(Photo courtesy of University of the Arts)
Entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing subjects in undergraduate curricula nationwide, according to a recent Kauffman Foundation report.
“As recently as the 1990s, that was far from true,” the report cites. “Over the past decade or so, however, the university teaching of entrepreneurship has come of age.”
Entrepreneurship education has evolved from a niche educational experience to a highly-funded, results-driven program with sweeping appeal to students from all academic backgrounds.
This next wave of entrepreneurship brings tremendous resources to students, with specialized training in programs like Blackstone Launchpad and the Corzo Center at the University of the Arts. The Launchpad and Corzo Center are supplementary, fast-track education programs for college students interested in starting their own businesses.
These programs give students access to coaches and industry experts. Universities, with the help of charitable foundations, are evolving their programs in an effort to keep young entrepreneurs prepared to enter the fast-changing real world.
The evolution of entrepreneurship education
The first entrepreneurship course was offered as a study of “new enterprises” more than 65 years ago at Harvard University. This was Entrepreneurship Education 1.0, a very niche curriculum for reorienting members of society, many of whom were WWII veterans. The course was taught by professor Myles Mace. It was called, “Management of Small Enterprises.”
In 1971, the University of Southern California launched the first Masters of Business Administration with entrepreneurship as a concentration. This sparked Entrepreneurship Education 2.0, the mainstreaming of entrepreneurship as a “business major.”
According to the Kauffman Foundation, the largest entrepreneurship research institution in the U.S., as of 2008, there were more than 5,000 entrepreneurship programs nationwide. Yet almost all of the programmatic growth over the last 40 years has happened within the business school with very little appeal to non-business majors.
However, when the Great Recession hit in 2008, entrepreneurship education began to move from the periphery of the business school, and into the spotlight as a possible job creator in a jobless economy.
Due to uncertainties caused by the collapse of banking industry, the supply of jobs in the private sector plummeted. The American economy lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008 alone, and the unemployment rate doubled from 4.9 to 10.0 percent — the highest rates of unemployment in 50 years.
A weak job market forced the suppliers of higher education, colleges and universities, to consider entrepreneurship as a means of real-world preparedness for all majors.
This was the impetus of Entrepreneurship Education 3.0 — the broadening of entrepreneurship with interdisciplinary buy-in from faculty and students across college campuses.
The Blackstone Launchpad hypothesis
Essentially, how can universities get entrepreneurship out of the business school and into the humanities and the sciences? That’s the question.
Two schools of thought have emerged as viable options on how best to do that.
The first attempt is the Blackstone Launchpad hypothesis, whereby collaborative workspaces are strategically placed in high-traffic areas to increase exposure and accessibility. (Temple University’s Blackstone Launchpad is located in the Howard Grit Student Center, as opposed to the Fox School of Business, for example.)
Budding entrepreneurs at any stage in the business development process are welcomed to use the resources available. Entrepreneurs are linked with coaches and industry experts for refinement and business planning. The Blackstone Launchpad has an industry agnostic, open door policy to the full student body. The program launched in the Philadelphia region at Temple University, Philadelphia University and the University City Science Center in 2013, and has already produced promising prospects like Morgan Berman, founder of MilkCrate.
The Corzo Center Hypothesis
Another attempt to broaden the reach of entrepreneurship across college campuses was initiated last year by the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts in collaboration with Drexel University.
The Corzo program, which is headed by Neil Klienman, is more deliberate than the Blackstone Launchpad model. It’s a yearlong mentorship program which is front loaded with six weeks of formalized training in foundational business courses.
The Corzo Program is by application only for UA and Drexel students. The University of the Arts is focused on the humanities, while Drexel University is best known for its engineering expertise. This gave the Corzo Center a nice crop of creative and technical students to whom it could teach entrepreneurship.
“None of our participants had a business background,” said Lauren Ancona, the Corzo Center’s assistant director. “We find creative people where they are and teach them in terms they can understand.”
In order to get buy-in from students, the Corzo Center offered participants $3,000. Half the money was received upon acceptance into the program, and the balance at the end of the six-week program.
Through the remainder of the academic year, participants received routine coaching and mentorship in preparation for “Pitch Day,” the Corzo Program’s culminating event which occurred Aug. 14, 2014.
Eight teams presented for a chance to win $10,000 in seed funding. The audience also voted for the most innovative product pitched, with the winner receiving $1,000 in funding.
This year’s winners
Megan Peaslee, who majored in design and minored in psychology at Drexel, won $5,000 for her Acute Reader business concept. Her product helps individuals with severe dexterity issues read more comfortability by propping the book and making it easier to turn pages.
Machele Nettles, who majored in industrial design at University of the Arts, also won $5,000 for Blurp, a children’s furniture toy that she shrewdly positioned as a hospital nursery item. Nettle showed a solid understanding of market economics and financials.
CoffeeBotts, an animated video team, was chosen by the audience as the most innovative product pitched. This young team of four met at Drexel a few months ago. They joined the Corzo Center in order to commercialize their talents. Once they figure out the right business model, whether media company or B2B service provider, they’ll be ready to launch. Training creative people to follow market opportunities is one of the challenges of the Corzo Program.
Why entrepreneurship education 3.0 is unique
Entrepreneur Education 3.0 is unique for two primary reasons. Firstly, it is diverse in knowledge and academic background — with a broad appeal to non-business majors. Secondly, Entrepreneurship Education 3.0 is highly funded by charitable foundations because of its potential impact on the U.S. economy.
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation committed $3 million to local Philadelphia universities in order to grow entrepreneurial activity in the region. The Corzo Center received a $120,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to launch its operations.
Charitable funding is significant in the 3.0 era of entrepreneurship education because it changes the success metrics. Universities typically define success by “skill transference” — using metrics like job placement and grades to measure success.
However, entrepreneurial success as measured by charitable foundations is much more objective. The Blackstone Launchpad has a stated goal to create hundreds of jobs over five years. The Corzo Program, which is still in its beginning stages, is trying to make first-time entrepreneurs out of creative and technical people. As it tries to push more creative minds into the market, Corzo fully intends to iterate on its offerings in order to maximize that effort.