Category Archives: American Exceptionalism

Black Millennials Missing the Entrepreneurial Revolution? #diversityintech

My research on high growth firms created by students at US colleges and universities uncovered that lack of female participation in high impact entrepreneurship on campus.

Lack of diversity is a big issue in tech and Tech Crunch Contributor Duane Dennis offers a personal look, with some data, at the lack of black participation in high growth/high tech entrepreneurship. From Dennis:

I’ve found that accelerators are especially important in providing a more intensive education, especially when run by experienced entrepreneurs. The Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA) program director is Bill Aulet, famed educator, author and entrepreneur; the HAX accelerator is managed by Duncan Turner, entrepreneur and former IDEO designer.

However, in both cohorts, there were very few minorities. In GFSA, there were four blacksout of about 50 founders; in HAX there weren’t any represented among the 15 companies. This happened despite the worldwide diversity efforts that have been put in place by both organizations for general minority and state-specific populations.

The stats seem to back up my anecdotal evidence. Although most accelerator programs do not track the ethnicity or gender of participants, 500 Startups does. A voluntary poll of participants revealed that out of 250 startups and 500 founders, 80 were Asian, 60 were female, 15 were Hispanic and only nine were black.

and later….

For non-entrepreneurial families of first- or even second-generation graduates, the question is all about risk, regardless of color or nationality. Investing in a college fund is a big commitment, and entering the entrepreneurial sphere rather than the job market seems ridiculous when you have student loans, a lucrative job lined up after college and that looming 90 percent knockout rate.

Finding the investments, support and partnerships to do this is the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs. It is getting easier to start your own business — and this time, as we see more entrepreneurs step into the arena, it is important that we don’t leave behind our minority groups that are typically left behind.

Later in the piece Dennis offers specific policy and educational recommendations — which point to creating supportive environments for young entrepreneurs. His limited data offers some similarity to the lack of diversity that I see among the student founders of high growth firms.

Entrepreneurial Nuggets | Adirondack Jack | Wave Extinguisher at Ripley’s | Cheap Lego Drones | Warby Parker Makes Public School Hip

Alibaba founder Jack Ma bought 28,000 acres of forestland in the Adirondacks for conservation purposes… While billionaire founders and CEOs conserving land in NY is not new, the fact that a Chinese innovators is there too is interesting. Read the story about Jack and his $23 million dollar buy.

Warby Parker, the hip, social impact oriented eye glass firm founded by Wharton

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

students has partnered with New York City Public Schools and will provide up to 20,000 pairs of glasses to kids in need.

GMU’s Seth Robertson and Viet Tran were feature in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon of the Day for their Wave Extinguisher — it puts out fire with sound waves!

We love Parrot drones at Mason — they are fun for students to learn on. The company announced 13 new drones this week for less than $189! One with a Lego attachment!

Commonbond, an innovative student loan company started at Wharton in 2012, sold its first bonds to Wall Street investors. By targeting specific students and graduates (originally Wharton grads), the firm offers lower rates to lender and loan products with specific attributes to investors.

Do College Drop Outs Thrive?

The WSJ ran the headline, College Dropouts Thrive in Tech, a couple of weeks ago (sub required). The article highlights well known dropouts (Jobs, Zuckerberg) and Thiel Fellowship winners, even referring to one as a wunderkind (a concept I reference in my forthcoming research on student entrepreneurs at US colleges and universities).

From the piece ,

Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer live at Mission Control with 10 others, including two women; half are under 21 years old. Three, including Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer, are Thiel Fellows. The house was originally leased by fellowship organizers for grant winners; other young entrepreneurs moved in as some initial residents left.

More dormitory than frat house, there is more working than partying at Mission Control. Residents come from varied backgrounds with diverse interests, but share some common traits: a brush with early success, disillusionment with the education system, an irreverent world view and healthy self-confidence.

The housemates share their schedules through a Google calendar and conduct group chats on Facebook Messenger, alerting each other to events like Wine-and-Cheese Wednesdays, Freestyle Fridays, and house dinners. There are impromptu all-night sessions of role-playing games such as Werewolf, but the most popular activity is tinkering with technology

I pulled the above quote because my research investigates whether the campus offers frontier like attributes that support innovation and entrepreneurship. The picture painted above provides some insight, but the data set — 2 Thiel fellows — is too small and not sure how representative these folks are of ‘dropouts.’

My data, which includes many students in the information industries — ranging from software and saas to e-commerce and search engines, includes notable dropouts, but most of the students that created high growth ventures while in school do in fact graduate.

Interesting commentary on the article over at Y Combinator Hacker News.

More to come. I will be defending my PhD in mid-July.

WSJ On What College Can Teach Aspiring Entrepreneurs #highered

A nice, thorough piece by Anna Prior of the Wall Street Journal on what aspiring entrepreneurs can gain through their choice and management of their college experience. From the WSJ:

Going to college and starting a business can be expensive propositions. Business owners loaded with student debt may end up in a big financial hole—their families may have tapped out their resources helping to pay for school, leaving them unable to contribute to the business, and the entrepreneurs themselves may face a tough time qualifying for traditional business loans or other types of financing.

That’s why experts say it’s critical that potential business owners need to think about how much debt to take on and how to pay back student loans, right from the get-go.

There are many great topics, including what to study and where to go, in this article. Many of the topics similar to what I uncover in my forthcoming research.

Glad to see this article and I hope more students, families, and schools leaders and taking this issues into consideration as they consider higher education options and entrepreneurship.

Does the Campus Play a Role in the Creation of High Growth Student Startups? #Hackedu #Dissertation @GeorgeMasonU

I am in the final weeks of finishing my dissertation. My research question investigates the role the campus plays in the opportunity recognition and startup processes of high growth ventures created by students at US universities and colleges.

From Microsoft, Nike, and Dell to WordPress, Groupon, and Under Armour, many innovative and world changing firms have been conceived in the minds of students on the campuses of US universities and colleges.

My data suggests that the campus does play an important role and that in recent years entrepreneurship infrastructure on campus have had an increased impact. The challenge is that there is a wide range of campus assets available and as with all assets, the value extracted is dependent on the person in possession of said asset. My data also suggests that certain campuses produce high growth firms/entrepreneurs with regularity and that the numbers are increasing.

Looking forward to sharing more. I may post some chapter drafts in the coming days for people to take a look at. Thanks.

@TechCrunch Highlights Growth of Midwest Innovation Economy (And Case’s Rise of the Rest)

Beyond being born and raised in Chicago and spending many years on campuses in the Midwest (BA, MBA), I worked in the tech community during the Internet Bubble and love the Midwest’s continued growth. That said, the optimistic story in TechCrunch by Jonathan Shieber, seems to be a throwback to 15 years ago with the added focus on Case’s idea of the ‘rise of the rest.’ (BTW, we were the Silicon Prairie back then — Divine Interventures, May Report, Halo – Starbelly, etc)

As the most populous city in the region, it’s no surprise that Chicago is the fastest growing hub in “Silicorn Alley” in the development of its investment ecosystem. In the first eight months of 2014 Chicago saw $6 billion in exits through public offerings and sales, including the recent sales of TrunkClub to Nordstrom, and to CoStar Group.But beyond the windy city, startups are cropping up across the Midwest’s silicon plains.

There is some interesting data in the article and mentions of institutions such as 1871 and Lightbank which have helped build strong infrastructure. The article does not mention the rise of the U of C Entrepreneurship infrastructure and the companies that have gone through the campus (the topic of my dissertation) and relies on quotes from power brokers such as the Pritzker clan and abstract ideas from Andreessen (a product of the University of Illinois) to strengthen the rise of the Midwest argument before returning to the Case Rise of the Rest pitch.

The article is worth reading on a number of levels, but it is worth remembering that Chicago and the Midwest were working on this long before the coasts acknowledged the ‘rise of the rest.’

Zuckerberg Backed Org Launches Contest to Help Grow Internet in India

A massive 69% of India’s population does not have access to the Internet. A non-profit back by Mark Zuckerberg — probably the most successful student entrepreneur of the past 10 years — has put up $1 million in prizes for creative solutions to this problem.

From TechCrunch:

The contest from Facebook-backed Internet accessibility partnership could help millions of people recognize the value of the Internet, pursue access, and gain knowledge and opportunities that can help them get better jobs and improve their lives. That could in turn help’s flagship sponsor Facebook gain new users that it can connect to the world.

While Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have a clear interest in getting all those folks online, its seems there is more going on. This is philanthropy in action, making funds available to people, but demanding that they produce something that continues to provide returns to society – in this case apps that connect more people to the internet.