This is the question I asked myself when having a look at Olivier Laffut’s LinkedIn profile. The founder of the successful venture “Les Tartes de Françoise” (now striving for a market in New-York) is actually coming from the finance world which is seemingly unusual for someone in the fast food industry. I immediately made a parallel with Olivier Van Espen and Frédéric Duqué, the founders of Guapa, another entrepreneurial success of Belgium. Both came from sectors far away from the fast food industry and yet were able to drive formidable growth.
The knowledge corridor principle states that entrepreneurs recognize opportunities primarily in the field where they have been professionally active. This knowledge corridor (Ronstadt, 1988) principle is further divided by Shane (2000) into three entities (prior knowledge of markets, prior knowledge of ways to serve markets, prior knowledge of customers’ problems) which constitute competitive advantages for those who possess them.
If this pre-knowledge can seem to constitute a competitive advantage at first, it may also become a hurdle. The entrepreneurs may become blind to signals which do not confirm his/her knowledge of the market. I’ve seen numerous entrepreneurs believing they had found THE idea, starting their venture, and eventually failing because they felt to recognize (or accept) contradictory signals coming from the market. Humans are strange animals who don’t like to be contradicted.
An interesting assumption to test would be that, all others things being equal, entrepreneurs not suffering from the knowledge corridor have better chances to succeed. There are at least examples like Guapa and Les Tartes de Françoise which confirm that you can be highly successful even without prior knowledge of the market.Tags: entrepreneurship