By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
The startup ambitions of MBA students and college
undergrads have spawned discussions about whether aspiring young
entrepreneurs should launch new business ventures while still in school.
Students, graduates, professors and investors have varying opinions on whether
startup fever should be a pursuit that is encouraged or discouraged while
students strive to fulfill their academic requirements.
Here are three points of view:
1. Is Starting Up a Distraction?
Wall Street Journal writer, Lindsay Gellman,
Stanford Business School is encouraging its MBA students to avoid the
distractions of a startup and to instead focus on their courses, campus life,
and getting their degrees.
Educators argue that students need time to test their ideas
and “embed desirability
into the products, services, and experiences they create
.” Instead of
taking on the obligations of planning a new business and the pressures that
come with meeting investors’ requirements, educators want students to spend
their time on campus in preparation – not execution of their new businesses.
This runs in stark contrast to the lure of the Mark
Zuckerberg startup experience with Facebook, which began with the collaboration
of students in a Harvard dormitory and catapulted Zuckerberg to billionaire
status by the time he was 23. But isn’t Zuckerberg the rare exception, the
unicorn, not the rule?
2. Can Students Afford to Put Funding on Hold?
It’s tough to put startup ambitions on hold when one is
convinced of an idea that’s ripe and time-sensitive to attracting investor
interest. In Rolfe Winkler’s article, Secretive, Sprawling Network of ‘Scouts’ Spreads Money Through
, he describes how venture firm Sequoia Capital funnels
millions of dollars “to scores of well-connected entrepreneurs and academics”
through scouts who looked for aspiring young entrepreneurs and their
Students argue that it’s hard and even foolish to swim
upstream against the undercurrent of investors’ dollars that are available
today and may or may not be there for the taking upon graduation.
First and foremost, startup fever and the desire to take
hold of available funds must be weighed against whether or not the timing is
right. Capital raised too early could lead to giving away too large a portion
of equity and control. On the other hand, entrepreneurs who wait too long could
endure a cash crunch as they attempt to scale.
sure your business is positioned for consistent user growth
sure your business offers the promise of future profits
sure to develop a strategic plan that enables you to scale your business
3. Can Campuses Offer Real-World Preparation?
MBA and undergraduate courses on entrepreneurship are
on the rise to meet the swelling interests of a generation inspired by a combination
of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar success stories and the glamorization
of entrepreneurship through programs like Shark Tank
. Most college students are not looking to graduate with
a one-size-fits-all skillset that will slot them into long-term commitment at a
single company. Besides, as proven out by prior generations, students are wise
to the fact that big companies can no longer offer the benefit of long-term
career security anyway. So many ask, “Why not take control and start my own
Colleges and universities want to be prepared for an
incoming generation of problem-solvers with the drive to find solutions and the
ambition to turn their ideas into new business ventures. Today’s students are
wired to make a social impact and are willing to take the business risk to make
a difference. They want to know how to pitch to investors, build a successful
small business, and even take a shot at becoming the next Unicorn.
The Real Question
Rather than trying to turn back the dial on startup fever
and asking if students can receive real world preparation on campuses, the real
question is this: “How will college campuses help budding entrepreneurs
identify where they are in their startup journey, meet them at that point, and
provide them with the resources and mentorship programs to set them up for
Embracing Startup Fever
Since entrepreneurship does offer independence and the
fulfillment of dreams, we can hardly be surprised that it is becoming an
important component of the curriculum on college and university campuses around