Education In The World Of Entrepreneurship

In the age of tech billionaires and new found Unicorns, an increasing number of today’s youth are venturing into the world of entrepreneurship. Why is this? Are they swayed by the notion of becoming the next Zuckerberg, amassing vast riches and being their own boss? Or is this merely a product of what is currently “cool” in pop-culture? This new trend is not limited to the tech space, new found entrepreneurs are emerging in diverse industries such as fitness, apparel, and entertainment, not to mention the floodgates having been blasted open for online marketers and social media entrepreneurs.

Millennials are the principle drivers of this movement. Not only are they shifting away from the historic blueprint for career success, that is graduating high school, getting into college and finding a good job, they are dynamically transforming it. This brings two conundrums into question; is education necessary, and is it any longer relevant? Seasoned entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk openly advocates the irrelevance of today’s educational infrastructure. To a great extent, he is right, when it comes to entrepreneurship at least. College is not a place where entrepreneurship is nurtured nor is it conducive to the development of entrepreneurial resilience, intelligence and other intangible qualities necessary to succeed. Personally I, like Gary, do not believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur, it requires a multitude of qualities that can not be taught, and a unique mindset to proceed forth through the volatile rigors of entrepreneurial uncertainty.

“Entrepreneurship, because of the way the American dream has been built over the last 200 years, is grossly underestimated as a skill. There’s a level of belief that anyone can be one, and I do not see that at all. I think we’re living through the greatest period of fake entrepreneurship that we’ve ever seen because it’s very trendy right now.” ~Gary Vaynerchuk~

That being said, education is essential now more than ever. It is unknown whether this trend of entrepreneurship will continue, or die down, as the next “career fad” emerges. But one aspect that can be all but guaranteed is that a vast number of new age entrepreneurs will inevitably fail. In fact, according to Forbes contributor, Neil Patel 90% of startups fail. This is an economic reality, not everyone can create the next Snapchat out of their garage. Plenty will try, and the majority will fall short. I have met copious “entrepreneurs” in recent years who want to see their dream of self employment and financial independence come to fruition. I have deeply engaged with many of them and there are two recurring trends which I have identified.

  1. Their future aspiration of their idea or concept becoming the next “big thing”.
  2. The look of confusion and bewilderment they give when questioned about how exactly they will get there, their monetization strategy or even why I should choose their product or service over another.

While the idea of entrepreneurship is popular and enticing, there is a discernible lack of foundational knowledge among those who seek to proceed with their plans. While it is not necessary to be an accounting genius, or a marketing savant (these people can be hired) to be successful, it is important to have a vague understanding of the underlying principles of a business. This could be the difference between distinguishing a good idea from a bad one, a winner from a loser. For those that follow through and attempt to launch their dream, education is not only imperative and highly relevant, but can give a sizable advantage over those venturing forth without it.

Then comes the other side of the coin, if and when failure strikes, What next? As cliché as it may sound, it’s cliché for a reason, always have a back-up plan. Being educated is crucial for when it is time to shift to plan-B. It would be ignorant to claim that millennials do not have foresight, but more so are inclined to be overly optimistic when it comes to entrepreneurship. Many feel that their idea is so good that there is no need to consider an alternate plan of action. This is not so troublesome for those that have a day job and enjoy dramatizing their future entrepreneurial ventures in their mind, which they will likely never actually put into action. The concern is for those that are motivated enough to move forward and act. With no educational foundation it is not only more difficult to succeed, it leaves these entrepreneurs with nothing to fall back on if their vision inevitably fails to materialize.

I have been of an entrepreneurial mindset since I started my first (illegitimate) business burning mix CD’s for my friends at 9 years old. I had a natural aptitude for the economics of market supply and demand and a deep understanding of the importance of cash flow. I also enjoyed taking methodically calculated risks, and at such a young age had an innate ability to predict what would be the next new “thing” before it caught on. These skills however, far from prepared me for entrepreneurial life. Fast forward many years later, I now have a Master’s Degree in International Business and still hold the value of education in very high regard. The reason for this is while, as stated earlier, I do not believe you can be taught to be an entrepreneur, and that formal education is not conducive to entrepreneurship. It provides a platform for understanding technical elements that are necessary for the organization and running of a successful venture. These skills can be translated and used in congruence with natural entrepreneurial abilities to better position a future founder to succeed and prosper in a new venture, and prepare them for the “what next?” of entrepreneurial uncertainty.

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