Category Archives: Entrepreneurship Programs

Are Universities Teaching the Wrong Entrepreneurship Process?

I’ve long wondered why so many schools support a business plan/VC model through contests and course work when most of their students will never be in the running for venture capital. Over the past few years through Startup Mason and other activities, we’ve moved to a more experiential model/process for entrepreneurship education. We’ve supported action, iteration and experimentation in lieu of planning. (Though many contests demand plans and/or executive summaries).

Dileep Rao at Forbes.com has an interesting piece arguing against teaching business plans and competitions and for a more hands on approach to learning entrepreneurship. There is much good in this piece for those who care about entrepreneurship education.  From Rao,

 As I am constantly repeating, the capital intensive VC model has worked in Silicon Valley, but seldom outside. While 88 percent of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar entrepreneurs used venture capital, 91 percent outside Silicon Valley did not.

This means that universities may want to consider the following:

  • Teach students how to build businesses using capital efficiency, not just capital intensity. Most areas do not have successful VC funds. Even if they did, most VC funds do not build home runs. The top four percent of VC funds earn about 65% of industry IPO profits. Getting money from the other 96 percent may not do much to build a great company or to make you wealthy. With capital efficiency, students learn to grow without wasting both time and their opportunity in order to seek VC, only to be rejected by VCs. VCs reject about 98-99 percent of entrepreneurs who seek funds from them

  • Encourage students to build their business with smarts, not money. Less than five percent of VC funding goes to startups. This means that students need to learn how to build their business, and actually get some traction, before anyone will take them seriously. Universities should teach them how to do this.

  • Teach sales. Selling is the oxygen of a new business. To sell is to succeed. Unfortunately, many business schools believe that teaching sales has no academic value. Without sales, there is no business.

  • Encourage business startups rather than business plans. Universities organize business plan competitions with the hope that wise judges can pick winners. VCs, who are the foremost ‘wise judges’ in the business, fail to reach their target 80 percent of the time. If the VCs, who are full-time professionals, fail 80 percent of the time, why do universities think that their own ‘wise’ judges can do better?

  • Teach all students, rather than just entrepreneurship students or business-school students, how to build a business. I have found that many business-school students do not have a new-business opportunity to pursue. I would suggest casting a wider net in the hope that students in other schools have ideas for a new business that they want to develop and grow.

If you are involved in entrepreneurship education or considering studying entrepreneurship, read this entire article by Rao as it will give you many things to consider as your approach university entrepreneurship offerings.

DC Regional Universities Use Lean Startup in Healthcare | NSF I-CORPS

I have been following the NSF I-Corps experiment since its inception and have Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 3.39.46 PMbeen pleasantly surprised by its growth and expanding reach. GWU, University of Maryland and Virginia Tech have taken the lead in our region (the DC I-Corps) and have some great people working on the program. I came across a piece from Stephanie Baum at Med City News highlighting some of the innovative teams and projects taking part. From Baum,

Here’s a sample of the healthcare and device technologies involved in the program, which runs through November 19.

University of Maryland, College Park

Myotherapeutics is developing a clinical assay for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Eva Chin, an assistant professor, leads the group.

George Washington University

Key Orthopedics has a 3D-printed polymer device for growing stem cells in bone and cartilage tissue and is led by Benjamin Holmes, a Ph.D student.

NanoChon is producing joint injury therapeutic technologies for extended and sustained biologic delivery. It’s led by Nathan Castro, a Ph.D. student.

Its exciting to see our local universities, their leaders, faculty, and graduate students learning to employ lean in the development of their ideas and technologies. Exciting time.

@GeorgeMasonU Alumni @GloboxRentals Launch International Film Kiosk Startup

{DISCLOSURE: I have worked closely with this startup and am mentioned in the article below and am pictured} Great piece on Mason born and Mason Alumni run startup Globox Rentals, a kiosk DVD rental service making top international films available to various consumer markets. The team recently placed its first 10 kiosks, including one in the Johnson Center — the student union @GeorgeMasonU. From Rashad Mulla of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences:

This “Globox” movie rental kiosk, which stands over 8 feet tall, is the pride and joy of Asad R. Ali and Sammy Kassim, the entrepreneurs at the heart of the brand new international film rental company, “Globox Rentals.”

Globox makes movies available for rent through vending kiosks, much like the multi-billion dollar rental service Redbox, but with one big difference: Globox specializes in new and popular international cinema, from more than 100 countries worldwide. This summer, Globox launched its first 10 kiosks, located in the Johnson Center, at various international grocers in Virginia Fairfax, Falls Church, Mt. Vernon, Woodbridge, and Arlington and a 7-Eleven convenience store in Bowie, Md.

“There are a lot of good international titles, content, and movies out there,” Kassim explained. “There just wasn’t an easy avenue for most of the customers and consumers to get that content.”

Today, the Globox team consists of co-founders Ali who studied in both the School of Management and the Department of Economics and Kassim BS ’11, Management, and fellow Mason alumni Ricky Singh BS ’11, Information Systems and Operations Management and Brittany Hill BA ’12, Art and Visual Technology. The Alexandria, Va.-based company appears to be riding a wave of momentum heading into the fall. But to get the ball rolling, Ali and Kassim had to put in a lot of work, and make a couple of unconventional decisions that required passion, drive and, simply put, bravery.

via College of Humanities and Social Sciences | News: World Cinema at Your Fingertips: Young Alumni Start “Globox Rentals” Business.

Student Entrepreneur $10M Revenue Run Rate: Extrabux CEO Jeff Nobbs | Sramana Mitra

I love when data for my research arrives in my email inbox. Thank you Sramana Mitra, Jeff Nobbs of Extrabux, and USC!:

Sramana: Jeff, let’s start with the beginning of your story. Where are you from? What are the circumstances that led up to the Extrabux story?

Jeff Nobbs: I am from San Diego. I was born in Northern California and spent two months there before I decided it wasn’t for me! I grew up in San Diego and went to college at USC in Los Angeles. While I was at USC, I started Extrabux with my co-founder, Noah, a guy who lived two doors down from me in the dorms. We started it as a side project while we were at school, and it stayed that way for a few years.

Our junior year we entered Extrabux into our university’s business plan competition. We ended up winning the USC business plan competition and we got $25,000. That was the first stamp of credibility that we received and the first bit of money that we got to start building our team.

via Student Entrepreneur to $10M Revenue Run Rate: Extrabux CEO Jeff Nobbs Part 1 | Sramana Mitra.

G3Box IndieGoGo | Student Entrepreneurs | #socent | ASU

Last year I interviewed 3 of the founders of G3Box when I visited ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative at the Skysong campus. It was during the heavy data collection phase of my dissertation research on student entrepreneurs at US Universities and Colleges.

The G3Box team recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign and are about to place their first maternity clinic in the developing world. Their goals is to  cut down on fatalities and complications during child birth.  Their vision is solve global health challenges by connecting multiple organizations. This team of ASU student entrepreneurs is truly inspiring.

G3Box Video Trailer – YouTube.

The Rise of the Hacker Space | Update on 3D Printing Venture Camp @GeorgeMasonU

This evening, I was able to work with Arlington Economic Development and Amplifier Ventures in putting on a 3D Printing Venture Camp event at GMU’s Arlington Campus. Dan Wilson of TechShop and Brian Jacoby of Nova-Labs, both hacker spaces, exhibited and sat on our panel.

Turns out that the NY Times published a piece on maker spaces today. Wonder if I can talk someone at Mason into funding maker spaces on our campus? Can we evolve MCSE coworking space and our Startup Mason curriculum into a maker space. We already have innovators from business, liberal arts, comp sci, electrical engineering, physics and design hanging out in our space.

Venture Camp tonight with multiple displays of printers, scanners, and exhibitors talking of materials sciences, rapid prototyping and the evolution of design and manufacturing. Its time for Mason to get into this emerging space.

From Steven Kurutz of the NY Times in The Rise of the Hacker Space:

Hacker spaces like MakerBar — where people gather to build or take things apart, from rockets to circuit boards to LED displays — are hives of innovation, real-world communities made possible by the emergence of virtual communities.

Businesses like Pinterest and MakerBot have grown out of hacker spaces, which have become networking venues for engineers and inventors. But at their most basic level, the 200 or so hacker spaces across the country function as a modern stand-in for the home workshop, especially in urban areas.

It’s no accident that some of the earliest and most popular hacker spaces, like Noisebridge in San Francisco and NYC Resistor in Brooklyn, are in cities where living spaces tend to be small, real estate is expensive and having a home workshop is a pipe dream for all but the very lucky or very wealthy.

“The 1950s version of tinkering was doing it in your garage,” said Dale Dougherty, who as the founder of Make magazine and its popular get-togethers known as Maker Faires is a patron saint to the hacker community. “A lot of people in urban settings don’t have that.”

“Sometimes these hacker spaces are not much bigger than a garage,” he said. “But people can’t organize their home into a workshop.”

via The Rise of the Hacker Space – NYTimes.com.

Venture College @BoiseStateLive Launches in August

Received a thoughtful email from Greg Hahn at Boise State University the other day telling me about their new Venture College. Sounds very exciting and it seems they have buy in and support from the entrepreneurial community in Boise. Can’t wait to hear about their incoming class. From Venture College’s homepage:

Venture College prepares students to launch businesses or nonprofits. This new, non-credit program is open to all full-time students in any major , especially non-business students. Students who successfully complete the program receive the Boise State University Venture College Badge.

Start-up is Fall 2013. While the application deadline has passed, we are accepting applications for the wait list. If you would like to submit an application and be added to our wait list click here to apply. We expect to notify wait list applicants on May 15 as to whether or not there is room in the program.

Interestingly, when you visit the Why Venture College page you read this…

Boise State is taking a leadership role in developing models to teach the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.  We are challenging traditional educational strategies and piloting new methods for superior, relevant education. One of the new models is Venture College, a skills-based program that will prepare our students, especially non-business students, to launch enterprises of economic and social value, some while they are still students.

Venture College will provide self-paced, on demand access to knowledge, intensive mentoring and an opportunity to compete for resources needed to start a business.

Venture College is a unique university-wide initiative independent of any academic college and structured as a concurrent, non-credit program for degree seeking students.  This independence from traditional course, credit and accreditation requirements frees Venture College to deliver an innovative and rigorous non-traditional experience for those students, regardless of discipline, who have a passion for starting their own businesses or working in new ventures.

Pretty exciting, glad to have learned about Venture College at Boise State and we’ll see what the Broncos come out with and what the playbook looks like in August 2013 when the first class begins.

via Venture College | Green light your dreams.

Iman Jalali: If My School Had an Entrepreneurship Major, I Wouldn’t Have Dropped Out #highered

From Iman Jalali at The Accelerators Blog at WSJ.com:

I dropped out of college because my marketing and business major wasn’t allowing me to create and build. I was listening to lectures that weren’t relevant to me or for what I already knew I wanted to do: Start a business.

I wish they had taught me about idea validation, customer acquisition and bootstrapping. That’s what would make for a great entrepreneurship program, and what would have kept me engaged and happy with the skills I was learning.

Ideally, an entrepreneurship major would not be treated like just another business major. It’s not about book learning; It’s not about lectures. It’s about finding your passion, gathering resources, testing your idea and being able to scale.

Having students create startups during their major while being mentored by founders themselves would be an invaluable experience. Legitimate businesses, with business licenses, credit-card merchant accounts — the whole nine yards. Basically a “Startup Weekend” that lasts the entire time you’re in school. Not to mention the perks of having a job after graduation and possibly creating jobs for peers if your startup is successful.

Offering an entrepreneurship program would not only help students prepare for the challenges that await them, but would also give them the hands-on experience so many current entrepreneurs wished they had at a college-level. I say, don’t deny the business-savvy minds of today’s world and fuel them with the resources they need to succeed.

via Iman Jalali: If My School Had an Entrepreneurship Major, I Wouldn’t Have Dropped Out – The Accelerators – WSJ.

Business Model, Customer Development Celebration | USASBE LAUNCH! |

Received an email the other day about a celebration / competition focusing on business models and customer development. Lots of mentoring and tools will be available for undergraduate participants. Check out the USASBE Launch competition website.

USASBE Launch! is an exciting global student startup competition designed to provoke and reward undergraduate students from any discipline who can

1) design an impactful idea,

2) identify, test and validate business model hypotheses using customer development tools and

3) show traction which measures how well a startup is delivering its business model and how well the target demographic is accepting that business model.

There is no required application process, but students can sign up to receive updates. There are no required fees or purchases, there is no required format or procedures. We will recommend a process and tools, and students can engage as much or as little as they desire. The ultimate goal of student participants should be to start a sustainable business and tell an engaging story . . . plain and simple.

via USASBE LAUNCH! | A New Generation of Possibility.

Don’t Call Them Students. They’re Entrepreneurs. Bloomberg

My friend, superstar student entrepreneur Caroline Pugh, co-founder of VirtualU, sent me this great piece by Mark Bauerlein in Bloomberg Businessweek. Here is a snippet:

“Entrepreneurship programs have exploded on U.S. campuses, and administrators love to talk about them. They aren’t just for business students. Kansas State University’s Center for Advancement of Entrepreneurship declares, “The mission of our award-winning center is to promote entrepreneurship among all academic disciplines,” while at Arizona State University, “The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative provides funding, mentorship and office space to teams of students within all university disciplines.””

I love the image they created for this one.

Don’t Call Them Students. They’re Entrepreneurs. – Bloomberg.