How do you become an entrepreneur? Do universities help entrepreneurial spirit by creating the learning environment and support for students interested in launching their own business? Or do universities focused on schooling actually kill this spirit? Are entrepreneurs born or made through the education system?
Debate created by Maria D. Carvalho
Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Capitalist societies need audacious entrepreneurs to function. Higher education institutions, in particular business schools, have tried to better understand entrepreneurship and how successful entrepreneurs emerge. Are they born or made through their socialization and education? This is another of the manifestations of the nature vs nurture debate. Many people have long argued that entrepreneurship skills are to a great extent determined genetically. For instance, Professor Scott Shane at Case Western Reserve University suggests that genes may help explain why some people are more risk averse and why others are much more prone to start a new business. Professor James V. Koch at Old Dominion University describes an "entrepreneurial personality" which gives a natural advantage to some people. From this point of view the added value of entrepreneurship education in university could be very mild.
However, most experts reject these deterministic accounts and tend to agree that only a little part of business success is explained by innate abilities. Life experiences and lessons help shape the entrepreneurial skills.For instance Greg Davies, head of quantitative and behavioral finance at Barclays Bank, argues that some elements of entrepreneurship can definitely be acquired through formal education. Professor Julian Lange's research at Babson College shows that students' exposure to lessons and ideas in university and business school can further their entrepreneurial skills. Moreover, the good track record students of alumni from top universities and MBA programs demonstrate that business and entrepreneurship education can be very positive. Many entrepreneurs claim that business school or university were key to them successfully starting their own companies.
Successful entrepreneurs without a college degree
There are many successful entrepreneurs without higher education degrees. This is a list of some of the most famous successful businessmen and businesswomen who made millions of dollars and never completed university studies:
- Amadeo Peter Giannini: founder of Bank of America
- Amancio Ortega: founder of Inditex
- Barry Diller: Hollywood mogul and founder of Fox Broadcasting Company
- Carl Lindner: founder of United Diary Farmers
- Charles Culpeper: owner of Coca Cola
- Dave Thomas: founder of Wendy's
- David Geffen: co-founder of Dreamworks and founder of Geffen Records
- David Karp: founder of Tumblr
- David Ogilvy: co-founder of Ogilvy & Mather
- Dustin Moskovitz: co-founder of facebook
- Frederick Henry Royce: co-founder of Rolls Royce
- George Eastman: founder of Kodak
- Henry Ford: founder of Ford
- Ingvar Kamprad: founder of IKEA
- Isaac Merrit Singer: Enterprise Rent a Car founder
- John D. Rockefeller: founder of Standard Oil
- Joyce C. Hall: Hallmark founder
- Larry Ellison: co-founder of Oracle
- Mark Zuckerberg: founder of Facebook
- Michael Dell: founder of Dell Computers
- Philip Green: founder of Topshop
- Ray Kroc: founder of McDonald's
- Richard Branson: founder of Virgin
- Steve Jobs: co-founder of Apple
- Steve Wozniak: co-founder of Apple
- Walt Disney: founder of Walt Disney
Entrepreneurial spirit and university
The increased competitiveness of graduate training jobs means that more students will need to find alternative routes to employment. Furthermore students can launch their own businesses, given the ability to meet markets on the internet and crowdfunding through crowds. Some universities, such as Stanford and MIT, have an extraordinary record of alumni that were very successful in creating companies.
As most experts agree, entrepreneurial skills can be to some extent taught and learned. Therefore universities - the bastion of higher education - can be fertile ground in which students can explore different ways they can set up their own business venture. But do universities actually encourage students to be risk-taking, or do they instead beat the risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit out of students? Is an academic education useful in helping students find business solutions to global problems, or is this education useful only in the ivory towers? In a time when students face paying back student loans after they graduate, can students even afford to take the risk?
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Are entrepreneurs born or made? Do universities foster or kill the entrepreneurial spirit?
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