Entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in isolation. Think about it, its true. So why do Universities think they can create entrepreneurs without developing a sustainable community around them. So what is best practice from universes in the UK?
Network of Entrepreneurs – Open the doors and get all who start and own businesses to bring their networks into the university and also get those startups to go out into the network of local entrepreneurs. This open door policy helps reduce costs but also helps foster stronger links between those starting a business and those who have strong businesses.
Mentors – The vast majority of entrepreneurs will mentor a student or graduate who is looking to start a business. However you should be provide training, support and knowledge enhancement for these mentors. How and what is mentoring, when should I do it and what should a say, how far can I go in forcing them to do something? Once you set the ground rules and provide clear guidance they are a great resource. Its about giving before taking.
Local Customer – A lot of startups think global sales without seeing that just outside the university there are thousand of customers. The fact is the global and local customer are the same distance from them, about a million miles. By bringing local customers to the university and the startups you build a customer base who will provide feedback, cash and support to these startup business.
Fail Safe – The majority of startups will fail within the first 2 years and the landing pad for this ride should be prepared. Allowing them to understanding the learnings from the business and develop a real knowledge base which can be applied to the next star up will help create better businesses in the future.
Connected Events – Co-sponsored events which student, entrepreneurs and business professional attend from around the city ensure that students get to understand the wider context of entrepreneurship and able to pitch and network with potential investors.
Last week I attended GCEC 2014 and was able to spend time with practitioners of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. It was a very worthwhile experience, especially when so many of them were from the USA which have a much more advanced culture of enterprise.
It became clear to me that there are three elements for a successful entrepreneurship centre within a University:
Everyone knows if you start a business in Silicon Valley its great for technology businesses and the eco-system, network and financial institutions are set up to start, grow and IPO these businesses. This is a one place and the rest us don’t live there or want to start a high tech high growth business. This eco-system DOES NOT exist in any other part of the world. Cambridge also has its own eco-system. So we would expect each location, cluster and university to have a set of features that facilitate the growth of certain businesses? We would expect the university to have researched these and further more be able to articulate this through its research papers, education programmes and practical support for startups and growth businesses.
Enterprise & Entrepreneur Education
The core business of a university is education. We are experiencing great changes in the higher education environment and universities need to react in real time to the needs of their students and business community. The majority of universities in the UK get more revenue from CPD training than research grants. This is why local business is so important to them, as it provides a great sustainable revenue stream and also the opportunity to understand their local business needs, which helps feed the research. It also brings educators from cross disciplines together which is needed to build robust community focused institutions.
The development of students into entrepreneurs and the development of entrepreneurs to leaders of high growth businesses is the most important part of the trinity. It enables the university to substantiate its research in the ‘real world’ environment and provide a practical outlet for the costly education resources. Moreover, it provides the feedback loop which all research and educators need to contextualize the theory.
I know some universities in the UK have some of these parts, but there is not one University in the UK, which ensures these three parts work together for the common development of the university and its community.
Looking forward to hear from those that think they do!!!