Teaching Entrepreneurship – What’s It Like To Teach At A University?
Debates on teaching entrepreneurship to all students have been held for years. Some universities now offer optional courses. Others try to make it a compulsory subject. What’s been the benefit? Who should be teaching it? Should we carry on?
For past 3 months, I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship at University of Tartu and some of its colleges.
How did I get there? They asked me to do that after my return from Draper University.
Why? Because most teachers don’t have Silicon Valley experience. Which I do. And due to my youth, students might relate better with me. Which they did. I hope.
Why’d I Do It?
I was told I’ve got no experience, when pitching an idea for a venture fund in Draper University. Which in a way was true. I’d started QuikTract. Pitched a bit. Read some books. Networked a lot. But not really worked with real startups. Yet.
Teaching entrepreneurship at university seemed like a great way to gain some experience. There wouldn’t be any real startups either. But there’d be students wanting to start new ventures. Or so I thought. And I’d put my knowledge to use. At the same time, learning what makes a team win or fail.
How’d It Go?
There were 3 courses. One in Tartu. One in Viljandi. One in Pärnu. In total, there were 156 students. Out of which 45 teams were made. And only 2 didn’t finish. In that sense it went good. But did I get the desired outcome?
Some of them went on to really start the company. Although most didn’t. Was it my fault? I hope not. It’s more likely they didn’t feel like it since the start. Why? Because they just needed the credits. Is it bad? Not if they will use some of it later on. But will they? Probably not. At least most of them won’t. 80/20. I hope some of them still found it useful.
At least I had a blast. Uku (my co-teacher) and I tried out lots of new and fun ways to get our ideas across. We used condoms to show how to segment the market. Made students sell massage to a teacher to teach them marketing. At the same time, they had to go through the full process. From canvas and interviews to a prototype. Meanwhile, I analysed what made some of them achieve more than others. So it went well.
What’d I learn?
First, I’d get some experience. But not enough. Since people there weren’t motivated enough. And therefore didn’t work hard enough. That’s why I’ll now move on and work with Startup Wise Guys accelerator. More on that, later on.
Second, teaching entrepreneurship at university is good idea. But it might be too late to start there. By then, students minds are developed. And they are not keen to start thinking about starting their ventures, as they’d be when they’re younger.
Third, it should only be taught by those who’ve started their own ventures. We had some extra “help” by those who’d not, and frankly, no one enjoyed those sessions.
All in all, there’s still a lot to digest, but it was a great opportunity nevertheless.