Can You Teach Entrepreneurship?

from the maybe...-but-not-always dept

Paul Kedrosky has a thought-provoking post, discussing how various entrepreneurship programs don't seem to be producing more entrepreneurs. He's finding that when he talks to people in those programs, they're often more interested in participating in the ecosystem around entrepreneurship (such as by becoming a venture capitalist) rather than being entrepreneurs themselves. To be honest, I don't find this all that surprising. Most entrepreneurs I know are pretty driven to start a company now and not wait around for however long it takes to go through a schooling program. If I didn't have the opportunity to tack on business school right after undergrad (unlike most b-schoolers), I doubt I would have gone back (and I spent way too much time in business school talking to others trying to convince them to start businesses). I don't think entrepreneurship programs are a bad thing, per se, but I'd imagine the real help is in assisting those already in the process of building a business, rather than studying to be entrepreneurs. Also, while Paul talks about the importance of "creating more entrepreneurs," I'm not sure that makes sense. I think the people who are meant to be entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs.


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  1.  
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    Yair Yona, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 12:43am

    I totally agree with you

    you can't teach someone to be visionary or think and operate outside the box. You can teach someone to run a project better and get organized in terms of goals, building a strategy and tactics, but that's as far as it goes.

     

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    Robert Fisher, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 1:26am

    Better ways to do this

    When I was in Idaho, I worked briefly as a technical consultant for a nonprofit organization called EyEClub, their website http://www.eyeclub.org. They work with high school students to assist them in realizing their dreams of doing their own thing. They provide training and workshops, and they even participated in a national contest. This is, in my opinion, the best way to do it. Work with entrepreneurs at the earliest stage and assist them in anything they need. I was amazed at some of the students that were in this group, they were very active in their schools and community as well as starting/building their own businesses.

    Taking money from an entrepreneur when they don't have any to spare is not a good program to start with. I am not advocating free consulting to entrepreneurs, I think they are intuitive enough to find the information on their own or can at least find someone to ask.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:42am

    Rejected

    Wow, that's a first. A Techdirt comment of mine rejected.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 2:44am

    Like anything else, it can come through knack and/or practice depending on the person.

     

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    The Rage, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 3:02am

    That's why we need to teach practical courses in H.S.

    All these comments bring something we need as a country to realize. The fact we take 12,even 13 years of one's life simply to educate them into how to go to more school (College) is a horrific waste of resources and ingenuity. You're a legal adult/emancipated when you reach the age of 18. Why not (again) design primary and secondary school to ensure you HAVE the basic skills to then be independent at age 18?. Since the 60's college has become the "Great Avoider". The 4, 5 or more year extension to childhood more often undermining more core values including independent thinking than promoting it. Too many believe a person becomes smarter by acting stupid and that in itself tracends all else in the "college experience" 12 to 13 years of school is enough and during that time of becoming "a productive adult" one will know if they're cut-out to be an entrepeneur or not. Why take advanced courses to just take more courses?. Why not take busienss math and business English?. Does taking Andiluvian Art History in college REALLY make one a more rounded person, OR just give some prof a guaranteed job?. Is college all about accepting theoretical AND heretical ideology in exchange for a good grade? Is college more about leftist endoctrination rather than liberal, well-rounded education?

    Germany learned the hard way. You can't have your populace as a whole seek to stay in school until they're 30, retire when they're 50, and actually compete in the world.

    As far as the need to actually teach entrepeneurship, you either already have that spirit or you never will. It's like spending all your time learning a tool BUT never actually using it. What good is a tool that is so hard to learn, it never produces anything?. Entrepenuership is all about having the personal discipline and self-motivation to strike out on one's own and make their own way. If you're waiting on someone else to make you do it, you might as well just be satisfied with the lower-middle income government "clerk" job watching the clock for he next 30 years.

     

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    Mr Pastry, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 3:20am

    Its a gift

    You cannot teach entrepeneurship, these people just seem to be able to go ahead and do things without being shown. There is no course for inspired thinking, no amount of saying "think outside the box" can replace genuine inspired thought. Any courses parading as such just teach business administration, necessary, but this is not entrepenuership. The real entrepenuers who start entities from scratch regardless of the high risks are very special indeed. Please cherish these people and do not confuse them with wage drawing executives who mascarade as entrepenuers/business people and reward themslves as though they started the company.
    You can't teach art either but don't get me going on that one ....

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 3:54am

    Re: Rejected

    Anon Coward still loves you.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:07am

    Re: Rejected

    Wow, that's a first. A Techdirt comment of mine rejected.

    Hmm...

    The only thing I can think of is that we just got hit with a massive spam attack (about 1,000 comments that got through the filters in the last couple of hours -- something we've never seen before), and a bunch of us were going through and deleting the spam. I know I saw your comment in the middle of it all and made sure *not* to delete it as spam, but maybe someone else accidentally did? Yikes. I hope not, but it's possible (to give you an idea, our comment admin shows 500 emails at a time, and 486 of them were spam, which is awful -- our filter catches probably 99.999% of the regular spam normally, so this was extraordinary). So we scrambled to delete the spam, and I'm worried that maybe yours got caught in the sweep. :(

    I feel awful about it, but could you maybe repost your original comment?

     

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  9.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:12am

    Re: Re: Rejected

    What I want to know is whether it was Mike who rejected it, or perhaps another moderator unused to my sardonic wit.

    In place of staid agreement with Mike, I felt inspired to make an entertaining parody. Well, I thought it was amusing.

     

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  10.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 4:27am

    Re: Re: Rejected

    Thanks Mike. :)

    It was the sort of comment that an overly fastidious moderator would reject as frivolous, hence me wondering if you were raising the quality bar for commenters.

    I'd simply parodied a hypothetical tutor's welcome to their students highlighting the irony of their effective self-deselection from the necessary attributes of entrepreneurship (implying that rather than entrepreneurs they were gullible saps being soaked of their spare cash). They were also invited to enrol in follow-up courses, e.g. 'An introduction to self-development' and 'How to run a start-up on a shoestring'.

    It wasn't exactly a masterpiece of humour. Someone else can write a better script.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:19am

    Youc an teach anything. The real question is "Can Entrepreneurship be learned?"

     

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  12.  
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    Cam Turner, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 6:44am

    Could barely wait to get through Undergrad

    I started my first (and current) company in my third term of Undergrad. My marks suffered greatly but I passed all my courses and learned what I needed to. Today I use about 20% of the theoretical stuff I learned in university, the rest came from the practical experiences I gained (and mistakes I made) in those formative years as a student entrepreneur.

    12 years on and we're still going strong.

    I never got around to taking a business or economics course, and have no intention of going back to school. I surround myself with people who give me advice, but credit school mostly with giving me the critical thinking skills I need to evaluate that advice and select which bits I agree with and which bits fit my goals.

    Hardest lesson: Not all advice is free, some of it is very, very expensive when it's wrong.

     

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  13.  
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    Deb Kolaras, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Teaching the willing

    I'm like Cam above; barely learned anything business-wise in college, but what I did have always was the burning desire to work for myself. That came at a very young age, so I was a sponge for the knowledge. Some people fancy the idea of entrepreneurship, but not all are actually cut out for it. "I don't have the discipline" really means "A paycheck is a more comfortable option for me" and that's quite alright. We can teach better entrepreneurship, but only to those that appreciate and want the hard work that follows.

     

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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    "Also, while Paul talks about the importance of "creating more entrepreneurs," I'm not sure that makes sense. I think the people who are meant to be entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs."

    I think that planting the entrepreneurial seed at an early age is the key to creating more entrepreneurs.

    For me that time was around twelve years old when my father allowed me to sell excess produce from our garden door to door and keep the money. It made a big impression on me. At nineteen I started my first business doing commercial sound systems for churches, VFW and similar organizations.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 - (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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  15.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 8:03am

    Re: I totally agree with you

    From what I have been told by several students the "entrepreneurship" program is a business management program that includes how to do without lawyers.

     

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  16.  
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    Louis Buck, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    Entrepreneurship

    At Western Carolina's College of Business we do teach entrepreneurship at both the undergraduate and the Master's level. One of the posts stated that you cannot teach entrepreneurship, obviously we think it can be done because we have a large number of successful entrepreneurs who have been through our programs. No, we cannot give you that great idea or market altering process; but we can provide you with the skills to implement that idea with a thorough understanding of what it takes to succeed in the entrepreneurial space.

     

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  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re: Entrepreneurship

    I've started five business so far (I'm in my 40s), two of which have been very, very profitable, so I guess that qualifies me as an entrepreneur.

    I have taken entrepreneurship courses (after I'd made one or two stabs at starting a business myself), but on the whole found them to be counterproductive. The reason? They are extremely discouraging, and tend to focus on all the reasons that startups can fail.

    This makes sense from an academic point of view, of course -- understanding what it takes to succeed is really understanding what it takes to fail. But I really think it harms the fundamental requirement to be a successful entrepreneur: blind, insane drive.

    It's like falling in love. Yes, most relationships end in heartbreak and odds are that any given new one is no exception. But it's worth being delusional enough to think that this one is the exception, because sooner or later you'll be right.

    Starting and running a business does require certain skills that can (and should) be learned, of course, but I argue that one should damn-it-all and start the business first, then pick up the skills as you go. Otherwise, it's too easy to never start it at all.

     

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  18.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Re: Not totally

    You can also teach (show) people that it can be done. You can increase enthusiasm for people who just need a little shove.

    And you can decrease enthusiasm for those who shouldn't do it - and that may be a useful service, too.

    A bunch of case studies can help entrepreneurs prepare for what they will face. Tools such as (erghh) how to patent, how to register as an S-corp (or whatever), how to hire, how to structure ownership, etc, are all very useful.

    But I agree with Mike's post that the most entrepreneurial won't be in that classroom. However, many *future* entrepreneurs may well be. We all go through different phases in our lives. We're ready for different things at different times. I went to B school a year before Mike, and at the time was not interested in starting a biz. I wanted to cut my chops in a big tech biz. That done, four years later in 2001, I started up my consulting business.

    Now, I help entrepreneurs, and it's clear that "on the go" training fits well with their modus operandi.

     

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  19.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: Better ways to do this

    "Taking money from an entrepreneur"

    We often consult for equity.

    Often, staff from my firm will take a (temporary) card-carrying role in the startup (VP marketing), because the small ones need more than advice - they need staff and deliverables.

     

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  20.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Re:

    Wow. I agree with Ron J. Riley.

    It feels...kinda uncomfortable. Like sliding down the rope in gym class.

     

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  21.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    Re: Re:

    As I have said before, I do find things on TechDirt that I believe have merit but there is so much uninformed rubbish about patents, inventors, and the economics of the business that it forces me expend what time I have available debunking that material. It is a shame.

    Like TechDirt and the related businesses I also did some consulting work for large businesses. That was many years ago. I learned very early, actually in junior and high school when I was hanging at at General Motors Institute (now Kettering). This was in the sixties and GMI's facilities were phenomenal. I learned Algol on the Tech Center's GE mainframe, followed by FORTRAN on an IBM (1130?). My first exposure to a Laser was there and many years later I had the pleasure of getting to know the inventor, Gordon Gould. He was a very pleasant man, perhaps in part because he suffered thirty years of abusive litigation at the hands of patent pirates. His case is a perfect example of why the speed of the East Texas court is so important to independent inventors.

    One thing which the professor mentors instilled in me was not to every become an employee of GM or other large companies. GMI treated me very well, and years later GM was one of a handful of companies who ripped off my mono-rail control technology collectively to the tune of about 30-40 million bucks. They also played a big role in persecuting Gordon Gould for thirty years.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR act PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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  22.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Aug 18th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Re: I totally agree with you

    Doing without lawyers is not wise. The public likes to demonize lawyers but the reality is that like all professions there are good ones and then there are a small number of bad apples.

    Setting up a business without help from a qualified attorney and CPA is penny wise and pound foolish. It is likely to cost far more to fix the mistakes, perhaps hundreds fold than it costs to do it right the first time.

    It does make a great deal of sense to study the legal issues in order to use the professional's time wisely. www.Nolo.com is an excellent source of books. A very good web site is www.tenonline.org and every aspiring entrepreneur should take advantage of www.SCORE.org.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR act PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2009 @ 8:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ron,

    You gotta keep it black or white. I prefer to demonize people with no shades of grey.

    Oh well. Next time.

    Derek.

     

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  24.  
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    Cara (profile), Aug 19th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Your right. You either have what it takes or you don't. I am fortunate enough to be one of those people who have what it takes. A few years back I was on the other side of the window looking in. Now I can't stop! My most recent accomplishment is working from home. I am now a stay at home mother of two with multiple websites and affiliate programs also. I have to give alot of the credit to the site Your work from home place. It really brought me to a whole new point of understanding concerning the internet. Very helpful people and the offers are basically self explanatory. The link is http://www.yourworkfromhomeplace.com for anyone who may be interested. Best of luck to you!

     

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  25.  
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    Becky, Aug 20th, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    I actually think that certain traits, such as being a good entrepreneur is just something we are born with- something I read out of Jack Hatfield's latest book, "Natural Success Principles." Jack Hatfield points out that everyone must continue to learn and develop. Once they stop, once they get in a rut, they have basically given up. Yes, continuing to learn and grow is difficult. If it was easy, every tree would be 1000 feet tall and every person would be very successful. So I agree that teaching someone to be an entrepreneur is not always feasible for everyone, however everybody has the ability to be successful at something.

     

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