Monday, December 28, 2015

A Good Idea Does Not a Business Make

The NY Times has an article on Universities spending tuition money to "support" start up.

They state:

Ten years ago, it may have sufficed for colleges and universities like Rice to offer a few entrepreneurship courses, start-up workshops and clubs. But now hundreds of thousands of undergraduates, driven by a sullen job market and inspired by billion-dollar success narratives from Silicon Valley, expect universities to teach them how to convert their ideas into big businesses or nonprofit ventures. As a result, colleges across the United States — and elite institutions in particular — have become engaged in an innovation arms race. Universities are expanding academic programs at a breakneck pace and constructing start-up centers. Harvard opened an Innovation Lab in 2011 that has helped start more than 75 companies; last year, New York University founded a campus entrepreneurs’ lab; this year, Northwestern University opened a student start-up center, The Garage.

Now I have been involved in 34 start ups in some way shape or form. I have created them, managed them, turned them around, bought them, sold them, and whatever one can do with them. Every time some new wanna be comes along I hear the same tale as to how this will be a success. After a half dozen questions that easy tasks starts to mold, to fall apart.

I have seen many of these dreamers at places like MIT where post-docs are one the one hand supported in their entrepreneurial ventures but at the same time burdened by their low paid post-doc efforts.

I did my first start up in 1969, when in Grad school, and I was just a part time consultant. I saw it go up and then collapse in just a few months. Good idea but poor execution. Also poor management.

Of the 34 that actually made it airborne, all had their challenges. Some with management, some with strategy, some with execution, some just with the market collapsing.

But perhaps Universities should do what we pay them to do. Train young people in skills that subsequently can be monetized. Academics for the most part, I have seen a few, very few exceptions, have no idea how to run anything, not even their own research efforts. So we expect that same group to "lead" students? This is literally the blind leading the blind. More tuition money down the drain. I see Universities having people teach entrepreneurial courses who have never even held a job!

To be an entrepreneur is to be the ultimate risk taker. You have no Plan B, you have burned all your boats and move forward based on your abject belief that you are right. You have no cozy University supported location. 

I recall travelling the world with my Passport and credit card, country after country, building a global network. I was a dream merchant but I knew what I could do. We really do not need another App, really. We need better infrastructure, we need improved Health Care, we need a variety of real stuff, including improved environmental controls, whatever that may mean.

To get there we need educated entrepreneurs. We do not need Freshman with another App. We also do not need increased tuition driven by some Administrative vision of what entrepreneurs do. Frankly they are clueless, and worse, self serving!