The best way to learn how to become an entrepreneur is to actually learn from an entrepreneur.
Sure, you can read all the books you want on how to build a successful business, but when you get right down to it there’s still no substitute for having a chance to hear firsthand from people who’ve actually done it. Whether it’s Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, or the guy down the street who started a food truck business—15 minutes of insights could eliminate months of unnecessary headaches.
There is, of course, plenty being written these days about the future of higher education as more and more universities offer massive open online courses (MOOCs), but for me the question is just as much who is delivering the content as how the content gets delivered.
Here in Pittsburgh, we have an incredibly supportive and connected startup and entrepreneurial community. From accelerator programs and business incubators, to a growing list of local networking events, to being a host site for Startup Weekend, there’s no shortage of ways for well-established and aspiring entrepreneurs to connect and share knowledge.
When it comes to higher education, those same connections and interactions are often much harder to come by. Although more and more college campuses are starting to embrace entrepreneurial initiatives, they often still have to worry about accreditation and whether bringing in an adjunct lecturer will affect their ratio of academically qualified versus professionally qualified instructors (not to mention pissing off their faculty).
As a result, many courses are led by tenured faculty who are more versed in research and theory than practical application. Although theory is a critically important part of the learning process, at the end of the day so too is having a chance to hear directly from folks who have been in the entrepreneurial trenches.
Of course we can’t talk about startup education without talking about startups in education. Curious.com, Startup Institute, and others are helping to fill a much-needed void by bringing together industry professionals and self-directed students. "Learning happens at many different places—not just inside of a traditional classroom," says Justin Kitch, founder of Curious.com. "If you can find craftspeople who can teach something and want to share their knowledge, you can start to build a community around learning," he added.
If we’re going to continue to empower, educate, and train aspiring entrepreneurs, we’ve got to continue to look outside of college campuses and MOOCs to find ways to augment what’s being taught in the classroom. Doing so not only creates opportunities for mindshare, but also helps to facilitate connections with the broader entrepreneurial community. And that’s always a good thing.
[Image: Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy]