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According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, a leading indicator of new business creation in the United States, men are “substantially more likely to start a business each month than women”. In the seventeen year period from 1996 – 2012, the average rate of entrepreneurial activity for men was .37 percent; for women during the same period it was .23 percent.
When considering the optimal number of founders for any new entrepreneurial adventure, the calculus extends well beyond simple formulas seemingly supported by observations of startup cohorts within specific industries. Famous technology twosomes that come to mind include David Packard and William Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple, Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. In these examples, it is widely observed that these buddy teams complemented each other well in the early formative years of their companies.
In a matter of weeks colleges and universities across the country will be teeming with students. A new school year will bring the excitement of new discovery, opportunities to meet new people, and the anticipation of learning. On these campuses students will also find a vast array of opportunities to explore entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship is flourishing on campuses around the country. In classrooms and through co-curricular programs and competitions, students on diverse campuses, at universities large and small, representing disciplines across the spectrum, have the opportunity to understand the role of entrepreneurship in the economy, explore innovation, test their own ideas, and learn what they need to know to be entrepreneurs.
Kauffman Labs is not your typical classroom, but then again, Nancie and I are not your typical instructors. In fact we do little in the way of instruction in the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program (IHEP) and focus more of our energy towards facilitation. Students are encouraged to explore, experiment, solve problems and learn from one another. It's not what they're used to, but I think they liked it. It gave them the opportunity to expand their idea of education beyond the confines of absorption and regurgitation. It's about learning from the experiences they have with each other.
In this installment of my Ice House series, I sat down with Ice House alum Chris Vallee to learn first hand what he got out of the entrepreneurship program. Vallee, an intern at the Kauffman Foundation, attended the program two years ago at Johnson County Community College. Signing up for the class by chance, he quickly found a new perspective on the decisions he had been making in his life, and a renewed, invigorating urge to chase the life goals he had let fall by the wayside.
Thriving entrepreneurial hot spots do not just pop up overnight. It takes more than a few growing startups to turn a city intro a hub of entrepreneurial activity. This thought is confirmed by a new Kauffman Foundation white paper entitled “Path-Dependent Startup Hubs – Comparing Metropolitan Performance: High-Tech and ICT Startup Density”.
At the Kauffman Foundation, we recently announced a grant to a group that is trying to map and track where startups are around the world. The project--Startup Genome--is working "to build the most complete and accurate database of the world's startup communities, present it in useful, beautiful ways and provide tools and reports that community builders can use to gain insight into what's happening in their community. And make better decisions about how to grow it."
Our founder, Ewing Marion Kauffman, once said: "It's your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed". He was talking to entrepreneurs: those people who create new ventures, building visions into reality. Indeed, entrepreneurs are uncommon in many ways. They create something from nothing. They see problems (and solutions) that others might not. They take personal and financial risks.
You don't need to spend countless hours in a classroom, or have an MBA to become a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs often don't have the time or patience to sit through a semester long class or six-week course in order to retrieve the answer to a question they have now--today. They need help quickly and efficiently. And this is where our idea for Founders School started.
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