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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.