New MA in Music Entrepreneurial Studies

As it becomes clear that students and society want more entrepreneurship and innovation, higher education obliges. Azusa Pacific University, keying on its location near Los Angeles, has announced a new Master of Arts in Music Entrepreneurial Studies. From APU

“Given the immense growth of independent music in all genres and the lack of innovation in traditional record labels, we see a huge opportunity for independent artists to compete directly with major label music acts,” said Henry Alonzo, MBA, director of the Music Entrepreneurial Studies Program and assistant professor in the School of Music. “By exploring independent study and work internships within the music industry and collaborating closely with experienced industry professionals, candidates learn to run their careers in music as a small business, which is invaluable in today’s market.”

An expanding music industry ensures higher employability and profitability rates for music entrepreneurs, and for aspiring music professionals, the Los Angeles area is an optimal location to gain industry experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the L.A. metropolitan area represents the second highest rate of employment for musicians and singers, as well as music directors and composers, and the number one rate of employment and profitability for sound engineers. APU’s close proximity to Los Angeles gains program candidates easy access to the central hub of entertainment innovation in the U.S.

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Universities are our Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Everyone is looking for them. We have them already… They function pretty well. My recent paper: The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. From the abstract:

One question that immediately comes to mind when studying ecosystem performance is what the proper unit of analysis is: the country, the state, the city, the region, or something smaller, like an incubator or accelerator? This paper suggests that the open, innovative American frontier that closed at the end of the 20th century has reemerged in the entrepreneurial economy on the U.S. campus. The contemporary campus entrepreneurial ecosystem offers the characteristics of Turner’s frontier: available assets, liberty and diversity while creating opportunity, and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. A case study of the University of Chicago explores governance of the campus as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the output produced by that campus ecosystem.

Google Employee Manifesto Continues Diversity Debate in Silicon Valley

One of the reasons that I argue the university is the best entrepreneurial ecosystem is that it has a diverse collection of people — diverse across multiple variables (life stage, place of origin, field of study, political persuasion, home country/state, full time v part time, etc).

This diverse population (when combined with available assets and liberty/freedom) leads the drive for change, creativity, innovation, production and commerce – in today’s world – entrepreneurship.

As the debate over diversity in Silicon Valley continues and grows — questions and definitions of diversity have been raised. Most recently by a Google engineer offering a manifesto criticizing the company’s diversity effort. From Matthew Lynley at TechCrunch:

A screed from a Googler against the company’s diversity policies appears to be circulating internally at the company, according to Gizmodo, which has published the memo.

Motherboard first reported on the existence of the document making the rounds, which Googlers condemned on Twitter. In it, the author of the “manifesto” appears to try to argue that the gender gap in technology is not a product of discrimination — but rather inherent biological differences between men and women in general.

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes,” the memo states at the beginning as published by Gizmodo. “When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.”

Update: It looks like Motherboard has an internal response from Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. Here’s part of what she says, according to Motherboard:

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Brown also says that document is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages,” according to Motherboard.

There is no doubt there is a lot that corporations and other large organizations could learn from diversity as it exists on university campuses — the kind that takes place day to day in classes, coffee shops, dorm rooms, labs, sports teams, bands and clubs, departments, and more. As my research argues, this diverse environment (with thousands pursuing their unique paths), leads to the creative, productive output and American research universities are lauded for.

GWU Grad Student Launches Food Startup

As my research on student startups highlights, food ventures are popular. A recent George Washington University grad student has launched a social venture (Halona Foods) to get more value out of ‘ugly’ produce.

From DC Inno:

As a grad student at George Washington University, Stephanie Westhelle committed her academic life to studying sustainable development. That’s how she found herself researching and visiting small farms around the area.

“It was disheartening to see how many thousands and thousands of pounds of produce are left behind,” she said. “I think the one that was the most disheartening and really made me move forward with my idea was a small farm in Maryland that had lost about 80,000 pounds of apples due to some bruising that happened because of a hail storm… I came up with the idea to start making apple crisps from [them].”

Westhelle is the co-founder and CEO of Halona Foods, which she founded just a little over a year ago. She works with micro-scale farms (small, typically family-owned farms that usually bring in under $1 million in sales annually) to give new life to produce that would normally be considered waste. She and her team buy the irregularly-shaped, bruised or otherwise hard-to-sell fruits and veggies and turn them into snacks, like zucchini chips or apple crisps.

Halona Foods is not the first DC based food startup created by students to try to bring more efficiency to the use of farmed produce. Georgetown’s Misfit Juicery has had a nice run so far — recently being selected to join Chobani’s food accelerator.

Is Small Biz the Future?

In some discussions with an esteemed entrepreneurship researcher, I wondered what we are missing as analysts, researchers, educators, citizens, economic beings in today’s US? After some reflection, we began to discuss whether the drive to find, support and exploit innovation (the Schumpterian type) we had overlooked/missed the importance of small business? Traditional, local, stable small business? Had our global, consumer, and technological marvels drawn us away the humble, democratic supporting small business operators? (Reminder: I am reading David Potter’s People of Plenty).

I had begun thinking about this during Spring 2017 when I taught an undergraduate course in Small Business. Beyond accounting, finance, marketing — this course included a focus on family business, franchising, legacy (generational time horizons) and some other small business specific issues — topics that innovators, startup weekend participants, hackers, and sharks —  pushing to disrupt the world —  don’t generally talk or think about. Much of it was refreshing and more substantive and tangible when compared to our lean wielding, customer interviewing founders.

The reality is, many of the students we teach in class and work with in our extra and co curricular programs — competitions, accelerators — are building small ventures.

We also see a trend towards students working with their hands — from 3D printing and electronics to sewing and graphic design. These great new opportunities, evidenced by makerspaces and labs of all sorts, dovetail well with my epiphany on the importance and role of small business.

The Christian Science Monitor has a really interesting piece on manual labor being a hot new job for middle class students. My own foray into mechanical typewriters and work with a variety of founders highlights the shortage (and now high cost) in some fields where manual labor is required. Schuyler Velasco offers a fascinating Economy story on manual labor and visits the North Bennet Street School in Boston

Miranda Harter, a 2016 NBSS graduate, worked in retail inventory before enrolling in the school’s jewelry program. She’d be tasked with cataloguing accessories in an online database, mind-numbing work that put what she was missing in her career literally at her fingertips. “I was looking at these beautiful pieces of jewelry come across my desk, and I thought, I want to be making these things,” she remembers.

Ms. Harter now works full-time for a local jeweler in Somerville, and the owner allows her to use the space to make and sell her original pieces. It’s already proven more stable than her old job, which she lost during the Great Recession. “I’m working solid regular hours, I have a weekend, a boss who appreciates me,” she says. “That’s not something I experienced a lot in the retail world. To me, it seems like an honest profession, and more recession-proof. People are always getting married.”

Ms. Fruitman at NBSS says 30 is the average age of the student body, which means an “awful lot” of it is made up of career transitioners like Harter. “They’ve done college or some college, it wasn’t for them, or maybe they’ve even been out there working and realized that whatever it is they’re doing just isn’t satisfying.”

Fruitman is also describing herself. Before becoming a furniture maker, she majored in theater at Emerson College and worked as a photo stylist until the work dried up.

“I was at the point where I really wanted to do something that was tangible,” she says. “I didn’t know you could do this. I went to college because that’s what everybody does. And that’s what I was expected to do.”

Ocejo heard similar stories while profiling barbers, butchers, and high-end cocktail bartenders in Manhattan.

Richard Ocejo, a sociologist and the author of the new “Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy,” is featured in the piece. I am definitely going to download a sample on my Kindle app.

George Mason Bees / Social Entrepreneurship

As part of my job I work with innovators from across society and the economy. People working on solving problems big and small.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the Mason Honey Bee Initiative (HBI) for a few years (helping them complete a crowdfunding campaign in 2013) and six months ago the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the George Mason School of Business, partnered with the College of Science and took over the Mason Honey Bee Initiative.

This program has many elements — from pollination courses to work teaching women in latin american to become bee keepers in order to make a living to provide for their families.

It is an exciting time for our Center and for the HBI as evidenced by recent media coverage..

A story by Michael Gaynor from the Washingtonian outline’s HBI and German Perilla’s efforts to find queen bees that are more resistant to colony collapse syndrome. More:

The honeybee has been facing a crisis brought on by parasites and pesticides. From 2015 to 2016, 44 percent of the commercial bee population died—a dire statistic considering that more than two-thirds of food crops rely on bees for pollination.

To save the species, Perilla is on the hunt for “the perfect queen.” He’s mating bees from the most robust hives to create a genetic standout that can birth a hive resistant to pests and disease.

But the Honey Bee Initiative is about more than science. Perilla’s students have traveled to the Amazon to teach beekeeping to women entrepreneurs in poor areas. Others studying anthropology, education, public policy, and even art have done projects. This year, engineering students took part in a campus hackathon, building a custom “smart hive” to better monitor the bees.

Another media piece, from Northern Virginia Mag, that explains HBI’s work with Covanta to reestablish meadow space in Fairfax County, VA on the property of a landfill. From the article by Eliza Berkon;

There are 12 colonies of honeybees at the landfill traveling in a 2-mile radius around the Lorton site as they forage, Perilla says. Both Fairfax County and Covanta, the private company that transfers waste into ash at the landfill, are funding the project.

“This is the first time we are trying to convert a landfill into a productive ecosystem,” Perilla says. “The hope is to at least double the population, have productive apiaries and have a little more acceptance of the people regarding the perception that they have of a landfill.”

Figuring out America’s Character

As we enter the hot summer months and I push deeper into research around the great American Research University, notions of national systems and character continue to play a role. Much of my work uses Frederick Jackson Turner and his frontier theory — see my recent paper on Universities and entrepreneurial ecosystems here; SSRN version here).

people_plentyOf late, I’ve been reading David Potter’s People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character. Not sure how I found it, but it affirms my interpretation of Turner, and offers amazing insights into the creation of any ‘national character’ – most often determined by culture according to Potter. (Culture of course is determined by countless things — natural environment, religion, economy, class structure, etc). Potter’s central thesis that it is abundance (an a culture of abundance) that has created the national character of the US.

David Potter’s work has been helpful as I continue to try to better understand the American system of higher education, but as importantly, it makes me wonder about contemporary American Character and what role abundance has played in today’s america — from the presidency to high growth figuring out every conceivable way to deliver me materials/digital goods — think Amazon and Whole Foods.

America is totally befuddling at this time, and appears to be broken into a many pieces of separate reality with snippets of digital content (tweets, videos, jpgs) representing other human beings. I hope by the time I finish Potter my thoughts/interpretations will make more sense.

More to come as this summer of research continues.