Let’s take Stanford and a handful of other similar universities out of the picture, and consider them as outliers. Let’s even take off the list some famous Facebook-like case, where actual young geeks have actually set up impressive businesses. Hat-tip of course! But I wouldn’t consider them as representative of the academic world found in average universities. It is not a problem related to the role of universities per se.
Indeed, many professors and rectors to whom I have extensively talked would like to see their institution become more entrepreneur-friendly. But normally on a conventional life path (birth, elementary school, high school, university, work, retirement, death), people are generally readier to create ventures at some point during the long work phase rather than the shorter university phase. Let’s face it, most students (and I was definitely among this very representative groups) are just not ready and experienced enough.
I believe that the 10,000 hour rule is generally a reasonably correct one. You need talent to become an entrepreneur and manage complex tasks that entrepreneurship requires, but talent alone is not enough. Talent without experience will just lead to a higher proba
bility of failure. The 10,000 hours (which are approximately 5 years of work on a 8-hour work day), is the minimum needed to really get to know the sector you are working in, understand how and to what it shifts, grasp the real needs of potential customers, spot the gaps and build a viable answer. Then you may need another 10,000 hours to build up your managerial experience if you haven’t attended an entrepreneurial university.
Universities could play a fundamental role in spotting and feeding talent, but instead of using resources to build direct entrepreneurship support systems, energies could be more wisely used if they were put into building real occasions to gain hands-on practical work experience.
Universities should focus also on awareness-raising to instil the curiosity to become an entrepreneur. Sadly, apart from some specific cases, entrepreneurship awareness raising is yet to be a priority in the academic world. SMEs are still outsiders who are studied as external economic agents who react to some specific policy change in some particular and forecastable way, following th
eories and economic models that sound nice when studied. But in practice they need to be proven right all the time. SMEs are obviously considered as major employers, but not yet seen as the ‘next step’ on the entrepreneurship path for young graduates. This is a missing link in the chain that still needs to be addressed.
Maybe roles should be reconsidered and the whole entrepreneurship support system would perform better if universities established stronger links to industry to provide job-experience opportunities. Maybe industry could leverage talent and expertise to launch new ventures with all their vested interests with the support, of course, of the incubation industry.
Should incubators therefore shift their gaze from academia to industry? Yes, to a degree and with a smart approach.
What we need to do in our role as enablers of sustainable entrepreneurship is to work with both, academia and industry by supporting the awareness-raising activities that should be delivered mostly in the academic sphere, and by creating strong ties with the industry. This is where, I believe, lies the pond of new entrepreneurs with smart ideas, bright talent, and useful experience to launch exciting start-ups.
Published on 29-05-2014 15:15 by David Tee. 1108 page views
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