This session brought together a panel of student
entrepreneurs and recent graduates who are entrepreneurs to discuss what the
next generation of entrepreneurs wants from their entrepreneurial college. The
• Ben Biron, student and co-founder and CMO of
Alcohoot. He is from Israel and came to
the U.S. on a soccer scholarship with no intention of becoming an entrepreneur.
His company has created a breathalyzer for a smart phone. They were part of the
accelerator in Packard Place in Charlotte.
• Juliette Brindakk, graduated from college 2 and a half
years ago. She launched her business, Miss O & Friends, when she was in
high school. The company helps girls build self-esteem without advertising that
to them. It’s a fun community for girls and it has an international reach.
• Jason Jannal is a college graduate who started GreeNEWit
with partners. The company was initially funded with zero-percent credit cards.
Their initial idea was to do green renovations but they realized they had no
experience and not enough money for that. So they decided that doing energy
audits was a light enough business model that they could get into and focus on
• Sheena Lindahl is cofounder and president of Empact, which
facilitates entrepreneurship throughout the world.
These students and former students had great agreement on
what colleges need to do to provide students with the support they need to
become entrepreneurs, so rather than highlighting who said what, I’ve just
grouped all of their comments together below:
One of the biggest questions on people’s minds is how do I
get money, but that’s really the wrong question. Focusing on companies that get
$10 million overnight is not what young people should be focused on. Breaking
that down into the pieces of how you actually start a business and helping
people to learn by trial and fire, that is the facilitation is what needs to
There is a myth that being an entrepreneur is about being a
millionaire and making it overnight. But the overnight successes are really
more like 15 years of hard work. For the most part it’s a process and I think
that’s important to know.
The emotional side of entrepreneurship is important. Sure the
hard skills are really important but that emotional component is there when
you’re starting. For so many people you look at these success stories that are
the focus of the media and you think you don’t have what it takes to be that
entrepreneur. The Mark Zuckerburg model is the wrong model.
When I hear the word entrepreneurship, I equate that with a
leader, someone who is willing to stand tall when times are uncertain. I never
considered myself as an entrepreneur; but I considered myself as someone who
would lead and bring people along. People need to get comfortable with being
uncomfortable. There’s a scene in "Game of Thrones,” where the son asks the
king, "How can I show courage when I’m scared?” And the king’s response was
that’s the only time you can show
courage. That’s what people have to be willing to take on.
You need to go get your ass kicked a little bit to know how
you’re going to respond.
You need to be okay with failure and need to be put into
situations where you’re not always going to come out on top. By making it a known fact that if you’re not
succeeding in every single thing you’re trying to do, that enables people to
learn, by making that known.
I don’t think you can teach it [the courage an entrepreneur
needs] but I think everyone has it within them. We’re all born with endless
possibilities. For some people that courage comes out more naturally but the
question is how do you draw that out of everyone?
Going into college with having a business already put me in
a different situation. Because, of course, everything is always on the same
day. I had a frustrating experience. I would let professors know in advance
when I had a conflict. There was this one teacher who was a social
entrepreneurship teacher; that was the only business class I took in college.
At the start I told him about my company but when I had one of the largest
meetings in my life and I also had a test that day, he said you have to choose.
For him to tell me I needed to make one a priority when they [my business and my
education] were both equal priorities to me was wrong. Thankfully the meeting
got moved. As a teacher who was encouraging entrepreneurship (he also had his
own company) it was so hypocritical. So when students with businesses come to
you, it’s important to understand that students have two passions and not make
them to choose.
If a community college could act as a huge magnet for
mentors, that would make a real difference.
For me, I felt I didn’t have those resources, even though
they had an entrepreneurship center, I never felt they reached out in any way
to help me do what I was already doing.
Incubation is the best thing schools can do.
Emotions and self doubt are really big. But when hard skills
are the big thing in the classroom, some of the things [like emotion and self-doubt ]that will be the real
roadblocks will be pushed aside.
[The curriculum should ] really help people refine their idea. A lot of people
come in and say they’re not sure what they want to do and that’s okay. If you
have already decided what you want, you’ve already done a lot of the heavy
lifting. If the colleges could facilitate people finding what they want and the next
step would be kicking them out of the next and get roughed up a little bit and
them after they have those experiences bring them back in and provide the
resources they need.
Let someone's start-up be part of the requirement
for the class.
[To generate excitement about entrepreneurship on campus, I would get very loud about it. I would be leveraging the
most current form of marketing so I saw resonating with the kind of people I
hope to attract. The other thing would be trying to do everything I can to get
relevant mentors into the program; that will bring people to the table. Outside
of that I would be just very focused on helping people decide what they want to
do as soon as possible.
I had a class I which we had to write memos. Memos are 20
years ago. Classes should be engaging and videos, notes should be on line.
In terms of building excitement around campus, one of the most
important things is having students be passionate about it; not just start
something beause they think they should start something. Bringing out the
passion in students is the most important thing. Once you can do that a gillion
ideas will come out of them. But just to start something for the sake of
starting something isn’t always a good idea.
The real asset that college campuses have is the people;
you’ve go the faculty and the other students. One of the things at the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour has learned is that you have to get that energy and that
passion out there. They need to see themselves as fulfilling that and that gets