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Entrepreneurship Programs-What are their successes and failures?

Be they electives, core classes, certificates, where do entrepreneurship programs at colleges succeed, and where do they need improvement?

7 Replies

Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
The man I had lunch with, a friend of 30 years, knows as he has been the chronicler of the entrepreneur courses, but this is not the place to discuss it. It depends on the definitions of success and failure. One cannot create entrepreneurs, one can only give those with entrepreneurial tendencies and interests the tools which will allow them to fail less often. In ACE I used to give Michael Dell, then 19 a prize each year as being on e of the ACE members with the highest volume of business. It was easy to see the success of Michael and I am not sure that heavier took a formal entrepreneurship class. The problem is that entrepreneurship courses are given by academics who, for the most part, have never started or closed a company or been successful in busines. In my books I call them textserts (those who teach that which they have studied but never experienced) This dialogue reminds me of my license plate brackets which read "Venture - BeenThere Done That". Arthur
David C. MSE
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David C. MSE Entrepreneur
CEO at Business Development
Interesting. Good points. I turned down an offer to earn a PhD in entrepreneurship because I looked to the faculty and saw a faculty that had little to no experience starting businesses.

Fortunately in my graduate entrepreneurship program all of my professors had formed numerous successful companies. The elective, non entrepreneurial courses were where I found more career academics, and for me while instructive certainly did not offer the same level of engagement.

There were one or two faculty, however, who did more advising than doing. They were seen as "buzzkill" as several of the students described. The established and successful faculty were honest but encouraging. Advisors and career academics I find to be more pessimistic than problem solvers.

When I was hired to teach entrepreneurship, the chair gave me his syllabus. He had never been an entrepreneur, so I created my own class from scratch with what needed to be taught. Not the smartest move to buck the bureaucracy, but I had a dozen students go out and start businesses who prior to the class had no idea how to move forward. My focus was on them, not the egos of the faculty.

Candice Hughes
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Candice Hughes Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO & Founder Hughes BioPharma, AdapTac Games, Digital & Mobile Health, Biotech, Technology Scout
The biggest challenge is that many programs don't assist usually with solving the funding problem or help connect startups to a university or non-profit or larger corp which helps with R&D and gives the startup more visibility. There are many options now for training/teaching entrepreneurship but little for these more challenging issues. Currently, these harder issues are addressed by some accelerators, but not all startups can join accelerators and not all accelerators are able to tackle these issues. (By funding, I mean making connections for and obtaining funding not simply to discuss conceptually how one can obtain funding.) Another gap is universities tend to focus on current students and faculty, but they could greatly increase their volume of successful startups if they included alums in the mix, even pairing students and alums, for example.
David C. MSE
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David C. MSE Entrepreneur
CEO at Business Development

Candice, your experience to an extent is similar to what I saw in my business program, although I have to say after reading your post, I realize how on top of things our program was. We had a mentor program that connected us to individuals in the Dallas area. Now, that was not specifically for funding even though many of the mentors had extremely successful companies. For me I was coming into the program with a great deal of experience and contacts and colleagues already which it sounds like you were as well. I really wanted and needed something more advanced. At times that was overlooked by students who were just getting a taste of entrepreneurship.


And being in Dallas, we had the heads of the angel networks and top VC firms actually come in for pitches and actively consider investing in our businesses. One of my professors headed up the investment network for another university's college program. Granted these are top 5 and 10 ranked programs. Even still, I would have liked to see more specificity and involvement, proactive elements.


When I went in to teach entrepreneurship for a college, I asked the chair of the department, "What do your students want to do?" His response was, "I don't know we have 2,000 students." Easy answer right? I suggested an interactive program to track student progress and, to your point, alumni progress, and facilitate. The problem is some of these business faculty take a hands off approach of "Well if you are an entrepreneur you will figure it out." It is lazy and the antithesis of what I see with true entrepreneurs who are constantly trying to connect the dots for self and others. My students complained of this, and I set up my own internship program where I sought to connect all of my students to individual's in their field which I did.


In some regards that is what a FoundersDating fills the void of, or a linked in. But face to face can be so much more productive, and most colleges fail to seize the day with this.

Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
Sounds reasonable and even courageous. What was the institution? Do you know Karl Vesper?
Ramesh Jayavaram
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Ramesh Jayavaram Entrepreneur • Advisor
Coach at IDEA : Northeastern U's Venture Accelerator | NPD & BD | MBA Candidate | Seeking full-time opportunities
I volunteer at two venture accelerators (Idea and MassChallenge) and am also an MBA (marketing & entrepreneurship career track) student at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. In my past two years in the US, I have learnt a lot about the entrepreneurship culture in the US especially the Greater Boston area. Many schools here have there own venture accelerators/incubators, run programs and competitions to encourage students to take the entrepreneurship route.
Babson College does a great job of teaching entrepreneurship thru their incubator model, it is ranked no.1 for 20+ years for entrepreneurship. MIT , Harvard and Northeastern are proactively supporting entrepreneurship culture with lot of student clubs and funding. Inthe case of Northeastern, student clubs play a very important role. Idea is a student-run venture accelerator in which approximately 200 ventures are participating. There are more than 15 student clubs catering to different needs of startups while students running these clubs get real-life education/experience. Current students, alumni, staff and faculty are allowed to be part of these clubs. The university provides funding to all the clubs, and senior faculty and industry experts provide guidance. When a founder puts enough effort and utilizes the resources (including grants), they grow to a size where angel investors and VC firms are introduced. There are more than 20 startups which raised a total of $45M in the last 6 years.

I am not sure if this information answered your question but as far as I have observed its these clubs and venture accelerators that provide real education for entrepreneurs. The big accelerators like Y-Combinator, Techstars and MassChallenge provide lot of mentoring opportunities and access to angel and VC firms.
Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
You are correct re Babson. Most off the Entrepreneurship Education programs are theoretical as the academics are "textsperts", teaching that which they have studied but not experienced. If you contact me at [removed to protect privacy] we can carry on the dialogue. Arthur
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