This morning the web is abuzz with some news out of Beijing. Apparently the Chinese index of entrepreneurial confidence (which I think needs an acronym) is still soaring in the third quarter of 2007. It registered no statistically significant change since last quarter, when it was at a high of 143 points (100 points is conventionally thought to be the boundary between a bullish or bearish trend).
With the dollar at a humbling low point and our national debt soaring (much of it, by the way, owed to China), good news for our far-eastern industrial counterparts might make for an easy jab at the confidence of American entrepreneurs. But another press release came over the wires today that will hopefully remind Americans that they’re actually living in one of the best entrepreneurial economies in recent memory.
That press release comes from the Princeton Review, which announced today its list of the top 50 graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship programs at colleges nationwide. While the University of Southern California and Babson College took top honors in the respective categories, that isn’t really the point.
What’s terrific about the rankings is that a whopping 30% more schools participated than did last year. That increase, The Princeton Review believes,
…Underscores the growing number of entrepreneurial courses nationwide and the established mainstream appeal of business ownership.
This isn’t totally surprising; just last year, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to encourage public universities to spend more funding on entrepreneurship programs, citing statistics that reported over 70% of high school seniors want to someday start their own business. As CNN reported in February, a hell of a lot of those high school seniors are actually making good on their goal:
We are in the midst of the largest entrepreneurial surge this country has ever seen. According to Small Business Administration projections, nearly 672,000 new companies with employees were created in 2005. That is the biggest business birthrate in U.S. history: 30,000 more startups than in 2004, and 12% more than at the height of dot-com hysteria in 1996.
Of course, the implicit attitude of these 70% of high schoolers can be perceived as quite negative. Either entrepreneurship is gaining some kind of cache because of billionaire successes like Google and Facebook, or these students are simply disillusioned with corporate work. If they know someone in their life who is unhappily marooned at a corporate job, showing little interest in the overarching success of the company, of course they’ll be reticent to join the big-company workforce.
In reality, it is likely a combination of the two factors that is driving students to be their own bosses. Nevertheless, it’s a good indicator that American ingenuity, which gave us light bulbs, peanut butter and “friending,” is still as vigorous as ever.