Category Archives: General Thoughts

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.

An MVP is not a Cheaper Product, It’s about Smart Learning

David J. Miller:

Excited to share this with @startupmason @basllstonbid @venturecamparl #SIP2013 and others that have been experimenting with #lean, customer development and #bmgen.

Originally posted on Steve Blank:

A minimum viable product (MVP) is not always a smaller/cheaper version of your final product. Defining the goal for a MVP can save you tons of time, money and grief.

Drones over the Heartland
I ran into a small startup at Stanford who wants to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) with a Hyper-spectral camera over farm fields to collect hyper-spectral images. These images would be able to tell farmers how healthy their plants were, whether there were diseases or bugs, whether there was enough fertilizer, and enough water. (The camera has enough resolution to see individual plants.) Knowing this means farms can make better forecasts of how much their fields will produce, whether they should treat specific areas for pests, and put fertilizer and water only where it was needed.drone over farm

(Drones were better than satellites because of higher resolution and the potential for making more passes over the fields…

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‘Why I 3D printed an iPhone shoe’ | Video

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BBC News – ‘Why I 3D printed an iPhone shoe’.

On the Road to My PhD in Entrepreneurship… Do We Dare Write for Readers?

As I begin to see the light at the end of my dissertation on student entrepreneurs (which to date has no hypothesis being tested!) I found some great hope and inspiration in a long essay by William Germano, Dean of humanities and social sciences at Cooper Union. Germano’s article, “Do We Dare Write for Readers” is some important questions about higher education today and publications. I appreciate many of his sentiments and most especially for us to write about things that people care about and to provide work that can be used as a tool. Germano offers a ‘machine’ model of the book. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The book-as-machine requires that the scholarly writer imagine a problem or concern that will engage the reader, making the investment of reading time worthwhile.

This is not the same as having a thesis or an argument. Those are author-centered positions. They’re about what the writer thinks. The book-as-machine turns the spotlight onto a problem to be solved, and the reader for whom the problem is genuine, and genuinely interesting.

Later,

Yet implicit in the machine model is that the writer openly acknowledges that the book enables collective action. Reader, can you apply my theory to your own field? Can you take this book’s idea and go further? Can you take what the writer provides and build what the writer could never have imagined? This is imagining one’s writing as activism­—not necessarily political, but activism in the sense that it causes action in others.

So how can writing be, in a good sense, a mechanical contrivance? To consider writing as a machine for changing readers is to acknowledge that the power to persuade isn’t restricted to the political stump or the pulpit or the agora. Something more needs to be at stake than a new adjustment to a theory or a sequence of facts.

I’m advocating for a riskier, less tidy mode of scholarly production, but not for sloppiness. I’m convinced, though, that the scholarly book that keeps you awake at night thinking through ideas and possibilities unarticulated in the text itself is the book worth reading. It may be that the best form a book can take—even an academic book—is as a never-ending story, a kind of radically unfinished scholarly inquiry for which the reader’s own intelligence can alone provide the unwritten chapters.

via Do We Dare Write for Readers? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Rise of the Sharing Economy | The Economist

The Economist has an article on the rise of the sharing economy. There is no doubt this is unleashing new business models and on campus as well. One of GMU’s young entrepreneurs is currently running a hookah delivery service that is based on shared use of the pipes rather than individuals owning their own.  What other items/services can be shared across campus?

Rachel Botsman, the author of a book on the subject, says the consumer peer-to-peer rental market alone is worth $26 billion. Broader definitions of the sharing economy include peer-to-peer lending though cash is hardly a spare fixed asset or putting a solar panel on your roof and selling power back to the grid though that looks a bit like becoming a utility. And it is not just individuals: the web makes it easier for companies to rent out spare offices and idle machines, too. But the core of the sharing economy is people renting things from each other.

Such “collaborative consumption” is a good thing for several reasons. Owners make money from underused assets. Airbnb says hosts in San Francisco who rent out their homes do so for an average of 58 nights a year, making $9,300. Car owners who rent their vehicles to others using RelayRides make an average of $250 a month; some make more than $1,000. Renters, meanwhile, pay less than they would if they bought the item themselves, or turned to a traditional provider such as a hotel or car-hire firm. It is not surprising that many sharing firms got going during the financial crisis. And there are environmental benefits, too: renting a car when you need it, rather than owning one, means fewer cars are required and fewer resources must be devoted to making them.

via Peer-to-peer rental: The rise of the sharing economy | The Economist.

Shark Tank Campus Entrepreneurs, Ball Players Create Coffee Pouches

Just catching up on last nights Shark Tank and glad to see another campus entrepreneur doing well. College baseball players Pat and Matt hit hard with their coffee based chewing tobacco replacement. From the blog Shark Tank Success.

The two invented the Get Grinds Coffee Pouches while in college and playing baseball out in San Francisco, California as an alternative to regular chewing tobacco. By making their pouches using flavored coffee grounds and then adding the same ingredients found in energy drinks like Red Bull or the 5 Hour energy, they have essentially married two unrelated product’s in a rather unique form. The Get Grinds Coffee pouches is a perfect alternative to chewing tobacco and gives you an added boost at the same time.

Another unique advantage to the get Grinds Coffee Pouches especially if you already chew tobacco, is you do not need to continually spit. In Fact, it is encouraged not to spit because you gain more of the energy boosting ingredients by swallowing your saliva. No Kidding! You are essentially brewing the flavored coffee in your mouth. The only thing you need to spit out is the pouch when your done.

Love the flavors that these guys are offering. Also wondering if this could become a product that coffee consumers go for whether they trying to stop chewing tobacco or have never tried it. Here is a story on the ball players from Entrepreneur.

In 2008, after wrapping up their amateur season to return to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, to finish their degrees, the two men took the saying a step further.

One too-hot night while working on an economics project, they decided to skip out on brewing a pot of coffee in favor of doing what comes naturally to baseball players: They stuffed wads of grinds in their mouths.

“The buzz kicked in and we said, ‘Shoot, we might be on to something,'” Canepa says.

That something was Grinds, tiny chewable pouches of flavored coffee grinds. Each pouch contains about as much caffeine as a quarter cup of coffee, as well as a smattering of taurine and B vitamins.

Soon after their discovery, the duo dashed off a business plan that snagged $3,000 in a competition at their school’s business department. Later that year, they won $15,000 in a similar schoolwide contest, and a handful of judges signed on as investors. In June 2009, less than a year after the idea was born, Canepa and Pezet officially launched their company, also named Grinds.

 

via Shark Tank Success Stories : Get Grinds Coffee Pouch.

Every Young Person is Screwed | How to Survive | #students

Interesting piece by Bryan Goldberg, founder of Bleacher Report on how young people are screwed and how to fight it. Some interesting thoughts in this piece at Pando Daily.

Every young person is an entrepreneur now, in one way or another — they must forge their own unique career path, and they need to think five or 10 years ahead. There is no rulebook anymore for how to build a career. Certainly not the one your parents read in 1981.

In summary, the “conventional path” has become so narrow, that it hardly even exists. You can’t just go to grad school and “become” anything: a lawyer, a banker, a doctor, a journalist, a manager. Some of these jobs are on hiring freezes, and some of them are so fraught with frustration that they are best avoided. I don’t know a single doctor who thinks that Medicine is the best career path for their kids. And the same logic is applying to more and more professions. The well has been poisoned.

via Young people are screwed… Here’s how to survive.