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Five Benefits of Formal Education To Sharpen Your Entrepreneurial Skills When you are sitting inside a classroom amid of a bunch of pupils, potentially, you are surrounded by a group of future leaders, who will eventually create their own position in one way or another

By Dr Sayem Hossain

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Let's picture an entrepreneur these days. What do you see? Most of us would probably paint the picture of a young disruptive individual – may be a college drop-out, probably wearing a hoodie or t-shirt (or turtleneck), working from a garage or a nerd den, full of gadgets! You can argue – that is not the true reflection of all the entrepreneurs, but you cannot deny that there is a new breed of entrepreneurs who would continue to dominate the business world. If you don't agree yet, eat a Zollipop or know more about Alina Morse, famously known as kidpreneur. The entrepreneurial space is evolving with rising tide of millennial entrepreneurs who do not bother to undertake a university degree and furthermore, loves the fad of being a "college dropout'. So, the essential question that comes to mind is: to what extent, can formal education play a role to sharpen entrepreneurial skills?

Besides, the long-standing debate of whether entrepreneurs are born or made will continue to exist. We see examples of both – a long list of college dropout, yet most successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and also entrepreneurs like Sergey Brin or Larry Page – who invented the secret formula of Google during their PhD research. Disruptive styles of entrepreneurship, whether starting from a garage or pulling ideas from tissue paper, will continue to exist but the importance of formal education can never be ignored. A formal education or university degree has its value in many ways to help budding entrepreneurs embark into the entrepreneurial "Launchpad'. Here are five benefits that university education can offer you to boost your entrepreneurial skills:

1. Getting Early Access to Launchpad

Cut-throat competition and growing commercialisation have triggered most universities these days to introduce new ways to engage and inculcate learning in students. You will find that most business schools today run their own business plan competition or entrepreneurship program or a Bachelor of Entrepreneurship course to the least. Some institutions are trying to punch above their weight by setting up their own business incubators to offer seed funding. Although this cannot be compared to a VC backed venture support system, it can be very beneficial to put a first step into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Most successful VC firms like Y Combinator picks up ideas by linking with large universities like MIT to capture the biggest venture ideas. The story of Reddit began when the two founders met Paul Graham during their university life and got accepted by Y Combinator after a couple of failed attempts.

2. Building Networks

When you are sitting inside a classroom amid of a bunch of pupils, potentially, you are surrounded by a group of future leaders – some would be leaders of MNCs, while some might run their own venture or some could even run a nation – but all of them will eventually create their own position in one way or another. The university life is a great opportunity for fresh minds to build a peer support network, which will continue to nurture a healthy and productive professional network for the rest of one's life. Take a look into famous startup tales, and you will find that most of the co-founders met during university life. If you do not know the stories of Facebook, DHL, Google, AirBnB and how their co-founders met, you may be still living inside a cave!

3. Learning from Theory

Needless to say that experience is our best teacher; but, learning theories through formal education has its own importance. The business world out there is fiercely competitive these days as compared to what it used to be only 10 years ago, when you could afford to learn from making mistakes after getting into the combat ground. But now-a-days you need to become totally equipped with all the tools to undertake business so you can defend yourself against your competitors – otherwise, one mistake can throw you miles away from the market. So, the knowledge on important theories, such as Five Forces, Break-even Analysis, Design thinking, RoI calculation and heaps of other theories can all add up to the formation of a great entrepreneurial mindset.

4. To Stimulate the Intellectual Self

When you sit inside a library what do you see? Is it only books? Yes, perhaps it is only books. But there is another thing that is associated with the books – an inducement to stimulate your intellectual self, which needs nurturing and a conducive environment to learn. The lecture theater, company of peer-learners, scholarly environment of a library space, dorky professors can all bestow you with a perennial source of knowledge and feed your intellectual self. When you sit under a tree inside your university campus on the lush green grass, it inculcates a natural sense of joy, peace which can elicit new ideas – who knows an apple may fall on your head too!

5. Developing Alternative Skills

During the university life you can take part in a range of activities, such as debating, being coordinator of group projects, or volunteering for a social cause – all of which can help to promote alternative skills. And, let's be honest! How many people eventually can rise to the peak of entrepreneurial glory? Statistically, only 5% or even less. A vast majority of the remaining 95% will end up doing a job for any employer, which is also crucial to keep the economic wheel turning. That may not sound as cool as "I am an entrepreneur", but this should not put you down thinking that you are a failure. You can still show your charisma of being a great manager or a great leader or even an "Intrapreneur" while working for an employer. In fact, most of the high performing ventures like Google were able to rise to the peak of glory only due to promoting intrapreneurial capacity of their employees by applying 80/20 policy to foster enterprise-wide creativity and innovation. Formal education can help to cultivate creativity and team-work, which are both essential in capacities to shine in the organisational life.

Dr Sayem Hossain

Founder, HotCubator


Sayem Hossain is an academic, researcher and start up enthusiast based in Australia. With industry experiences from the private and public sectors, Sayem likes to tinker ideas through his idea incubation start-up HotCubator, which ushered budding entrepreneurs to award-winning entrepreneurs.



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