:: Voices ::

Entrepreneurship: Yes, There’s a Class for That

Big names tied to innovation—Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg—did it their way in a garage, or a dorm room, or around a conference table typically used for poker.

So does this mean innovators are born, not made?

Most entrepreneurship professors have broad academic experience and are innovators in their own right. You’re basically getting a mentor of value for the price of a college class.

It’s both. While there are a few Bill Gates-type people with the brains, opportunities, and support to start a business that becomes a phenomenal success, way more budding entrepreneurs would benefit from the rigors of a college class—or two. Universities across North Texas offer some version of an entrepreneurship curriculum. Every serious entrepreneur should think carefully about putting their ideas through the academic rigor of a university-level curriculum before hitting the pavement with their business idea. Here are a few reasons to head back to school:

  1. Nothing motivates people like a grade and a deadline. Even if you aren’t in class for a degree, you’ll still want a great grade. The financial research you were supposed to complete will actually get done if it’s part of a grade and a group project. It’s that perfect excuse your friends will understand.
  2. Universities have upped the quality of their professors. Most entrepreneurship professors have broad academic experience and are innovators in their own right. You’re basically getting a mentor of value for the price of a college class.
  3. Professors stay abreast of best practices. It’s their job to know what works in the innovation and entrepreneurship field. While your dad’s best friend may have a really successful restaurant chain, what was required when he was growing his business 15 years ago is totally different than what’s needed today. Two words: social media.
  4. Failure is a gift. At least it’s a gift when done in the safety of a classroom. Professors are going to let you work through your idea from several angles—finance, relevance, staffing, competition. Sometimes your great idea really isn’t even good. In an entrepreneurship class, you don’t fail the class if you discover your long-held dream is really a bust. Actually, you’ve learned a lot if you come to that conclusion—and that’s a good thing.
  5. Opinions matter and a classroom of opinions is priceless. You don’t need to pay for focus groups when all your classmates are worried about the same thing—launching a successful business or service into the marketplace. Nothing is more encouraging to an aspiring entrepreneur than being in a class with other aspiring entrepreneurs. Pick their brains and listen to their wisdom.
  6. You’ve heard it before—networks matter. By enrolling in a university entrepreneurship class or degree program, you’ll find other students in the same predicament as you (desperate to start a business), and you’ll find professors who’ve been doing this for a while. These professors come with networks of their own, including networks of other academics and professionals out in the marketplace who will look over your concept for free. All these people could have even more networks for financing exceptional business ideas. It’s not something you can tap into if you’re sitting in your garage.

Sometimes your great idea really isn’t even good. In an entrepreneurship class, you don’t fail the class if you discover your long-held dream is really a bust.

 

So, good luck as you get ready to create the next big thing. But you’ll have even better luck if you make education a component in the countdown to your product launch.


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Jeremy Vickers is the executive director of The University of Texas at Dallas Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he leads a team focused on cross-campus startup activity and entrepre(...)

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