Category Archives: Global 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.

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.

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 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.

Has Online Education Won Wonders Daniel Pianko @UniVenturesFund

Just received the latest University Ventures letter with a piece, “You Won”, by Daniel Pianko. He explains that his tenured professor brother has acknowledged the future is online and that #highered is going to get whipped by educational equivalents of Amazon and Uber:

As colleges and universities face off against new technology, how does this game compare with the one retailers and taxi drivers have been playing?

It’s true that three million American students – nearly 1 in 6 enrolled at colleges and universities – are earning degrees entirely online, without setting foot on campus. But they are doing so at accredited universities (nearly all regionally accredited). Students haven’t fled the system for an Uber- or Amazon-alternative. Overall enrollment is up 18% over the past 5 years. And new private sector universities (i.e., publicly traded companies like Apollo Group, parent of University of Phoenix), which had seemed on a path to market domination, have experienced enrollment declines.

At the same time, my brother sees clouds on the horizon. As Ben Nelson, the founder of the Minerva Project, explained to me, about 100,000 students at the University of California and California State University systems take Psychology 101 each year. Psychology 101 is a first year lecture class with, on average, over 200 students in each class. That’s 100,000 students, at an average of $1,500 of revenue per student per class. So Psych 101 generates $150M in revenue at a cost of delivery that can’t possibly exceed $50M. As a result, the California systems generate $100,000,000 of gross margin (i.e., profit) on Psych 101 – a contribution that is used to support other activities in the systems. What happens, my brother rightly and fairly asks, when new entrants like StraighterLine and UniversityNow push the price UC and CSU can charge for Psych 101 to the actual cost of delivery? What will UC and CSU have to cut?

That last question… what goes away? Is that the only question? How about… what can get added that people will pay for? Or are their new customers for the traditional goods (face to face interactions, dorms, extra curricular activities?). There is lots of opportunity out there!

A Self-Publication Gold Rush? | Disrupting Higher Education | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Amazon is playing a role in disrupting academic publishing. From Marc Bousquet at the Chronicle of Higher Education (h/t Paul Rogers)

En route to a professorship of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas at Austin, Clay Spinuzzi published scholarly monographs with the MIT Press 2003 and Cambridge University Press 2008. Last January, right on schedule, he brought out a third book, Topsight: A Guide to Studying, Diagnosing, and Fixing Information Flow in Organizations. His publisher this time? Himself.

Using the Amazon CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and a couple of thousand dollars in freelance graphic design and copy-editing, Spinuzzi will make back his financial investment after 300 copies are sold. That’s because he’ll earn exceptionally high royalties: Around $7 for every digital copy, a little more for each print-on-demand paperback. If he sells just 1,500 copies, he’ll earn $10,000. If he gets to the academic equivalent of best-sellerdom—15,000 copies—he’ll easily clear more than $100,000.

Those numbers flow from Amazon’s revolutionary royalty structure. For self-published e-books priced under $2.99 or more than $9.99, Amazon pays a 35-percent royalty. But for those priced between those benchmarks, authors can clear 70 percent for themselves. The sweet spot is designed to keep prices within the range that traditional publishers expect for mass-market and many trade paperbacks­­—and to keep Amazon from underpricing its own traditional wares.

Later in the piece,

Of course, even in the narrower world of textbooks and other works for lay or crossover readerships, the possibility of a cash payout isn’t the only advantage to self-publishing. Spinuzzi cites swift turnaround, freedom to experiment, and greater creative control of layout, images, and content: “I got away with a lot of things that traditional publishers wouldn’t allow,” he says. “Something as small as referencing Scooby-Doo can really set the tone for a book, making it friendly and accessible, and I didn’t want to give that up.”

In the end, those advantages may have more and more influence upon young scholars, for whom the digital-humanities movement has begun to at least modestly undermine the centrality of the monograph in scholarly communication.

Today’s digital humanists increasingly share not only the apex of our analysis but all the constituent elements of our research—unedited oral history in various languages, for instance; edited, arranged, and translated clips; slides; searchable raw data; sorted data; collected primary texts; annotations of primary texts; and so on. This digital, multimodal, social, dynamic scholarship is truly unsuitable for (merely) print, as Jerome J. McGann and others at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities proved long ago with projects like the Rossetti Archive and the Sixties Project.

I am excited to be experimenting with some of the tools/technologies as I finish up my dissertation over the next few months.

via A Self-Publication Gold Rush? – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Venture College @BoiseStateLive Launches in August

Received a thoughtful email from Greg Hahn at Boise State University the other day telling me about their new Venture College. Sounds very exciting and it seems they have buy in and support from the entrepreneurial community in Boise. Can’t wait to hear about their incoming class. From Venture College’s homepage:

Venture College prepares students to launch businesses or nonprofits. This new, non-credit program is open to all full-time students in any major , especially non-business students. Students who successfully complete the program receive the Boise State University Venture College Badge.

Start-up is Fall 2013. While the application deadline has passed, we are accepting applications for the wait list. If you would like to submit an application and be added to our wait list click here to apply. We expect to notify wait list applicants on May 15 as to whether or not there is room in the program.

Interestingly, when you visit the Why Venture College page you read this…

Boise State is taking a leadership role in developing models to teach the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.  We are challenging traditional educational strategies and piloting new methods for superior, relevant education. One of the new models is Venture College, a skills-based program that will prepare our students, especially non-business students, to launch enterprises of economic and social value, some while they are still students.

Venture College will provide self-paced, on demand access to knowledge, intensive mentoring and an opportunity to compete for resources needed to start a business.

Venture College is a unique university-wide initiative independent of any academic college and structured as a concurrent, non-credit program for degree seeking students.  This independence from traditional course, credit and accreditation requirements frees Venture College to deliver an innovative and rigorous non-traditional experience for those students, regardless of discipline, who have a passion for starting their own businesses or working in new ventures.

Pretty exciting, glad to have learned about Venture College at Boise State and we’ll see what the Broncos come out with and what the playbook looks like in August 2013 when the first class begins.

via Venture College | Green light your dreams.