The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

I am in the midst of writing a paper that explores the campus as an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Much of the preliminary work, thinking, and formation of this idea took place while I completed my PhD. Here is the work in all its glory: Campus as Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US College and Universities.

And here is a snippet regarding looking beyond PhD and lab science for innovators on campus:

Policy makers should consider Jefferson’s radical idea of offering choice for undergraduates in 1819 or Van Hise’s plan to provide educational resources to fishermen in Minocqua, Wisconsin as well as researchers in Madison at the main campus of University of Wisconsin. In both historical examples, leaders attempted to bring the assets and opportunities of the universities to individuals, allowing them to make the university work for them and their problems.  

The challenge for policymakers is to craft policies and structures supporting small scale projects by non-research oriented innovators such as MBA candidates and undergraduate music majors, instead of targeting their attention and resources on faculty winning federal grants. There is no doubt that Vannevar Bush’s shadow is long and wide and emerging from it will take concerted efforts for university and policy leaders.

Yes, I am arguing that University leaders and policy makers are looking in the wrong places for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus — chasing lab led science and big ‘innovation’ building projects such as tech centers or innovation zones (always funded with ‘public’ money) instead of the bottom up innovation and entrepreneurship that my dissertation uncovers.

Any thoughts or feedback or criticism?

Lifelong Learning | @TheEconomist

On January 14 The Economist published a special report;  Life Education — with the lead article, Life Long Learning Has Become an Economic Imperative. I am very glad they’ve done this.

Over the past decade while completing my PhD on innovation and entrepreneurship on campus and working full 20170114_cuk400_0time for the past three years, I’ve become convinced that learning to learn on your own is a critical skill for the future. I’ve prodded and pushed my students in multiple directions — makerspaces, MOOCs, hackathons, and more. My students and colleagues have taken the lead on their own (blended courses, multi-university courses, self-learning, and private online tutors). For those curious and driven, this is an amazing time to learn.

The Economist special survey has some great articles and provides a solid range of topics to chew on. From the piece,

A paper published in 2013 by a trio of Canadian economists, Paul Beaudry, David Green and Benjamin Sand, questions optimistic assumptions about demand for non-routine work. In the two decades prior to 2000, demand for cognitive skills soared as the basic infrastructure of the IT age (computers, servers, base stations and fibre-optic cables) was being built; now that the technology is largely in place, this demand has waned, say the authors.

They show that since 2000 the share of employment accounted for by high-skilled jobs in America has been falling. As a result, college-educated workers are taking on jobs that are cognitively less demanding (see chart), displacing less educated workers.

This analysis buttresses the view that technology is already playing havoc with employment. Skilled and unskilled workers alike are in trouble. Those with a better education are still more likely to find work, but there is now a fair chance that it will be unenjoyable. Those who never made it to college face being squeezed out of the workforce altogether. This is the argument of the techno-pessimists, exemplified by the projections of Carl-Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, who in 2013 famously calculated that 47% of existing jobs in America are susceptible to automation.

Whether a student, faculty, administrator or citizen — lifelong learning is the new reality. For those of us in higher education, its an extra special, once in a lifetime opportunity to use new models of instruction and delivery — and that is not code for online learning. What I am envisioning is more complex, textual and hands on than just online learning. I am thinking that the real world must become more of the campus rather than the digital world, but thats just me.

Facebook Offers Outlet to University Researchers

According to recent reports, Facebook is making funding available to the most creative researchers at the most elite universities, basically offering a potential of breaking the bureaucratic log jam the is involved in much of the research funding universe. Ideally this type of initiative will look beyond the usual suspects (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc) as the company itself had to look well beyond elite university students to grow.

From USAToday,

Facebook’s secretive lab Building 8 has signed a collaboration deal with 17 universities to speed up the research cycle for hardware and software.

Building 8, headed by former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency chief and Google executive Regina Dugan, has entered into a “Sponsored Academic Research Agreement.”  That means Facebook can get new research projects launched in weeks, bypassing the nine to 12 months it usually takes, Dugan said in a Facebook post

This is just another example of the most innovative firms (often with roots on the campus) are going back to the campus to find creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

UK Science Calls for Support of Undergrad Founders and Entrepreneurship Education

While it has a decidedly scientific bent to it, the Council for Science and Technology (a UK government agency) has sent a letter to Prime Minister at 10 Downing St. arguing for more improving entrepreneurship education.

The letter, with a direct nod to MIT, is signed by Sir Mark Walport and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, and can be found here.

Prime Minister Theresa May has responded here.

For my take on the campus ecosystem.

 

More Funding Going to Student Founders | @JFiance @TheHouseVC

News from UC Berkeley and Georgetown University highlight what my research suggests: students are building some of the most innovative, impactful and valuable firms in the world and their experiences on campus matter (see Campus as Frontier)

From Gtown in DC: Ted Leonsis, billionaire owner of the Washington Capitals and active venture investor, made a $1 million donation to the Georgetown Entrepreneurial Initiative earlier this month with the funds dedicated to seed funding for student ventures that are working to “address problems in the world.” The fund will likely give out $100,000 per year according to the Washington Business Journal.

Out West: University of Cal Berkeley has become thehousefund_logo_backgroundthe target of a small, niche venture investing fund being run by 24 year old Jeremy Fiance, a Berkeley grad. You can read more about the fund directly from Jeremy on his post to medium.com.

Our story is part of a much bigger movement happening on campus right now as student entrepreneurship has evolved into a growing and integral part of the Berkeley experience. To cite just a few Berkeley initiatives, there are eight accelerator programs focused on specific stages and vertical industries, over 40 clubs across engineering, design, and entrepreneurship, two entrepreneurship centers, a design institute, a maker space, the world’s largest ever collegiate hackathon, and much more.

The House Fund is built by and for Berkeley founders. We’re doubling down on our belief in Berkeley by contributing a significant portion of our returns and resources back into the ecosystem. Stay tuned for another big announcement on that front in the coming months.

One more piece on the House Fund and Jeremy from the Business Insider.

 

Cupid’s Cup 2016 | @UofMaryland @UnderArmour #KevinPlank

In completing my research on high growth ventures created by students the case of Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and the University of Maryland was part of my data collection and highlights many of the ideas uncovered. Cupid’s Cup, the annual business competition sponsored by Plank and Under Armour, completed its final round Thursday April 7 on the campus of the University of Maryland. (At the time of this post you could watch the event here)

As usual, the finals featured a passionate speech by Plank and an awesome, psyche up video by Under Armour. Plank’s message about Under Armour and his vision for Baltimore are big (backed by investment on the Baltimore waterfront — see the plans for Port Covington). I would not doubt this guy and his team. Btw, I must confess I bought Under Armour stock ($UA) a number of years ago and have been pleased with their performance.

The judges for the final round included Plank, Arianna Huffington, Dan Gilbert and Wes Moore — truly an accomplished group across a variety of fields/industries.

The 6 presenting finalists were – Javazen, Plova Chewing Gum, Wolf & Shepherd, MyBestBox, SixFoods and Headbands of Hope. The winner was Javazen – the hybrid green tea and coffee drink developed by students at the University of Maryland.

Headbands of Hope creates headbands for kids undergoing cancer treatment; mybestbox is a monthly subscription box promoting healthier lifestyles, Plova gum cleans your teeth between brushings, Six Foods makes bug chips that kids seem to like, and Wolf & Shepherd make dress shoes that perform like athletic shoes.

Nice diversity of ventures, all generating revenue and entering vibrant markets and making impact. Look for more from these teams. Coverage of the Kevin Plank’s Cupid Cup in the Balitmore Business Journal. For the official Cupid’s Cup website.

Some @PeterThiel Content | Videos and Articles

Like many, I’ve been fascinated by Peter Thiel for a few years, really hitting my radar with his Thiel Fellowship a few years back when he asked innovators to leave the campus and pursue their innovations (here are all the fellowship winners). I was fortunate enough to Peter-thiel-paypal-historysee him in Conversations with Tyler at George Mason University in 2015.

His background, from founding PayPal (PYPL | NASDAQ) and funding Facebook (FB | NASDAQ) to his fellows and Zero to One (his book), its clear this guy is one of the most intelligent and insightful people out there (at least among those sharing their thoughts publicly) so it’s no surprise that he has been so successful. Here is some Thiel content.

I share the The Competition Myth by Peter Thiel with all of my students.

Excellent long video interview with Bill Kristol. Really covers a diverse set of topics from Facebook to the major problems with higher education – really going after the ‘racket’ of higher ed with some incredible truths (last 25 minutes or so). Really great long interview (I watched it over 5 sessions)

Video of Peter Thiel discussing Mark Zuckerberg’s impact in specifics. Good short video (6:30).

Well? Pretty thoughtful, insightful guy huh? Feel free to send any great Thiel content you come across.

BTW, interested on my views of higher education, founders and innovation? Check out Campus Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities.