Entrepreneurship at the University: practice and theory

Posted by Niek Huizenga on May 17, 2012

One Comment

“Impressive dear colleague, but does it also work in theory?”

Yesterday I gave a presentation to 50 students at the University of Groningen. The subject of the lecture was startups and the differences between the Netherlands and Silicon Valley. I was hoping to share knowledge with student entrepreneurs about running businesses, motivation, acquiring resources, stimulating and obstructing factors, etc.

But when I asked who was an entrepreneur there was no response. And when I asked who thinks of becoming an entrepreneur I counted 5 hands. Few students could give examples of entrepreneurs in their direct surroundings. And nobody knew the difference between a new entrepreneur and a startup.

This was not a Cultural Anthropology class. These students were 3th year Business Studies following the minor Entrepreneurship. I was amazed… and unfortunately my presentation was more like a one-way lecture than the interactive discussion I was hoping for.

I do not believe that all students in this class are averse against entrepreneurship or lack the ambition. I think it is because they don’t have examples. The majority of the students in this class do not have young entrepreneurs in their network.

After class a student approached me. He told me he has the ambition to do more with entrepreneurship but he doesn’t know how. When I asked him why he was interested he told a story about his brother being active in the startup scene of Amsterdam. There you go…. examples of energetic, cool and innovative entrepreneurs in your direct surroundings make students interested in entrepreneurship.

For a University you have to ask the question: Do you follow the minor “Entrepreneurship” to taste the practical part of entrepreneurship or are you going to study the theory of entrepreneurship? I think you can catch best of both worlds.

Entrepreneurship is an economical concept of the destabilizing factor in an economic equilibrium. The entrepreneur introduces innovations to produce at lower cost or to bring new products and services that change the market (Schumpeter called this creative destruction). The entrepreneur is the agent that makes this change happen and his actions are the foundation of economic growth.

As well the economics of entrepreneurship and the psychology of the entrepreneur is interesting material to study. But by studying these theories alone you do not experience entrepreneurship.

My advice to the University is to send the students to as many entrepreneurs as possible during a couple of weeks. They can learn from their motivation, observe their behavior and see what impact entrepreneurs have on their employees, customers and other stakeholders. After this the students studies the economical and psychological theories of entrepreneurship and relate this to the observations. Voila… a perfect combination of a practical and theoretical minor Entrepreneurship.

To kick start this I invite all the students to come to the Launch Cafe www.launchcafe.nl and have a lunch with the entrepreneurs.

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  • Enna van Duinen

    Hi Niek,
    Heel scherp, ik denk dat je de kern geraakt hebt. Komende week geef ik namens Rabobank ook weer een gastcollege op de Hanze en ik ga je inzicht meenemen in mijn presentatie. Bedankt hiervoor en zie je bij de officiële opening van het Launch cafe. Groet, Enna van Duinen Rabobank stad en midden Groningen


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