Category Archives: Disruption in Higher Education

Campus as Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities | #highered #entrepreneurship #startups #ecdev #TTO

Yes, I defended by dissertation in mid July, all the paperwork has been processed and the degree conferred. My dissertation, Campus as Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities is now available via the Mason Archival Repository Service.

Here is a bit of the abstract:

This dissertation explores the complex social phenomena of students at US colleges and universities creating high growth firms and investigates the role, if any, played by the campus during the firm formation process. This dissertation employs mixed methods to better understand student entrepreneurs, their firms and the institutions where opportunity identification and firm formation processes began. Given the gap in the literature surrounding high growth firms created by students, no hypothesis is proposed or tested.

Feel free to email any thoughts, ideas, or questions.

UW-Madison Suspends 18 Year Old Business Plan Competition #entreed

In surprising news, the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition  at UW Madison has been called off for 2016.  From Judy Newman at the Wisconsin State Journal:

A highlight of the UW-Madison’s School of Business for the past 18 years, a notice on the contest’s website says “due to budgetary constraints,” the Burrill competition is being “suspended.”

“The impact of the Burrill Business Plan Competition on the local community is hard to understate,” said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of the gener8tor startup accelerator and a finalist judge for the Burrill the past two years.

“I was really surprised to hear they decided to cancel it,” said Chris Meyer, co-founder of the Sector67 maker space. “It was crucially important in terms of getting my business started.”

The Burrill contest has produced some noteworthy winners.

They include Virent Energy Systems, a Madison biofuel company collaborating on alternative fuels with Royal Dutch Shell and on recyclable, plant-based plastic bottles with The Coca-Cola Co., and EatStreet, formerly BadgerBites, a Madison company offering mobile restaurant food delivery.

“We are disappointed to learn there will not be more opportunities for companies like these to receive the resources and advantages made available to them through the Burrill (competition),” Kirgues said.

Little positive about this announcement: just not sure if this is about Wisconsin politics or the actual value of the competition? We will stayed tuned to see what happens next.

Local CEO Questions UC San Diego’s Approach to Entrepreneurship Education #highered #bizschool

Today’s WSJ features a blistering critique of the recently shuttered Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship at UC San Diego’s School of Engineering. The tagline for the center was dream, design, develop and Ken Kuang’s WSJ piece, Teaching Entrepreneurs to Dream, mocks the center, its results, and higher education’s approach to entrepreneurship.

While Kuang presents his personal experiences and opinions on entrepreneurship education at “prestigious universities,” his anger appears misdirected as he seems to be more upset that UCSD spent all of the money in 2.5 years (money donated by private philanthropists not out of tuition or state funds). Kuang does not explain what the arrangement/agreement was between the school and its supporter and therefore is in murky water when trying to determine success or failure of the last experience.

Moreover, from my 3 minute visit to the Moxie Center page, its clear the center was part of the engineering school. Nowhere in Kuang’s piece does he mention this.

He does however use anecdotal examples of MBA students to suggest that business schools are failing when it comes to entrepreneurship education. You can see how this plays out in the comments section on the bottom of the article (eg — “A civilization in decline? You be the judge. A ‘business school’ that doesn’t teach about profits and losses is a dead loss.”). He offers his own solutions (a Chinese model of new venture creation) in the article.

I am not familiar with the Moxie Center, its funding, goals, activities, etc, nor do I know much about UCSD, so I will refrain from commenting on the particular case that Kuang presents, but I do know that many colleges and universities have seen incredible success with student entrepreneurs, many of which emerged through classes, entrepreneurship programs and events, and interactions with faculty, alumni and regional economies. We do have actual data on this.

Moreover, centers, programs, degrees, sports teams, hotels, and many other institutions come and go in modern research universities — at least responsive ones. The closing of a center is in many ways business as usual. Its possible that the center was replicating (not a 3D printing joke!) other work on campus (there are multiple entrepreneurship centers/classes/programs around UCSD — see here) and the decision was made to work within those offerings. Who knows?

What we do know is that many schools educate and support students interested in creating firms and many of those firms will fail, especially if they are truly attempting to innovate — this is after all entrepreneurship.

We also know that its great when entrepreneurship programs are integrated with regional ecosystems and engage innovators locally and am happy to see that Mr. Kuang and his colleagues in San Diego are looking for ways to support students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its also nice to see that Mr. Kuang has a book. I had not heard of it before, but here is the Amazon page for From Start-up to Start: 20 Secrets to Start-Up Success. If anyone’s read it, let us know what you think.

GE, Carnegie Mellon Announce Robotics Fund

News from last week highlights that more big innovators (and funders) know the value of the campus.  GE has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and announced a $20 million robotics venture accelerator fund for campus. robotFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an independent, early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.

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.