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What attributes make a successful entrepreneur?

Ability to lead and motivate others; ability to concisely communicate the idea; ability to execute a plan beyond the idea concept; ability to build the right team.

What do you believe are the necessary elements for a business venture to succeed?

Obviously you have to have technology that works. However, the ability to execute the plan is key. Therefore, having the right team in place and building a ‘can do’ culture within the organization is also very helpful.

How essential do you see an undergraduate degree or MBA being for an entrepreneur?

Not essential, but I think having an undergraduate/MBA truly enhances your probability of business success by helping you “ask the right questions” and reduce the number of mistakes you will inevitably make as an entrepreneur.

What role has academic education played in your own life versus the role of experiential learning and what has been the relative importance of each?

Not essential at all, although helpful.

What role has academic education played in your own life versus the role of experiential learning and what has been the relative importance of each?

Very helpful in getting the basic training necessary in the field of science. However, the ‘hands-on, real life’ growth experiences are also key to the process.

What is the most important lessons you have learned about business and entrepreneurship in your lifetime?

Knowing when and how to hire the right people that complement my own skill set (never be afraid to hire someone who knows more than you do in a particular field).

What have been the keys to your success?

All points I raised in above questions. Also, having excellent communication skills and maintaining a positive attitude.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young entrepreneur?

Don’t give up; if you believe you can achieve.

What books would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs? Which books have influenced you the most?

Good to Great

Describe some of the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve have encountered as an entrepreneur? How were these overcome?

Not having initial experience in raising venture capital. It simply had to be learned by doing it!

What memorable mistakes, if any, have you made in business? What did you learn from them and how can they be avoided?

Nothing truly memorable to date but no doubt I will at some point.

What trends and changes do you see occurring in business today? What new technologies and industries will everyone be talking about in twenty years?

More virtual activities; more focus on doing business globally. Enhanced methods of rapid communication.

What are the best and worst things about being an entrepreneur?

Best – you are constantly challenged and have fun
Worst – you are constantly busy and stressed out; less time for family

Would you rank the following attributes in order of greatest to least importance for an entrepreneur?

Persistence – 7
A College Degree – 15
Knowledge of Accounting and Finance – 14
Knowledge of Marketing 13
Confidence – 6
Leadership and the Ability to Inspire – 1
Ability to Communicate Effectively – 4
Integrity – 5
Having the Right Advisors – 12
Good Networking Skills – 11
Motivation and Ambition – 9
Having a Good Idea or Plan – 2
Being Able to Build a Solid Team – 3
Being Able to Execute – 8
Having a Bias towards Action – 10

Are there any other thoughts, insights, or advice for aspiring entrepreneurs that you’d like to add?

Persevere and keep the dream.



This Distinguished Entrepreneur Interview Series article was written by Christy Shafer, interviewed by Ryan Allis on 2/28/2005

Dr. Shafer joined Inspire from Burroughs Wellcome, Clinical Research Division, in June 1995 as the first full-time employee. She has held a variety of positions at Inspire including Director of Clinical, VP, Development, and Chief Operating Officer. She was appointed to President and Chief Executive Officer, and became a board member in December 1998 and currently serves as CEO. She has a Ph.D. in pharmacology and studied P2Y receptors at UNC with one of Inspire’s founding scientists. Dr. Shaffer has had extensive experience in directing complex drug development processes for innovative products. Under her tenure, Inspire became a publicly traded company in 2000 raising $78 million. More recently the company successfully completed a secondary offering raising another $78 m in a turbulent market. Dr. Shaffer was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in North Carolina for 2001, was given the Council for Entrepreneurship Development Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 2001, and was recently named Business Woman of the Year in NC by the Business Advisory Council in Washington, DC. Dr. Shaffer is also on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Biosciences Organization and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development. She serves on the Business Advisory Board for BioVista Capital and the Kresge Science Advisory Board for Meredith College.