Gendron, the founder and director of Clark University’s (in Massachussetts) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, writes in Inc. about his background, Clark’s approach to teaching entrepreneurship, the light bulb moment of a campus entrepreneur named Brian Burns, and other interesting things. Lot to think about in this piece. Here are 2 snippets.
The guiding principle of the program is a belief that the entrepreneurial skills we traditionally associate with certain discrete populations–engineers in Silicon Valley, for example–have become vital life skills for everyone in today’s globally competitive marketplace and rapidly changing culture. And so this undergraduate program was not designed to attract management majors, although we do get many of those students. Rather, we chose as our mission to complement a rigorous education in the arts and sciences. We offer only a minor in entrepreneurship, meaning that my classes are filled with students majoring in literature, studio arts, music, history, international development, biochemistry, and, yes, even psychology. The goal is simple: to encourage these students to follow their passion, whatever that might be, but to marry those studies with a set of skills–from salesmanship to an understanding of the principles of market research to the ability to lead and work in teams–that will dramatically improve the likelihood that they’ll be able to create an economically sustainable life around that passion.
Take, for example, Brian Burns, a government major who is pursuing his passion for the triathlon. Brian’s fledgling business, Multisport Maps, designs travel guides (and soon a companion Internet site) that amass information on the best local running trails, bike routes, and swimming pools.
Brian had the idea a long time ago–it appeared to him, as a consumer of extreme sports information, to be an unmet need. But it never dawned on him to actually do anything with the notion, at least not until he had to do a case study for a class of mine. The assignment was to visit a company, interview the founder, and then write a paper on its very earliest days. Where did the idea for the venture come from in the first place? What were the first steps the founder took to explore its viability? How much launch capital was required? How did he or she obtain it?