

Download infographic here

Greater rigour, greater impact

Greater rigour, greater impact

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is looking forward to a new era, integrating assessment processes and development processes for greater impact and enhancing the predictive value of tools.

When the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was founded in 2005, it was with an eye to nurturing a culture of entrepreneurialism that would not only result in job creation; but which would also ultimately benefit the entrepreneurs’ communities. There is no doubt that it has been successful in these aims: now operating in four countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia), the Foundation has received more than 33°000 scholarship applications, and funded over 3°500 years of education. Consequently, the Foundation has provided funding to more than 157 scholars to attend school at reputable high schools and has seen Fellows go on to establish businesses valued at over R1.5 billion, which have created 679 jobs.

However, in spite of this success, the Foundation identified a need to review its selection processes, ensure the validity and reliability of its tools, and entrench greater objectivity during the recruitment process, so that it could improve its results further still.

Download report here

Download infographic here

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

What are the dimensions that drive entrepreneurship? And how many of these traits are present in the general population?

The ongoing search for answers to these questions raises a new one: Is it possible to develop a single set of measures that can evaluate the multiple drivers of entrepreneurship, from mindset to behaviour and belief, and apply these not only to South Africa, but to the entire world?

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Foundation), in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) and Mindcette, an international organisation providing guidance and support for entrepreneurs, set out to find out if this can, indeed, be done. To this end, the Foundation commissioned African Response to undertake a survey, conducted amongst 3 661 randomly selected individuals representative of South African society, with questions crafted to uncover the DNA of successful entrepreneurs.

Of course, this is not the first time that the concept of entrepreneurship has been probed. Given the important position that start-ups hold in our economy, it’s not surprising that several organisations have tried to distil the essence of entrepreneurship. By delving into theory, it is able to provide more practical, workable programmes – and, in so doing, amplifies its credibility as an organisation dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in South Africa.

But back to the questions surrounding the concept of entrepreneurship and the arguments that have been put forward to explain it so far. Some theorists have focused on the fact that entrepreneurs who thrive seem to relish taking ownership and accountability for their own successes; they also have a greater degree of self-confidence and aren’t threatened by the thought of taking risks. On the other hand, some researchers have concentrated on motivational factors like the role played by the drive for achievement, entrepreneurial passion, or even the practical factors that might make an individual consider self-employment.

The reality is that any – and all – of these might be significant, and in varying degrees – and that’s why the use of a single set of scales is so important. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore appointed a researcher to review all current literature, using this to extract the 11 most commonly occurring themes that appear to characterise entrepreneurship. Each of these themes can be further unpacked, to create 76 separate descriptors of characteristics – but, since many of these differ slightly, the researchers found that it was more appropriate to focus their questions around 37 critical descriptors. These ranged from the individual’s creativity and conscientiousness to whether they found it easy to be coached; from their resistance to conformity to their persistence and personal goals; their passion, resourcefulness, ability to accept risk, leadership ability, innovativeness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, financial goals, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Put them altogether, and a picture emerges of a person who believes in themselves strongly – so strongly that they feel it’s not possible to fail. But, even if they do, they won’t be deterred. They’ll simply keep trying – either because they feel their product or service truly can make a difference in their customers’ lives, or because they want to prove to themselves that they can succeed. Of course, no single individual can possess all of these qualities; even if they did, the traits themselves would fluctuate according to circumstances. It’s possible to be brimming with self-confidence one day, and fearful the next.

With this in mind, African Response created four categories of respondents: the omnibus survey, which was a nationally representative sample and a booster sample, where locations were chosen depending on how many business owners were present. Additionally, a separate sample comprising female business owners was included  allowing research into gender differences, while the remaining survey respondents were made up of fellows of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

The content of the survey and the questions put to these participants were significant, because this is the first time that existing entrepreneurship literature was drawn upon in a nationally representative sample.

So, what exactly did the survey find? Will it be possible to create a survey instrument that adequately describes the mindset of an entrepreneur?

Signs are hopeful: according to the findings, there are 11 dimensions which may be used to commonly describe female entrepreneurs, and 10 that appear to characterise male entrepreneurs. Only two of these dimensions (Entrepreneurial Desire and Focus) are identical in male and female sample participants (with Allan Gray Fellows scoring higher in these dimensions), although seven additional dimensions are common to both, varying only in terms of the extent to which they characterised the sample members. These dimensions included Confidence, Diligence, Innovation, Leadership, Motives, Resilience and Self-Control. Among the male respondents, five of the ten dimensions distinguished those who reported being self-employed full time from those who did not. That is, Focus, Confidence, Leadership, Resilience, and Self-Control.   This contrasted the findings for female respondents, for whom only Desire and Focus showed differences between the self-employed and other respondents.

The survey also found that the nine core dimensions were statistically reliable, while several showed significant differences when the respondents were self-employed on a full-time basis, or if they were not self-employed.  What does this all mean for would-be entrepreneurs? Obviously, the ultimate goal is to identify the traits shared by entrepreneurs, thus providing a basis for describing the entrepreneurial mindset, and to create a single instrument that can be used to identify and measure the presence of these traits would be an enormous help in this regard.  Furthermore, some of the differences obtained between women and men could inform modifications in entrepreneurship programme structure, in order to tailor entrepreneurial training more closely to the individual strengths of both sexes. This survey brings stakeholders one step closer to achieving this goal – but there is a caveat: according to Mindcette, the results of the survey will be most useful if the study is repeated in the future, as this will determine whether the national mindset is changing. Added to this, it would be beneficial if the survey was adopted by other countries, so that an international benchmark can be established. It is also recommended that participants in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes are assessed when they exit the programme, to gain further insight into their mindsets.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation will further use the information gathered from these assessments to determine whether there are differences in the beliefs and drives of male and female entrepreneurs and will structure future programmes accordingly. Of course, the information contained therein will prove useful for other organisations operating in the entrepreneurial space, too.

Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and exciting field, but the risks associated with self-employment are very real. Every tool available to entrepreneurs as they pursue success brings them one step closer to achieving their dreams – and that’s what makes this survey such a vital undertaking.

Download report here

Download infographic here

A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A key feature of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes is the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset. They have this in common with many other leading entrepreneurial programmes whose focus has turned from content knowledge about entrepreneurship to developing an entrepreneurial mindset. However, what is lacking across the board is a rigorous theorisation and empirical evidence of the term ‘entrepreneurial mindset’.

In response to this need for rigour the Foundation launched an academic investigation into the meaning and measurement of entrepreneurial mindset. The findings of this investigation, which is available in its entirety here , revealed that an understanding of the mindset of entrepreneurs was initially rooted in the behavioural sciences and is based on decades of research within the fields of personality, cognitive and social psychology. It also became clear that multiple definitions for ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ exist, for which reason a combined or synthesised definition was proposed. The literature on which the investigation was based also revealed that there are general themes that characterise an entrepreneurial mindset. Another finding of the investigation was that the instruments and methods for measuring entrepreneurial mindset were limited and unable to account for all its characterising themes. As a result, the investigation concluded by proposing the development of a revised measuring tool. Several aspects of the investigation are discussed in a little more detail below.

This investigation is part of a larger project the Foundation started in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) in 2016. The outcomes they hope to achieve are:

  1. The development of a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset.
  2. The development of a universal methodology for measuring entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. The development of an evidence-based approach for enhancing entrepreneurial mindset education theory and practice.

Psychology and Mindset

Attempts to describe, predict and explain recurrent behaviours that set people apart from one another originated in the discipline of personality psychology. Familiar names in this field are Jung and Freud, but Allport made a particularly significant contribution to the field with his conceptualisation of personality traits in the late 1930s. Allport’s 4500 personality traits were eventually whittled down to five by researchers Costa and Macrae in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The broad traits of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness became known as the ‘Big Five’ personality traits or Five Factor Model (FFM).

The Big Five has since been used as a knowledge base to better understand mindset as well as many other sub-disciplines including everyday behaviour, physical health and psychopathology, to name a few.

Defining Mindset and Entrepreneurial Mindset

Researchers’ focus on personality traits eventually turned to the interpretation of traits and the habituating behaviour resulting from such traits. This research focus was broadly referred to as implicit theories, and it was proposed in 1995 that people’s implicit theories about human attributes influence the way they understand and respond to their world. In 2005 Carol Dweck redefined people’s implicit theories as their ‘mindsets’.

Since then many definitions of mindset have come to light and they have all influenced the multiple definitions of entrepreneurial mindset. Based on all these definitions the following synthesised definition of entrepreneurial mindset was proposed by the Foundation:

Entrepreneurial mindset relates to how a person thinks, their state of mind or the lens through which they see the world, and how this influences their propensity for entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. This state of mind or lens is influenced by multiple factors that include what people know or do not know (related to their knowledge), what people have done or have not done (related to their experience), what people can do or believe they can do (related to their level of competency and self-belief), and who they are (related to their personality, values, attitudes and beliefs ).

Characterising Entrepreneurial Mindset

A review of the relevant academic literature on entrepreneurial mindset revealed 11 themes that are characteristic of an entrepreneurial mindset. They are: (1) lifelong learning and openness to change; (2) engagement in a complex and uncertain world; (3) creative and innovative approaches to problem solving; (4) belief and confidence in one’s own capacity and competency to be entrepreneurial; (5) desire, motivation and intention to practice entrepreneurship and behave entrepreneurially; (6) taking initiative and personal responsibility for actions; (7) a pursuit of goal-attainment through personal mastery and value-creation; (8) recognising opportunities; (9) grit and perseverance in the face of challenges; (10) taking risks that lead to learning, growth and value; and (11) a belief in one’s ability to influence.

From these 11 themes several underlying entrepreneurial mindset dimensions were also deduced. Both these dimensions and the themes they emanate from are discussed in greater detail here .

Measuring Entrepreneurial Mindset

The earliest attempts at measuring a propensity for entrepreneurship occurred around the early 70s and 80s with the adaptation of an instrument used to measure locus of control in psychiatric patients. Since then several studies relating to entrepreneurial mindset have used scales based on the 10-point Likert Scale survey (ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree) or other validated scales to measure specific dimensions of entrepreneurial mindset. However, none of the existing instruments are individually able to measure all or even a significant percentage of the entrepreneurial mindset dimensions that have been identified. In addition, there is a need for developing quantitative items to measure these dimensions as the existing instruments have all made use of qualitative or mixed-method approaches.

For these reasons the Foundation endeavours to develop, pilot, test and refine a revised instrument for measuring entrepreneurial mindset. The instrument will be based on the definition of entrepreneurial mindset outlined above, and it will take the form of a quantitative survey, using Likert Scale questions and possibly Semantic Differential questions.

Further research and expertise will be required to refine the pilot survey and ensure that it is sufficiently valid and reliable for replication in other contexts beyond South Africa. The development of the entrepreneurial mindset survey can lead to significant opportunities for future research, both for the Foundation as well as other organisations and stakeholders.

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

We are pleased to share news of the exciting entrepreneurial mindset research work the Foundation has been involved in over the past 12 months and encourage readers to look out for upcoming thought provoking posts around our findings.

The Foundation has been collaborating with international thought leaders around understanding, defining and measuring the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset. As the curriculum and core essence of the Foundation is centered around cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, it is vital for our understanding to be based on best practice literature and pioneering data within our local context.

In this regard, we have partnered with the Global Entrepreneurial Research Network, received the academic guidance of Professor Kelly Shaver from Mindcette, and contracted with African Response for our data collection, to develop, pilot and roll out the most comprehensive entrepreneurial mindset survey of its kind.

The Foundation has developed a five-phased approach to understanding, defining and measuring entrepreneurial mindset.


Through the Entrepreneurial Mindset Research study, the Foundation and its partners aim to create value globally through:

  • Building a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset
  • Introducing a data-based system for assessing entrepreneurial mindset development
  • Revealing new insight about entrepreneurial mindset
  • Creating an objective, quantifiable methodology for measuring progress over time
  • Providing an evidence-based framework for developing recommendations for developing new policies and programs
  • Increasing entrepreneurial action around the world.

Moreover, the Foundation aims to strengthen our internal curriculum and programmatic learning through:

  • Developing a rigorous definition and understanding of entrepreneurial mindset based on existing literature and best practice
  • Measuring entrepreneurial mindset within our beneficiaries
  • Improving entrepreneurial development curriculum
  • Improving the measurement of entrepreneurial development curriculum outcomes



We would like to thank our partners and collaborators for their continued support and thought partnership throughout the entrepreneurial mindset project.

We will be sharing findings and results from our project over the coming months and invite you to keep an eye out for and share your thoughts about our findings in entrepreneurial mindset.

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Do you go against, behind and in front of the grain? Are you streetwise running anti-clockwise? Do you see the unseen? Do you dream the undreamed? Are you what the world needs? This is a call to you, future entrepreneurs.

Our 2017 Fellowship applications for 1st and 2nd-year students will be coming to an end on the 18 August 2017. Under the theme, “A call to the curious” we will be selecting individuals who show the potential to become high impact entrepreneurs in the future.

At the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, we believe that entrepreneurially minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the promise of change. We stand behind entrepreneurs improving the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa.

Our mission is to foster such impact by providing youth, demonstrating potential, with access to education and cultivating within them an entrepreneurial mindset.

Watch this video to learn more about the Fellowship experience and download an application form from our website right now to start your journey of curiosity.


Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Annual Conference | By Teri Richter

Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Annual Conference | By Teri Richter

Pictures from: link https://storify.com/nesta_uk/igl2017
Photo Credit: https://storify.com/nesta_uk/igl2017

Working in a robot economy, evidence based innovation and overcoming policy barrier in entrepreneurship

On the 13th and 14th June 2017, the Annual Innovation Growth Lab conference was held in Barcelona Spain hosted by Nesta in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the World Bank Group, COTEC Fundación para la Innovación, La Caixa Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was represented at the event which brought together around 250 individuals from policy makers, to practitioners and researchers from over 30 countries all passionate about working towards increasing innovation, supporting high growth entrepreneurship and accelerating business growth.

The key aim of the IGL2017 conference included:[1]

  • Learning about the next generation of innovation and entrepreneurship policies.
  • Engaging in wide-ranging discussions on crucial policy challenges including automation, inclusive economic growth, directing public innovation funding, and smart regulation to support innovation.
  • Improving organisation’s capability to design policies that deliver measurable impact, using different tools such as randomised controlled trials and big data.
  • Meeting a global community of peers to learn from and share experiences with.

The IGL conference created a platform for engaging discussions and creative ideas on how to encourage and develop innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities and growth, practical engagement between policy makers and practitioners and academics sharing their experiences and learnings of completed, as well as ongoing randomised controlled trials in the entrepreneurial development space. Each session provided useful take-aways:

Key take-aways from the IGL Main conference

The conference investigated the future of work in a robot economy, specifically suggesting ways in which policy experiments can aid in better understanding the potential impact of job loss compared to the value creation of these entrepreneurial innovations. A central theme to the future of work discussions centred around the need for a creative and growth orientated mindset, which will influence the skills and experience in the future economy. The most important mindset was proposed to be the mindset to learn. This notion links strongly to research being conducted at the Foundation around entrepreneurial mindset and the need to identify opportunities and act on these in a rapidly changing environment.

Key take-aways from the IGL Policy and Practice Learning Lab

The working sessions allowed for engagement between policy makers and programme implementers to share their experiences of challenges in innovation and growth and propose solutions to address barriers facing entrepreneurs. The emphasis on the need for implementing organisations to represent and become more heavily involved in advocacy and policy discussions was of key importance.

Key take-aways from the IGL Research Meeting

The research meeting emphasised not only the importance of experimentation and using experimental research designs such as randomised control trails, however also gave an opportunity to engage directly with researchers currently implementing these trials on entrepreneurial design interventions. These engagements allowed the opportunity to share research ideas as well as future collaborations and best practices.

Overall, the conference allowed for great discussions and sharing of ideas and learning, which emphasised that research is at the heart of entrepreneurial and policy development. Reporting solely on the amount of funding allocated and spent fails to understand the impact of interventions, delivery of results and generation of economic growth. Talking specifically about failure is useful to building the entrepreneurial development sector and can be more valuable than surface level successes. Innovation requires evidence.

To best assist entrepreneurs in their start up and growth, the sector needs to identify key policies that are barriers to entrepreneurs and advocate to remove these. It is important to note that simply developing and upskilling entrepreneurs is not sufficient to aid their growth and development.

Learnings for the Foundation

The strongest messages from the IGL conference that directly relate to entrepreneurial development organisations and apply to the Foundation centred around the need to strengthen empirical research and evaluation practices and sharing organisational and sector-wide learnings, as well as contributing to identifying and addressing policy barriers and gaps that impede entrepreneurial growth.

[1] http://www.nesta.org.uk/event/innovation-growth-lab-global-conference-2017

Teaching reading for meaning: The Funda Wande project | By Dr Nic Spaull

Teaching reading for meaning: The Funda Wande project | By Dr Nic Spaull

Overview: South Africa is virtually unique among upper-middle-income countries in that most of our children (58%) do not learn to read for meaning in the first three years of school[1]. Without this core skill, they fall further and further behind as they are promoted into higher grades. While there are many reasons for this reading crisis one of the most prominent is that Foundation Phase teachers do not know (and have never been taught) how to teach reading. The “Funda Wande: Teaching Reading for Meaning” project aims to help address this course by developing a high-quality, free, open-access and SAQA-approved course: the ‘Certificate in Teaching Early Grade Reading.” All course materials will be available in isiXhosa (the pilot language) and subtitled in English. There will also be an English First Additional language sub-course. It is largely video-based with on-site coaches visiting teachers in their classrooms once every two weeks.

Photos from the first Funda Wande planning meeting in Port Elizabeth

In the 21st Century we live in a world that is inundated with written language, or ‘print’. We see it in our newspapers, on our contracts, on the screens of our cell phones and the pages of our school books. From the policies of government to the signs on our roads, it is the essential ingredient in modern life. Print is everywhere. And this is why reading is so important. Learning to crack the code of how we represent spoken language using symbols is a big part of why we go to school. We learn the differences between b and d, or between p and q. Moving from letters and syllables to words and sentences we can read about pirates, pigs and pixies or earth-quakes and igloos. Once we have cracked the code the possibilities are endless. This is the joy of being initiated into the literate world.

Aside from the practical importance of reading to make our way through the world, reading (and writing) is essential for participation in formal education since the ability to decode text, read with comprehension and learn from reading is the bedrock of most activities in institutions of learning. If reading is not mastered early on, progress in schooling is restricted. Unfortunately nationally representative surveys (prePIRLS) show that more than half (56%)[2] of South African children do not learn to read fluently and with comprehension in any language by the end of Grade 4. But, as with most averages in South Africa, it hides huge inequalities. If we compare the wealthiest 10% of these learners with the poorest 50% the differences are astounding. Among the richest learners 86% learn to read for meaning compared to less than 30% among the poorest half of learners. Why is this?

One of the main reasons behind this reading crisis is that our teachers have never been given meaningful learning opportunities to acquire this specialized knowledge, neither in their initial teacher training nor in subsequent in-service training. readingThey often do not know what the various components of reading are (phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and motivation) or how these fit together into a cohesive whole. Many teachers are also confused about how to implement different reading methodologies like group-guided reading or shared reading. Currently teachers focus on communalized activities like chorusing and offer very little differentiation or individualized instruction or assessment. There is also little formal teaching of vocabulary, spelling, writing or phonics and almost no understanding of how to develop the most important skill in reading: comprehension. Importantly, while the majority of our learners are learning to read in an African language (70%+), almost all universities only offer pre-service instruction on teaching reading in English.

To help fill this gap, we are designing a new course to help make sure that all Foundation Phase teachers in the country know how to teach reading in their home-language and in English as a First Additional Language. The “Funda Wande: Teaching Reading for Meaning” project was initiated at the start of 2017 at the request of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment Trustees and is now funded by the Endowment together with two funding partners: The Volkswagen Community Trust and the Millennium Trust. The course is currently being developed for two languages: isiXhosa  and English First Additional Language. Using professionally filmed in-classroom videos, animations, info-graphics and other multi-media the course will teach the major components of reading and writing.

The 11 modules are: (1) How children learn to read, (2) Decoding in reading and writing, (3) Comprehension, (4) Vocabulary, (5) Children’s literature, (6) CAPS reading activities, (7) English as a First Additional Language, (8) Writing, (9) Reading assessment and remediation, (10) Inclusive education, and (11) Planning and progression. The course will be a credit-bearing Certificate accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The course and all materials developed in the course will be openly licensed (Creative Commons) and freely available for anyone to use. It will be offered as a Certificate in Teaching Early Grade Reading by at least one public university in South Africa. The course will be evaluated in 2019-2021. If the evaluation of the course shows that it significantly raises teachers’ content knowledge and improves their teaching practice, and importantly raises the reading outcomes of the learners they teach – the mandate is to adapt the course and offer it in all of South Africa’s official languages. Ensuring that all teachers know how to teach reading and writing is the first step in ensuring that all South African children learn to read for meaning and pleasure.

If you are an expert in teaching early grade reading in isiXhosa and would like to be involved in the project or to find out more information please email me nicspaull[at]gmail.com

[1] This statistic is taken from one of the nationally-representative datasets of reading achievement in South Africa (prePIRLS, 2011). See Spaull (2016) for a fuller discussion of the results from the PIRLS and prePIRLS studies.

[2] Spaull, N (2016). Learning to read and reading to learn. Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) Policy Brief. Stellenbosch.