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Can you teach Entrepreneurship?

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 by in Mentoring, Startup Funding | 1 comment

Bueller.  Bueller.  Bueller.

Let’s debate.  Can you or can you not teach entrepreneurship?  Is it a skill reserved for a select few or is their a process, system, and method that can be repeated.  Imagine you are sitting in class and I am taking roll call!  I feel you laughing, stop it.  I get this question all the time.  I get it about any accelerator, I’ve heard it at least 20 times about Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint program, can it be taught?  Can what be taught?  That special skill or mental capacity to be an entrepreneur.

I have traditionally answered this question with a bunch of junk and gibberish that makes no sense.  I would say, yes it can be taught, but people are born to be an entrepreneur, then I would say, no it can’t be taught, and then I would stand up and defend mentoring as the answer to all problems in the world.  Actually I am a little embarrassed.  I should have given this question much more thought.  So I blog.

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I went looking for a few course descriptions from top-notch “fancy pants” schools with big endowments and buildings named after rich people:

Foundations of Entrepreneurship

The purpose of this course is to explore the many dimensions of new venture creation and growth and to foster innovation and new business formations in independent and corporate settings. The course uses and integrates many of the disciplines in the MBA curriculum.  The course appeals to individuals who have an existing strong desire to become an entrepreneur, or work in a startup or early stage or entrepreneurial minded company that may be expressed immediately or later in their careers.  This course is also good for students who considering careers in consulting, venture capital, or investment “baking” (I love it, the word is misspelled or is it) where they are dealing with new or relatively new ventures.

Be honest, this course description basically applies to everyone, including those that are planning to launch careers in “investment baking”, I hear that industry is red hot, highly competitive, and they are starting a reality TV show called “Celebrity Investment Baking”.

It got me thinking, if I was to ever attend a class on entrepreneurship, what would I want to learn:

– Idea Generation Framework, how to explore, vet, and organize thoughts into potential product or business ideas

– Idea Validation Framework, the “Lean Startup” customer discovery, how to go ask people about your ideas to determine market fit

– Team Assembling, how to find, network, recruit, build, and connect with team members to chase a new idea

– Product Development, how to build an MVP (minimum viable product) and avoid science projects

– Fundraising and Allocation, how to raise necessary funds (Angel, VC, Credit Cards, Customer Funded, etc) but also how to budget and allocate the dollars

– Case Studies, interview founders of failed and growing startups and then turn them into group/class presentations

So, can you teach entrepreneurship?  I gave it a lot of thought, and here is my current answer, yes.  Why do I say that?  Simple.  I have gotten better at being an entrepreneur over the last decade, how, by learning from success and failure, listening to others, reading, writing, researching, and practicing the craft.  Bottom line, if I can learn to get better than doesn’t that mean you can teach it?  Challenge me, what do you think, can it be taught?  What would you teach?  What would you want to learn?  How would you make it stick?

1 Comment

  1. This is interesting. I’ve been debating whether I should go back to school for my MBA, grappling with the thought that both of my parents have successful businesses and neither of them have had any business education. But this doesn’t an see your question because teaching and learning don’t necessarily happen in a school setting. So I do agree with your thought that entrepeneuership can be taught, but how effective is gaining the knowledge in life vs. an MBA program?

    And as far as what I would like to learn is, everything. How do I turn my ideas into viable businesses? How do I measure the potential success of the business? I’m in the public health world currently so even a lesson on all the terminology would be great. How do I pitch idea? Find funders (what I’m struggling with now).

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