What Does Entrepreneurship Mean to Me? – Written by Doug Neal

As my first blog entry as the new Managing Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship it seemed only fitting that I blog about what entrepreneurship means to me.

So, before I do that I have a confession to make. I’m a serial entrepreneur. They say the first step to self improvement is admitting you have a problem… Let me explain.

When I started my career in computer software in the late 80’s I had never heard of entrepreneurship or the entrepreneurial mindset. I knew that I was different from my peers in the way I engaged my job and technology but there was not a word for it. I was called tenacious, impatient, aggressive, passionate, competitive, innovative and even sometimes crazy… but never entrepreneurial.

Over the years I have come to accept these defects as an undeniable part of my fabric and part of what has made me who I am.

I have worked for some amazing companies during my career and have been fortunate to work with the most amazing people in the high tech industry. I have continually found that being surrounded by the best and the brightest pushed me harder and helped feed my desire to create, innovate and do the impossible.

I have never been satisfied with the face value of a situation and always dug deep to understand why. Where some would simply rejoice in a sudden increase in product sales I would want to know more and dig deeper and try to understand exactly what caused the spike.  When customers complained about specific product problems I would be hearing revelations of technology innovation that could unlock enormous potential.

Many people have asked me why a serial entrepreneur like me would choose to join a very large institution like the University of Michigan.  The answer is simple.  I’m passionate about Michigan and I believe the future depends on innovation and the creation of new companies and new industry.  I believe the Center for Entrepreneurship is uniquely positioned to unlock this University’s enormous potential of technological innovation, commercialization and social change thus having a significant impact on changing Michigan and the World.  I have learned to trust my instinct when an opportunity presents itself, to be surrounded by the best and brightest and, although it’s not a conventional path, I believe in the work being done here and the people who are passionate about making a difference!

So what does entrepreneurship mean to me?

It means being comfortable in taking an unconventional path, in digging deep to understand the root cause of problems and opportunities and in not being satisfied with face value. It means saying “yes” when others say “no”. It means seeing opportunities where others see loss. It means embracing failure as the most noble of teachers. It means recognizing time as the single most precious commodity in the entire world. It means being tenacious, impatient, aggressive, passionate, competitive, and innovative… and yes, even sometimes, a little crazy!


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