My thoughts on entrepreneurship, its role in education and what we do about it — StartupWeek 2011

So there I was am in Startup Week 2011 in Vienna. It is a very good event, for which I’m happy to attend. Met very cool people and founders. I am going to write a post about the week anyway — it’s not today’s point — and possibly elsewhere, too.

Before I continue on with writing, I’d like first to clarify some things. I’m not an entrepreneur, neither consider myself one. I’ve never founded a company, never worked or did a startup (yet?) (I don’t consider 4sqwifi as a start-up.) This means, these opinions stated here are fully personal, 100% of how I see things and all that disclaimers’ crap. All what I do is because I love it and have fun. You’re free to disagree — and please do so in the comments! Let’s continue, shouldn’t we?


Yesterday I went to an interesting panel titled “Entrepreneurship Education Panel; Outlook for Entrepreneurship education in Europe” moderated by a guy whom I haven’t heard about. The same applies for the rest of the speakers (including a member of the Austrian Parliament, a serial entrepreneur who also teaches at a university, some other entrepreneur turned VC turned a university teacher too and some other guy who I can’t remember what he’s doing.) Except one: Sophie (she works at TNW) with whom the other day discussed the same thing actually.

If you’re eager to find out the names, more infos, etc, visit Startup Week’s website.

Anyway, I didn’t know she was participating until someone told me about yesterday, and so I went.

Government and entrepreneurship (yawn), skills and knowledge

Long story short short, I heard that the government can change the Educational System by creating entrepreneurship classes and a network of entrepreneur want-to be’s (not in a bad way of speaking) students across Europe (by the parliament member). I also heard that one can teach entrepreneurship to university students. The skills, that is, to become a (successful?) entrepreneur (from the guy entrepreneur turned VC, etc.) That academia needs entrepreneurship (or hates it, I didn’t quite understand to be honest.) — this was told by the serial entrepreneur and the guy entrepreneur turned VC, etc.

Well, I disagree.

It’s not that I’m against university. Kinda the opposite, I’d say. Neither I’m against personally on any of those guys — that’s one thing to have in mind. I just disagree.

And what the heck do I think

I don’t think that you can teach the skills or the characteristics of an entrepreneur to someone (in formal education at least.) As “entrepreneur” is a hyped word lately, I want to add that it’s not easy working 9-5 for a big corp., either. Definitely, entrepreneurs have many more things to do, problems to solve, less time and, while bootstrapping, less money.

Entrepreneurs are driven by the need to create (stick with that) and by gut and instinct which is driven by empirical knowledge. Try and fail. That’s it. They don’t go with business strategy manuals, academic approaches to marketing, etc. They deliver. The desire to create overwhelms many times anything else, that might pop in their way. The beauty and the joy of having created something — well, that’s something unbeatable.

One thing you can create is — foster, actually — the culture around entrepreneurs. I strongly feel that one cannot teach the skills but one can inspire someone, can transfer him ideas, mindset, desire, creativity, and lessons learned (to-do’s & not to-do’s.) The most important thing: creativity. And how do you do it? Look no further than Berlin, a thriving new community of startups. They managed to gather in the same place many artists, creatives, programmers, designers, photographers and all kinds of people who make this community go big time.

I also do think that you cannot create culture, either. Culture creates itself from the network of people who do systematically things together. It takes years and it’s not easy at all. But you, through actions, as said, can foster it.

It’s all about everything

And for a government, there are four things that need to be done. The first is: don’t create “entrepreneurship” classes. Yeah, simply don’t. Secondly, if your goal is to foster and enhance entrepreneurship add many creative classes throughout Primary up until High School, then teach kids the joy of creating. It hasn’t to be software only. The third is to introduce into university-level schools a class in which every student would get a $x-amount of money and will have to deliver product and profit within one or two months. A real life project, out there, outside of the bubble. In the real world, in the real market. And lastly, but not least, it’s vital for the government to create a new Law Framework around creating businesses, which will demand less paperwork but it’ll be a thousands times easier for someone to create a new company.

Entrepreneurship is such an overhyped word, to be honest. “Oh, you’re an entrepreneur, right? Duuuude.” Entrepreneurship is not the Holy Grail of economics or our own economies. It won’t save us, even if we all turned entrepreneurs today. Someone has to work for someone else. Plus, most importantly, not everyone can handle being or want to be an entrepreneur. Some people are happy working 9-5, feel secure, don’t want to take risks and all that yada yada. It’s ok. Yeah, shake your heads and understand that it’s ok. I cannot imagine myself doing some dull thing for 8 hours 5 (or even 6) days a week, but I do understand it’s ok for someone else.

And what we do?

There are very specific places in this world that things work really good out, where people understand the game and chase their dreams. What we could do? I said my opinion. It’s your turn now.

Additional discussion, upvotes, downvotes and other fun things for this post over at Hacker News.

posted: October 7, 2011
under: Blogging, Start-Up's

One Response

  1. Nassosdim says:

    After reading your post I’ve got to say that I wholeheartedly agree with you. My best guesses is that the only reason to attempt into creating entrepreneurs via university is simply because you want to take advantage of the people that believe that the concept is static.

    Even if by some form of magic the required skills could fit in X years of college, then what? Would they begin discarding the people that want to start their own business simply because they don’t have a diploma? Not to mention the amount of people that wouldn’t have a clue and think that after uni they got their act together and they don’t need to look for themselves what to do or don’t do when problems arise.