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General Session Notes: Next Gen Entrepreneurs – Next Gen College

Posted By Jeanne Yocum, Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This session brought together a panel of student entrepreneurs and recent graduates who are entrepreneurs to discuss what the next generation of entrepreneurs wants from their entrepreneurial college. The panel included:

• Ben Biron, student and co-founder and CMO of Alcohoot.  He is from Israel and came to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship with no intention of becoming an entrepreneur. His company has created a breathalyzer for a smart phone. They were part of the accelerator in Packard Place in Charlotte.


• Juliette Brindakk, graduated from college 2 and a half years ago. She launched her business, Miss O & Friends, when she was in high school. The company helps girls build self-esteem without advertising that to them. It’s a fun community for girls and it has an international reach.


• Jason Jannal is a college graduate who started GreeNEWit with partners. The company was initially funded with zero-percent credit cards. Their initial idea was to do green renovations but they realized they had no experience and not enough money for that. So they decided that doing energy audits was a light enough business model that they could get into and focus on service.


• Sheena Lindahl is cofounder and president of Empact, which facilitates entrepreneurship throughout the world.


These students and former students had great agreement on what colleges need to do to provide students with the support they need to become entrepreneurs, so rather than highlighting who said what, I’ve just grouped all of their comments together below:


One of the biggest questions on people’s minds is how do I get money, but that’s really the wrong question. Focusing on companies that get $10 million overnight is not what young people should be focused on. Breaking that down into the pieces of how you actually start a business and helping people to learn by trial and fire, that is the facilitation is what needs to happen.


There is a myth that being an entrepreneur is about being a millionaire and making it overnight. But the overnight successes are really more like 15 years of hard work. For the most part it’s a process and I think that’s important to know.

The emotional side of entrepreneurship is important. Sure the hard skills are really important but that emotional component is there when you’re starting. For so many people you look at these success stories that are the focus of the media and you think you don’t have what it takes to be that entrepreneur. The Mark Zuckerburg model is the wrong model.


When I hear the word entrepreneurship, I equate that with a leader, someone who is willing to stand tall when times are uncertain. I never considered myself as an entrepreneur; but I considered myself as someone who would lead and bring people along. People need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. There’s a scene in "Game of Thrones,” where the son asks the king, "How can I show courage when I’m scared?” And the king’s response was that’s the only time you can show courage. That’s what people have to be willing to take on.


You need to go get your ass kicked a little bit to know how you’re going to respond.


You need to be okay with failure and need to be put into situations where you’re not always going to come out on top.  By making it a known fact that if you’re not succeeding in every single thing you’re trying to do, that enables people to learn, by making that known.


I don’t think you can teach it [the courage an entrepreneur needs] but I think everyone has it within them. We’re all born with endless possibilities. For some people that courage comes out more naturally but the question is how do you draw that out of everyone?


Going into college with having a business already put me in a different situation. Because, of course, everything is always on the same day. I had a frustrating experience. I would let professors know in advance when I had a conflict. There was this one teacher who was a social entrepreneurship teacher; that was the only business class I took in college. At the start I told him about my company but when I had one of the largest meetings in my life and I also had a test that day, he said you have to choose. For him to tell me I needed to make one a priority when they [my business and my education] were both equal priorities to me was wrong. Thankfully the meeting got moved. As a teacher who was encouraging entrepreneurship (he also had his own company) it was so hypocritical. So when students with businesses come to you, it’s important to understand that students have two passions and not make them to choose.


If a community college could act as a huge magnet for mentors, that would make a real difference.


For me, I felt I didn’t have those resources, even though they had an entrepreneurship center, I never felt they reached out in any way to help me do what I was already doing.


Incubation is the best thing schools can do.


Emotions and self doubt are really big. But  when hard skills are the big thing in the classroom, some of the things [like emotion and self-doubt ]that will be the real roadblocks will be pushed aside.


[The curriculum should ] really help people refine their idea. A lot of people come in and say they’re not sure what they want to do and that’s okay. If you have already decided what you want, you’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting. If the colleges could facilitate people finding what they want and the next step would be kicking them out of the next and get roughed up a little bit and them after they have those experiences bring them back in and provide the resources they need.


Let someone's start-up be part of the requirement for the class.


[To generate excitement about entrepreneurship on campus, I would get very loud about it. I would be leveraging the most current form of marketing so I saw resonating with the kind of people I hope to attract. The other thing would be trying to do everything I can to get relevant mentors into the program; that will bring people to the table. Outside of that I would be just very focused on helping people decide what they want to do as soon as possible.


I had a class I which we had to write memos. Memos are 20 years ago. Classes should be engaging and videos, notes should be on line.  


In terms of building excitement around campus, one of the most important things is having students be passionate about it; not just start something beause they think they should start something. Bringing out the passion in students is the most important thing. Once you can do that a gillion ideas will come out of them. But just to start something for the sake of starting something isn’t always a good idea.


The real asset that college campuses have is the people; you’ve go the faculty and the other students. One of the things at the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour has learned is that you have to get that energy and that passion out there. They need to see themselves as fulfilling that and that gets them excited.



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