Start-Ups

Peter Cochrane's Blog: What entrepreneur ever took a degree in entrepreneurship?

For some disciplines you need a lot of education - for others, not so much...
Why do a formal degree course on entrepreneurship when far better alternatives exist - and in some cases, they're on the net for free?

Why do a formal degree course on entrepreneurship when far better alternatives exist - and in some cases, they're on the net for free?Photo: Shutterstock

Written in a coffee shop in Brussels and dispatched to silicon.com via a free 20Mbps wi-fi link.

For some time now I've been convinced that education will go the same way as the music industry. The similarities are profound. They both charge more and more for a product of reducing quality by a means that's out of touch with modern needs.

A few weeks ago I was at an education event and was introduced to a professor of entrepreneurship. During our conversation it turned out that she had never bought any company shares, had never invested in a startup, and had never worked for any kind of company.

It struck me that it was a bit like having the Pope teach a course on sex, reproduction and parenting.

What possible value could this professor possibly add, what insights and wisdoms? Beyond the published books and articles, she appeared to know relatively little, and was certainly devoid of any experience.

So why would anyone attend such a course when there are far better alternatives - and in some cases, they're on the net for free?

Her argument went along the lines that people have to go to a real university to get a degree-level qualification that can only be judged by academic staff. I don't think she had noticed the number of degree-qualified people putting ketchup on burgers.

So I looked at the prospectus for her course and came to the conclusion that 50 per cent of the topics might be of use in a big company but had no relevance whatsoever in a startup. I then stumbled across the latest Stanford offerings - free online courses in entrepreneurship for startups and in technology entrepreneurship.

Watch the video at the top left of the startup entrepreneurship page and then ask yourself if you were a student which course would you rather attend? This online one or a formal degree course?

What's more, I know of no one famed for entrepreneurship - Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison et al - who took a course in the subject, let alone a degree.

For some disciplines you definitely need a lot of education and experience, but a degree qualification is not the main event - especially when it adds no real value.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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