Campus Entrepreneurs: Hot for Teacher?

Given that we live in an economy driven by knowledge (see Drucker, Florida, or Bell), campuses (where knowledge is created and disseminated) have become vital nodes for economic growth and new venture development.

The actions, individuals, and companies we have seen over the past 50 years and the quickening pace of campus entrepreneurship over the past decade or so confirms this.

This is one of the core reasons that we are investigating campus entrepreneurship: there are lots of smart, talented people in and around campuses – from razor sharp 18 year olds to award winning, socially awkward professors.

A mentioned often on this blog, professors are some of the greatest storehouses of knowledge around universities/campuses and students should view them as such.

In the past 4 years I have worked with professors as advisers (at of U of C) and also as full partners (at GMU). I also have a handful of friends and talked with many research subjects who have partnered with faculty members on new ventures. has an interesting new piece titled ‘Teachers Pet’ (h/t Kevin Clark of GMU) that offers some insight and examples on students partnering up with professors new ventures. (btw, click the image above to watch Van Halen’s classic Hot for Teacher video) From the piece:

To make a partnership with a professor work, you need that clear change in perspective. As a student, you may admire and respect the professor because of his or her accomplishments, “but that’s just not sustainable,” says Smetters. “You can’t have that hierarchy. Is that professor willing to change from a professor/student relationship to a partner/partner relationship?”

That’s just one of the many important questions you need to ask to make this kind of partnership work. Approach professors who you think could help you in your business, but don’t be offended if they choose not to get involved. It may have nothing to do with your business idea; it just may not be their forte, or they may have a greater understanding of business theory than real-world implementation. “At the end of the day, [professors] are just human beings,” says Smetters. (a prof who joined a student in launching a venture).

The article has some good advice and that last quote “professors are just human beings,” is something that we all find out pretty quickly. Its one thing for a Prof to dazzle a class for 60 minutes or over coffee, but when the grind of a startup begins, they are just like everyone else, and in some ways less prepared (tenure, slow publishing/research schedules etc.)


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