The Next Generation of Startup Entrepreneurs – The Gap in Business Education

In my last post on the Modern Enterprise I discussed motivations for entering the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry and why one should learn how to adapt to it with the Modern Enterprise canvas. In this post I will shift focus to what motivated Rahul to write The Modern Enterprise. To elaborate, Rahul found a surprising gap in traditional business curricula. During his college experience, he noticed that most business undergraduate and MBA programs did not address the realities of creating or maintaining a startup in the twenty-first century, especially given the spectacular rise of the SaaS industry. One can possibly learn entrepreneurship in a school setting, but business programs could improve their execution of the task by a wide margin.

Business education at the undergraduate and graduate levels share similarities but also diverge. As David Sandler (www.sandler.us) explains in You Can’t Teach a Kid How to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, there exists a demarcation between what prospective entrepreneurs can and cannot learn in a classroom environment. One practices much of entrepreneurship in the real world as a craft, not a textbook set of facts and principles. Much like playing a sport or an instrument, one needs to actually experience certain vital entrepreneurial skills in order to properly learn them.

Traditional business curricula do not emphasize salesmanship enough. Attracting leads and then converting them into clients is the cornerstone of the Modern Enterprise canvas as well as entrepreneurial common sense. A company that cannot hawk its products with success dooms itself to failure. One can compare an entrepreneur without a proper background in making sales to a soccer player who has never kicked a ball. A business student can only learn so much about the theory of sales via lecture—he has to experience and perform sales himself in order to truly gain experience.

On a similar note, leadership is another art that one must practice to improve. The modern paradigm of a classroom with a professor does not aptly suit itself to proper leadership education. Even genuine work experience under a decent supervisor can prove valuable, as the student can learn and model their own leadership style from a good example. A prospective entrepreneur must adapt his leadership style to the intricacies of his own personality and his relations with other people, and trial-and-error experiences in leading others is the only way to achieve this.

In the world of SaaS, unique value propositions and fresh ideas serve as the roots of modern enterprises. A true leader must forge and hold his company to a vision which he sells to others—business schools neglect to teach their students how to craft these visions. Even engineering schools more effectively convey these skills, unveiling the capabilities (and therefore business opportunities) of technology and explaining the success of business-minded technologists. If businessmen want to compete in the modern market, they will have to integrate technical skills into their training.

As a unifying theme, failure underlies the success of experience and practice. A prospective entrepreneur should have the opportunity to fail while still learning and free of responsibilities. Fast failure is even better, allowing enterprising students to learn more quickly from their mistakes without having invested as much. Business students should also practice with real money—real money makes real businesspeople, instilling the necessary gravitas and sense of responsibility. Better for an entrepreneur to fail an early startup and learn from his mistakes than to allow them to fester and explode during a tenure as a CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation.

Reading about how to run a modern enterprise will not suffice. Nonetheless, Rahul hopes to share what he has learned from his own experiences, successes, and failures and inspire others to venture forth and embark on enterprises of their own through his book The Modern Enterprise and this blog, Asitchanges.

Justin Yum is an apprentice for Anant Corporation (www.anant.us). For more tips, and to be notified on the release of Rahul Singh’s upcoming book “The Modern Enterprise,” subscribe to the Anant Corporation newsletter by clicking here: http://eepurl.com/npJmj

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