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.

Venture Fund Targets Campus Startups | @PejmanMar Partners w @BerkelyHaas

Further evidence that the campus is the frontier — early stage venture fund Pejman Mar Ventures, which has history in investing in and supporting student startups from Stanford, has taken its show around the bay area to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

The firm has announced a new challenge — The Pejman Mar Ventures $250K Berkeley Startup Challenge. It follows on their The Garage program that offers space for Stanford entrepreneurs to ‘hang’ out in Pejman Mar offices in Palo Alto.

I am defending my dissertation next Monday July 13th and am glad to see that the value of the campus for entrepreneurs is continually being recognized and people and firms are supporting on student entrepreneurs.

PhD Update: Entrepreneurship, Students, and Universities

I am in the final month of my dissertation at George Mason University. This blog grew out of my early research, as did the twitter handle Campus_Entre. I’ve learned a great deal and am happy with the database of high growth student entrepreneurs, their firms, and schools, as well as the case study of the University of Chicago. cover_frontier_quote

I also developed basic campus ‘pathways’ based on themes that emerged from the qualitative and quantitative data collected.

The question of whether the campus offers frontier attributes (liberty, diversity, and assets) is the center of this research. This portion of the paper uses the ideas of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis.

Moreover, if the campus does in fact offer frontier attributes and supports ‘frontier outcomes (new norms, innovative products, new organizations, and socio-economic change), how can we replicate these attributes in other organizations, institutions and sectors?

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.

@PositivDeviancy Featured on @GeorgeMasonU Homepage

Awesome to see coverage of young Mason entrepreneur Jade Garrett, founder of Positive Patriot Demo DayDeviancy, a firm building assistive technology out of stuffed animals for children on the #Autism spectrum. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Jade and she is a dynamic student, leader, and a fine example of today’s super innovative, productive and entrepreneurial students that take advantage of their campus. From George Mason University:

Garrett, who is pursuing an applied information technology degree from the Volgenau School of Engineering, spent the summer working on a toy bear that is also a computer game controller. Designed for children with autism, the plush bear answers several needs across the autism spectrum. For instance, a plush animal is easier for some to hold for longer periods of time than a controller, and those with motor-control issues find the buttons easier to use than a track ball or keyboard.

The bear is named Computer Assisted Device Input Bear, CADI for short, and pronounced “Caddy.” It’s still in the prototype stage, but with the help of the School of Business’ Mason Innovation Lab and the Lab for IT Entrepreneurship, the bear is coming out of hibernation and making the rounds as Garrett meets those in the business of creating businesses for those with special needs.

Are Universities Teaching the Wrong Entrepreneurship Process?

I’ve long wondered why so many schools support a business plan/VC model through contests and course work when most of their students will never be in the running for venture capital. Over the past few years through Startup Mason and other activities, we’ve moved to a more experiential model/process for entrepreneurship education. We’ve supported action, iteration and experimentation in lieu of planning. (Though many contests demand plans and/or executive summaries).

Dileep Rao at Forbes.com has an interesting piece arguing against teaching business plans and competitions and for a more hands on approach to learning entrepreneurship. There is much good in this piece for those who care about entrepreneurship education.  From Rao,

 As I am constantly repeating, the capital intensive VC model has worked in Silicon Valley, but seldom outside. While 88 percent of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar entrepreneurs used venture capital, 91 percent outside Silicon Valley did not.

This means that universities may want to consider the following:

  • Teach students how to build businesses using capital efficiency, not just capital intensity. Most areas do not have successful VC funds. Even if they did, most VC funds do not build home runs. The top four percent of VC funds earn about 65% of industry IPO profits. Getting money from the other 96 percent may not do much to build a great company or to make you wealthy. With capital efficiency, students learn to grow without wasting both time and their opportunity in order to seek VC, only to be rejected by VCs. VCs reject about 98-99 percent of entrepreneurs who seek funds from them

  • Encourage students to build their business with smarts, not money. Less than five percent of VC funding goes to startups. This means that students need to learn how to build their business, and actually get some traction, before anyone will take them seriously. Universities should teach them how to do this.

  • Teach sales. Selling is the oxygen of a new business. To sell is to succeed. Unfortunately, many business schools believe that teaching sales has no academic value. Without sales, there is no business.

  • Encourage business startups rather than business plans. Universities organize business plan competitions with the hope that wise judges can pick winners. VCs, who are the foremost ‘wise judges’ in the business, fail to reach their target 80 percent of the time. If the VCs, who are full-time professionals, fail 80 percent of the time, why do universities think that their own ‘wise’ judges can do better?

  • Teach all students, rather than just entrepreneurship students or business-school students, how to build a business. I have found that many business-school students do not have a new-business opportunity to pursue. I would suggest casting a wider net in the hope that students in other schools have ideas for a new business that they want to develop and grow.

If you are involved in entrepreneurship education or considering studying entrepreneurship, read this entire article by Rao as it will give you many things to consider as your approach university entrepreneurship offerings.