“One of the greatest gifts you can give an entrepreneur is time,” said Mr. Parthasarathi, co-founder of CourseHorse, an online catalog of classes available in New York City, from dance and acting to computer programming.
But money wasn’t all that NYU’s Stern School of Business provided the pair. Throughout the months-long process, they received extensive coaching and mentoring from a total of 20 veteran entrepreneurs and other experts. The result is a business that has generated revenue from the day it opened, said Mr. Parthasarathi.
And Mr. Parthasarathi’s story is not an isolated one: In recent years, New York’s colleges and universities have ratcheted up their commitment to supporting budding entrepreneurs. With courses, mentoring, networking and cash awards, they are growing crops of would-be entrepreneurs that they say are far better prepared than their predecessors.
One of the latest manifestations of the trend: the February launch, by Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, of an entrepreneurship lab that aims to facilitate collaborations between students in schools as diverse as nursing and business.
“The idea is that it will involve all Pace students and faculty from all the schools,” said Bruce Bachenheimer, director of the lab and of Lubin’s entrepreneurship program. “We’re stressing an interdisciplinary, hands-on experience to find new ways to solve difficult problems.”
Yet even as the city’s entrepreneurship programs grow, it’s difficult to measure exactly how effective they’ve been—or whether they can even teach what many insist is more nature than nurture. Just look at the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg, all of them wildly successful without the benefit of entrepreneurship classes—or even a college degree.
“A lot of us who actually do it don’t subscribe to this method of building companies. The only way to be an entrepreneur is to go through successes and failures,” said Mr. LoCascio, who built one failed venture on credit cards before he succeeded with LivePerson, a public company with more than $130 million in revenue. “You can’t teach failure.”
Even those doing the teaching acknowledge that some things can’t be taught.
“One thing that’s absolutely vital, and that you cannot teach, is passion,” agreed Cliff Schorer, a professor and entrepreneur in residence at Columbia Business School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center.
Judging from the offerings at Columbia and elsewhere, however, entrepreneurship programs are trying to teach just about everything else. The most straightforward subjects include writing a business plan and doing financial, competitive and market analysis.
When it comes to the harder stuff, such as the ability to recognize opportunities, Pace and other schools use case studies, brainstorming lessons and other exercises to nurture that skill.
“It’s kind of like teaching music or painting,” explained Mr. Bachenheimer.
Jon Mason, managing director at startup Trace Visual Effects, said the M.B.A.s in entrepreneurship that he and a partner earned from Baruch College were pivotal to securing $250,000 in startup capital last year.
“It definitely does give you credibility with investors,” he said. “Without it, you can’t talk about the business in a way that’s going to interest them.”
In a sign that teaching entrepreneurship is here to stay, Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business rolled out a Ph.D. program in 2010 to go with its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in entrepreneurship. The school’s 16-year-old Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship currently touts 24 courses, a staff of 42 and a total of 500 undergrad and graduate majors.
Seems to be lots going on in NY? Whats happening in your neck of the woods?