I got an email in November from a student at Penn looking for some perspective on making entrepreneurship more of a priority at Wharton undergrad. I was a sophomore there last year, and I’ve since left to build Lore. I sent him some thoughts, and looking back I think they’re worth sharing. Edited for polish and anonymity.
I’m a sophomore in Wharton. I’m reaching out to you asking for some help with an initiative I’m working on. We’re currently trying to explore entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level at Wharton. To gain a greater perspective, we’re reaching out to students/grads that were entrepreneurs while in school.
What has your entrepreneurial experience added to your business education?
It is my business education. The efficacy of a scientific, academic business education is questionable. Business is so broad, it’s different to everyone. Sure, there are some who learn their trade before entering the job market, but that’s a small subset of people in business. I like to think that starting a company has bits and pieces of every aspect of business, and it’s the most comprehensive, engaged way of learning it.
Does the process of entrepreneurship add academic value (even for a student that doesn’t plan on pursuing entrepreneurship full-time)?
I don’t think one can “pursue entrepreneurship.” One doesn’t have short stints as an entrepreneur, like one would have a job. It’s a different career path entirely (if he/she is pursuing it in earnest). That said, you do see people try starting a company and then move on to other things.
It’s hard to make blanket statements about general entrepreneurship because deli-owners and high-tech CEOs alike are entrepreneurs. That said, the concepts in managing a shop, all aspects of it – its finances, product, marketing, hiring, firing, logistics – is incredibly valuable from a learning experience. I can’t say for sure that starting a company would add value to anyone, no matter what profession they pursue, but I’m fairly certain that someone who starts a company would be better at banking or whatever they end up pursuing.
What were some resources (ask for extracurricular AND academic) that were helpful?
I hadn’t taken an entrepreneurship course at Penn. My formal coursework, beyond some design and marketing courses, have had little relevance to my day-to-day job. That said, I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for Penn. A few things:
- Professors as resources (even ones i didn’t have)
- WEP programs like VIP, WVA, and EIR
- Speaker series
- Meeting people from other schools at Penn
- Student-created meet ups
What are some resources (extracurricular and academic) that you wished you’d had?
I think there are a lot of mechanical things that are teachable and I wish there was a course taught by a part-time instructor, part-time entrepreneur to walk through the stages of launching a technology-based company. I think that we’re entering a new type of economy and that education in this area requires people who have played in it. I think that it’s not as relevant to hear it from someone who has been a successful founder, say, 20 years ago.
Regarding the last question, Peter Thiel’s recent course at Stanford is pretty much exactly what I had imagined. I would have killed to take that course. Luckily the notes are online, and they’re using Lore to facilitate it.