Category Archives: Frontier Thesis

News from the World of High Growth Student Startups | GrubHub | Packback Books | #Entrepreneurship #Dissertation

Been awhile lots of research and busy with new opportunities at George Mason Universities. The Campus is indeed the frontier. Three items from the frontier…

University of Chicago Booth School high growth startup GrubHub has filed for an IPO. From winning the Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge to raising millions in venture capital, Matt Maloney‘s startup has been on the move.

Big celebrations in Chicago and at 1871 as a student startup from Illinois State, Packback Books, appeared on Shark Tank last week. They closed a deal with Mark Cuban. The company, founded Kasey Gandham, Mike Shannon and Nick Currier offers short term, pay per use digital textbook rentals. Kind of like renting a movie from itunes etc. Big changes in #highered #textbook market!

My dissertation, The Campus as Frontier for Entrepreneurship: High Growth Student Startups at U.S. Universities, will be completed in April 2014. The dissertation will include a case study, a database of high growth student entrepreneurs, their firms, and universities. Additionally, the work will propose 5 archetypes of high growth student entrepreneurs and will suggest a frontier framework for evaluating U.S. higher education and its value. I look forward to sharing this work as I complete by PhD from GMU’s SPP.





University Efforts Grow in Support of Student Entrepreneurship | Chronicle of Higher Education

I was fortunate to speak with Beckie Supiano of the Chronicle of Higher Education as she put together a piece on the efforts of various universities to support student entrepreneurs. From Supiano’s To Develop Student Entrepreneurs, Colleges Incubate Their Idea (sub required):

Beyond student demand for entrepreneurship training, worries about the weak job market are driving colleges’ response. Teaching students to start their own businesses is one way to give them a leg up after graduation. And some institutions see a responsibility to foster job creation more broadly, especially in their own backyards. To that end, they are increasingly offering majors and minors, incubators and accelerators, business-plan competitions and internships—anything from a single academic course or co-curricular program to an array of opportunities—for interested students.

Lots of great information and coverage of many incredible programs and student entrepreneurs. I am quoted and referenced near the end of the piece. Supiano writes,

“The campus is the new frontier for entrepreneurship,” says David J. Miller, director of entrepreneurship at George Mason University’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship. For his Ph.D., he is researching the conditions that allow college students to start successful firms. He is using the historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s theory of the American frontier.

Like the frontier, colleges provide assets, Mr. Miller says: space and human resources. They offer an unregulated atmosphere with no one person or entity fully in charge. And they are diverse places, both in the traditional sense and in that they bring together scholars from many disciplines.

Turner thought the frontier set the stage for America’s success as a nation. Now colleges are trying to make that kind of mark on entrepreneurship.

Higher Ed Start-Up Teams With Top Universities to Offer ‘Free’ Courses

Nick DeSantis at the Chronicle of Higher Education has a really great piece on Coursera and some new university partnership announcement. The article explores some major players and their actions.

I have worked for 3 ‘internet startups’ over the past 14 years (my first .com was in 1999) and the two that relied on ‘free’ models (even with ‘freemium services’) did not survive. The one with a simple, clear business model that demanded payment up front is alive and pretty profitable (not Google, but a nice business that employees 25 people and provides value to customers). From DeSantis:

Coursera, the online-education outfit founded by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, will grow its course platform through official partnerships with three more top-tier institutions, the company announced today. Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Stanford will use Coursera’s technology to offer a mix of classes including computer science, business, and literature. The young company already serves seven courses, and about 30 more will be rolled out later this week and through the summer.The courses are offered free to anyone online, though students cannot earn university credit. Ms. Koller said Coursera will leave the choice to award unofficial credentials like certificates of accomplishment up to its partner institutions. And students cannot interact with the professors directly—for feedback, they can use an online forum to ask and rank questions, where popular submissions rise to the top. Quizzes embedded in the course videos test students’ understanding of the material as they go along.Ms. Koller said that in addition to opening courses to the entire world, Coursera’s platform could allow professors to build a better face-to-face experience by “flipping” their classrooms. Under this model, interactive classroom instruction replaces the traditional lecture, which is presented in other formats for students to absorb outside of class.“Our vision is that this kind of technology is going to improve the experience for both populations,” she said.Ms. Koller pointed to her own experience using the flipped classroom to explain why students would choose to pay top dollar to attend institutions like Stanford and Penn instead of simply getting their education free using Coursera’s platform. She said one of her classes has long been recorded and televised, partly because of Stanford’s need to support students who take courses through a continuing-education program at the university. Attendance would typically drop to about 30 percent of enrollment by the third or fourth week, she said.

Later on some more interesting information from DeSantis:

Other emerging providers of huge open online courses, such as Udacity and MITx, have so far limited their offerings to computer-science courses because the assignments can be automatically graded by computers, making it easier to teach hundreds of thousands of students at once. Coursera, meanwhile, plans to power classes in computer science, as well as courses in the humanities—though the company is still developing plans for the humanities classes. Ms. Koller said those courses could use a peer-assessment model in which some of the grading gets outsourced to students, who would use rubrics as guides to judge their peers’ work.

“They didn’t want this to be an engineering-centric effort,” Ms. Koller said of her company’s partner institutions.

The company’s founders said they have limited their partnerships for now because Coursera is a small company, with about a dozen employees. They plan to focus on teaming up with top institutions, because those colleges have the highest concentration of talented faculty members working across disciplines—though they added that discussions with other potential partners are continuing. (Two of the classes listed on Coursera’s Web site, “Computer Vision” and “Software as a Service,” are taught by professors from the University of California at Berkeley, but Ms. Koller described Coursera’s relationship with that institution as “experimental.”)

To keep growing, Coursera will pull from a rich venture-capital investment provided by two prominent firms. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates have invested $16-million in the company.

via Online-Education Start-Up Teams With Top-Ranked Universities to Offer Free Courses – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Business Contest Innovation | 2012 Maryland Pinterest Pitch Contest | Gov O’Malley

7 years ago I wrote a paper that included the case of Wisconsin as the first state hosting a business plan competition. Today, I learned via a student @georgemasonU that Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland was hosting a business plan contest on Pinterest. Brilliant, Simple, Fun!

Governor O’Malley with UMD President Wallace Loh and UMD Student Entrepreneur at the Cupids Cup in College Park. 30 March 2012

I saw O’Malley speak at the Cupid’s Cup a few weeks ago (see pic) and he was pretty hyped up about his state (where I live) and all of the things going on there for entrepreneurship. This latest turn is great! From Governor O’Malley’s office:

The contest will allow participants to pitch their businesses using 10 images on a Pinterest board. Winners will be featured on Governor Martin O’Malley’s Pinterest page and will also receive a prize courtesy of our generous partners at the Baltimore Angels.

Contest Guidelines and Rules

Submissions will consist of a maximum of 10 images arranged on a Pinterest board.

Images must be credited to the source and follow all copyright rules.

This contest is restricted to Maryland residents, students attending a Maryland University or College and Maryland based businesses.

All submissions must be received by April 30, 2012 at 5 p.m. (Eastern).

Board Categories

Pitches must be made in one of the following two categories:

Student Entrepreneurs: This category is limited to students enrolled in a K-12 or post secondary program at a Maryland school, college and/or University.

Bootstrappers: This category is limited to people and organizations who have not have raised money outside of family and friends.

The Awards

Submissions will be showcased on Governor Martin O’Malley’s website. Boards and pins will be available for public comment.

Following the public comment period, a panel of judges will select a first place and second place winner for each of the two categories.

First place winners will receive a MacBook Air and second place winners will receive an iPad courtesy of our generous partners at the Baltimore Angels. First place winners will also be featured on Governor Martin O’Malley’s official Pinterest page.

via 2012 Maryland Pinterest Pitch Contest.

Real Innovations in Higher Education? | Ann Kirschner | Chronicle of Higher Education

CUNY’s Ann Kirschner has an excellent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education exploring how much innovation is really happening in US higher education. A nice read for anyone interested in the present and future of higher education.

Even major higher-education projects and government initiatives are just playing around the margins. Take the international-export activity in education: Some institutions have indeed begun ambitious expansions with overseas branch campuses or partnerships, but they are merely transporting the old model to new physical space abroad. Or technology: Although e-learning has been around for nearly 20 years, technology in and out of the classroom is at the discretion of the professor, with rare institutional support or enthusiasm. Online learning has about as much credibility on some campuses as global warming at a Tea Party rally. About the only thing within academe that has moved rapidly is tuition.

A recent spate of books diagnoses the impediments to change and offers a broad menu of recommendations. We have Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation, edited by Ben Wildavsky, Andrew Kelly, and Kevin Carey Harvard Education Press, 2011; the second edition of Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It, by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus St. Martins Griffin, Reprint Edition, 2011; The Innovation University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education From the Inside Out, by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring Jossey-Bass, 2011; and Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, by Andrew S. Rosen Kaplan Publishing 2011. Continue reading

The Return of University Building in the US | VC Firm Backs New University | Minerva Project

25% of my time is spent researching university builders in the US. The people who funded, planned, and built Universities like Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Michigan are among the greatest innovators in American history. Much of the funding for these great institutions came from wealthy philanthropists such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Tulane, Cornell, Hopkins, etc..

As Zoltan Acs highlights in his forthcoming book on the connection between philanthropy and entrepreneurship in the US, wealth creators have historically created opportunities for others. In many cases this was the building of great universities. In most cases, the funders did not interfere with the educational entrepreneurs they put in charge (Harper, Coit, etc).

Today, Inside Higher Education reports on the Minerva Project, a new ‘elite’ American university that has been launched. This is an interesting new start up in the higher education space and it doesn’t appear to be a philanthropic effort like past ‘elite’ universities. From Doug Lederman:

An entrepreneur who created the photo-sharing site Snapfish — backed by a star-studded list of advisers including Larry Summers and a $25 million investment from a leading venture capital firm — announced a plan Tuesday with a not-so-modest goal: creating “the first elite American university to be launched in a century.” The project is relatively skimpy on details at this stage, but a few of the new institution’s broadly drawn characteristics — for-profit; purely online instruction — might make many observers skeptical of its eventual success. But dig a little deeper and the idea sounds a little less wacky — and reasonable enough to have attracted traditionalists like Patrick Harker, president of the University of Delaware, and Lee Shulman, the former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, to its advisory board.

Later Lederman reports,

But the real test of its eliteness will come in its curriculum, which Nelson compared to “1950s University of Chicago.” It aims to hire top professors to create their own online lectures and course materials, and students will also dig into that material in 25-student interactive seminars led by instructors (Ph.D.s who favor teaching over research, for instance, not grad students). While the formal curriculum will be delivered online, students who choose to will live in dorms in major cities around the world, where they will gain from the same kind of peer encounters that enhance the education at liberal arts and other residential colleges.

Admitted students “will have to work like you’ve never worked in your life,” Nelson said. “It’s not that we’ll shower you with exceptionally advanced work, but that we’ll tickle every part of your brain. You’ll have to communicate well not just in written form, but in oral form, group work form. The reason that we are ‘elite’ is because this is a curriculum that is meant to be for the best of the best.”

Students who choose to undertake that curriculum will pay under $20,000 for the privilege, Nelson said — about half of what they’d pay at the Ivy League and other universities that currently define “elite” for most of us. (Those who choose the residential option would pay $11,000 more for room and board.)

The social component of universities, where value is provided by dense networks of talented people in and around the university, is crucial to the elite (exceptional value providing) status Minerva is chasing.

This is another great experiment in higher education, on the margins, that smart students, faculty, and administrators should be watching.

BTW, their twitter handle is @criticalwisdom and I appear to be their 2nd follower. Lets watch this one rise? Or not?

via $25 million investment backs startup aiming to create elite university | Inside Higher Ed.

Join the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge | #socent #socinn

The MIT Global Challenge is calling for help in identifying and solving global problems. There are a variety of ways to participate in this #socent activity.  Read more about how to get involved in the MIT Global Challenge.

This type of initiative highlights not only the support for innovation and problem solving on campuses (entrepreneurship) but also the openness and fluidity of the university — much as the frontier was open to all who could get there. (see the graphic below for just how open the MIT Global Challenge)

Join the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge | MIT IDEAS Global Challenge.