In Small Business, Is It About College or Training?

Every now and then I get asked or ask the question: what universities could do to prepare their students for a world in business.”

I was randomly going through articles on Startups at Alltop and came across Is College Worth it For Entrepreneurs? at


Classic, “Top 3,” “Best Of” list below:   

1) Study entrepreneurship while developing an outside niche.

Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University, says that while successful company builders have a natural inclination to be entrepreneurs, sometimes it takes education to bring that inclination to full bloom. “There are people who are natural athletes,” Seelig says. “There are people who are natural musicians. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to teach them those skills.”

2) Expose yourself to as many different courses and experiences as possible.

What if you don’t go to a school that lets you study entrepreneurship directly? Seelig says she would advise trying to get as exposed to lots of different disciplines. Having broad knowledge can make it easier to identify opportunities as an entrepreneur. Hello, liberal arts education.

3) Consider even more education.

Depending on your field of interest, going on to graduate school can help a lot. Litan says that the stakes are now higher for tech startups because the world of technology has grown so much more complicated and expansive. “If Bill Gates were asked if when he was 19 years old, could he create Google, he’d probably say no,” says Litan, whose organization recently published a study that looked at founders of tech startups. It found that 31 percent of them had master’s degrees and 10 percent had Ph.D.’s. In addition, the study found that having an M.B.A. meant that a tech entrepreneur on average founded a startup 13 years before others.

My Take?

Hm – far be it from me to say that education isn’t important. It is, especially given our shaky competitive stance when stacked against our international competitors.  


The problem with this question is that it is worded incorreclty for Americans. Americans don’t like to be told they have to go to school. In the US, you just have to either hold the value that education is part of lifelong learning, or you don’t. Simply put, our big value is self reliance, self teaching and the belief that everything will be solved in the Tomorrow. We are a future-looking society. There are pros and cons to that, “best for another Oprah Show” (or post, whichever comes first).


Pose this question to Chinese, Indians, or Germans and there would be a rise in PhDs the following year. That is not to say they are literal; education is just a very important value in their culture.


Americans also don’t place as high a value on educational topics that don’t draw larger paychecks where in other cultures service jobs like teachers and police (those positions that benefit the community) are highly respected.


That said, I think job training is incredibly important. The military also emphasizes this approach—teaching folks the skills required to do their job. Spot learning.


But the thing that really helps you get ahead in any business is the ability to think, the ability to listen and the ability to analyze—and that is not something that can be taught; only honed.

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