Teaching Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

October 24th, 2014

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CU-Boulder’s Deming Center Helps Prepare Next Generation of Business Pioneers

The University of Colorado Boulder has been celebrated as one of Forbes magazine’s top 20 entrepreneurial universities in the nation.  And at this year’s Esprit Entrepreneur event presented by the Boulder Chamber, CU-Boulder hosted a panel on “The Future of Entrepreneurship.” One of the key elements of CU’s entrepreneurial leadership is the Leeds School of Business Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, which helps “…prepare graduates to embrace key global challenges by equipping them to think like entrepreneurs, act as social innovators and deliver as successful business leaders.” To find out more about how the Deming Center is helping CU-Boulder be a national leader in developing students into entrepreneurs, we spoke with Remy Arteaga, the Center’s Director. 

The Increasingly Crowded “Entrepreneurial” Education Field

Not surprisingly, labeling a college or university as a center of entrepreneurial development has become quite fashionable. Entrepreneur Magazine online reported late last year that over 2300 post-secondary institutions were offering entrepreneurship and small business certificates, up over 900 percent in 10 years. When Forbes recently rated its top entrepreneurial universities, CU-Boulder was ranked number 19, placing above such schools as Harvard, Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, and other notables. We should note that Forbes used what it called an “entrepreneurial ratio” for its rankings: ”… the number of alumni and students who have identified themselves as founders and business owners on  LinkedIn against the school’s total student body (undergraduate and graduate combined).”

Deming Center Perspectives on Educating Entrepreneurs

Boulder Chamber: Given the number of “entrepreneurial” studies programs being promulgated, can “entrepreneurship” really be taught?

Remy Arteaga: Yes! This question gets to the long-standing debate of whether entrepreneurs are made or born. In my book Pivot, I wrote that, “…trying to pick one side of the ‘made or born’ argument is misguided; instead entrepreneurs are first born then made.” There are people on both sides of the aisle on this. For example, “Tripod Founder Bo Peabody believes that entrepreneurs are born. He states in his book Lucky or Smart, ‘Those who decide to become entrepreneurs are making the first in a long line of bad business decisions.’ In other words, entrepreneurs are born, not made.” On the other side of this debate we have “…the author of Entrepreneurs are Made Not Born, Lloyd Shefsky, a professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. After interviewing more than 200 successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Shefsky concluded that successful entrepreneurs are made not born.” My feeling is that learning entrepreneurial finance, marketing, ideation, product development, and scaling can only help an entrepreneur in his quest to launch a startup.

BC: What are the essential skill sets a young entrepreneur needs to develop?

RA: I think it is important for entrepreneurs to understand the fundamental entrepreneurial principles that deal with uncertainty management, knowledge creation, opportunity recognition, and experimentation. These principles are easy to understand and are important to both the solo and corporate entrepreneurs. These principles can be taught early in life. I’ve been working with some high schools on the possibility of teaching these principles as early as 9th grade. I was at a meeting the other day of highly successful entrepreneurs/investors. This group felt that young entrepreneurs often lack the sophistication to interact with investors. The investors felt that these young entrepreneurs do not understand fundamental concepts like entrepreneurial finance, marketing, and others. Fortunately, these courses are taught at The Deming Center at The Leeds School of Business through the business minor in entrepreneurship. We also included these concepts at our Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in August. You can find out more information on the bootcamp by going to http://ideas2action.us.

BC: Is there community support for your efforts?

RA: Absolutely. The mission of The Deming Center is to help students achieve The American Dream. According to some studies, the recent group of young adults is worse off than any other generation that came before them. Sixty-seven percent of young adults don’t believe that The American Dream is achievable. That’s unacceptable. Entrepreneurship education and programs at the Deming Center have an amazing impact on students. It helps them graduate at higher rates than the average student, helps them get internships, and helps them get jobs. Everywhere I turn in the community, I find support for our mission. I have forty community members who serve on The Deming Center board. Organizations like the Boulder Chamber have been good friends. Business leaders like Mark Retzloff and Marley Hodgson have given of their time and treasure to help us reach more students.

BC: What future directions or initiatives can you tell us about?

RA: Our focus is on helping students achieve The American Dream. Our business minor and entrepreneurship certificate programs play a big part in our plans. Many people are unaware that we have entrepreneurship faculty that perform research and other experienced entrepreneurship instructors that deliver dozens of classes per semester. One program that we started this fall is the Entrepreneurship Fellows program. This program works with a group of 20 – 25 entrepreneurial students and an invite-only group of 10 – 12 entrepreneurial firms, to ensure that each of these students gets an internship and eventually a job.

BC: Thanks so much for your time. We’ll look forward to learning more about future developments.

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