At our recent Mentor Event at Startupbootcamp Berlin a fellow participant asked me: “what do you think is the next industry to be disrupted?” I must admit my answer was vague at best. I think I mumbled something about charity donations – but that’s a bit cheap, me being the point man on www.betternow.org - and while donations is a good candidate for disruption, I don’t think it is the one area I would mention if in a quiz with a million dollar price to sharpen my senses. So in my bed a couple of hours later I pondered on the issue; what industry should really be disrupted sooner than later?
Education. I can’t count how many times I have “complained” to anyone who want to listen about how much time I and my fellow students wasted while taking our business degrees about a decade ago. Half bored to death we sat there and listened to dry and distant teachers going on and on about to us irrelevant meta-thoughts and macro-theories. Schumpeter said something about innovation, and someone else disagreed. Whatever.
It was during the first dotcom boom, so our “desperation” was two-fold: while we were having a hard time staying awake on the school benches some even younger kids were seeing all the real action in Silicon Valley, London and New York – building concepts and creating innovation that it would take academia years to notice, let alone understand.
Ok, we know the story: the bubble burst and the universities and big companies could for a while reclaim their monopoly on knowledge, success and prosperity. But not for long – and today the whole world seems to have accepted that entrepreneurship and start ups are an extremely important part of our human future. So you would think the way they educate entrepreneurs-to-be is very different today than what I experienced 10 years ago. Not so!
One of my colleagues at Startupbootcamp just finished his Master of Entrepreneurship at Copenhagen Business School. And what did he learn? Basically the same theories I learned a decade ago. And more or less in the same way; dry and distant teachers, long and boring text books, meta and macro thoughts preferred over concrete and specific knowledge, exams where you show that you have read and understood the books, not that you are creative, risk taking and can make things happen.
No wonder young entrepreneurs flock to programs such as Startupbootcamp, TechStars and Y-Combinator. They long for a true learning environment. And no wonder start ups and even big companies don’t want to hire students fresh out of school, unless they have accumulated a couple of years of “real experience” through relevant student jobs and internships.
Today I cannot remember much of anything I learned back in school. During the last 10 years I have been tremendously busy trying to learn a ton of skills needed to be successful in a modern business context. This leaves me with an obvious question: wouldn’t it have been great if during my 5 years at business school, I had learned just some of the skills that are vital to prosper as an entrepreneur? Like doing online marketing, raising investment, managing a team, conducting “cold calling”, making wireframes?
I know professors would find it almost humiliating to teach such “low level”, tangible skills – but shall we really let their academic ambitions determine how we, the executors of this world, spend 5 of the most important years of our lives and learning curves?
I was a good student and it landed me a job at McKinsey. But it surely didn’t make me a good entrepreneur, or even a good innovator or leader. All the skills that really mattered I had to learn myself after leaving the safe business school environment.
My first hand experience is limited to how we as a society educate and prepare our future entrepreneurs. But I am sure the same inefficiencies and frustrations hold true for many other occupations as well. So why don’t we disrupt Education altogether? When something is clearly nonsense, history has shown us that it will sooner or later be flushed out and replaced with a whole new paradigm that before seemed unthinkable.
Why doesn’t a future Master of Entrepreneurship involve experiences like:
- Setting up your own company for real, making or losing money on it
- Getting real customers, servicing them, dealing with their complaints and needs
- Managing team members who can actually quit if you don’t do it well
- Building a real product
- Getting investors on board
- Doing marketing, testing out what works in real life
And why is the format not a lot more like at Startupbootcamp where you:
- Have a clearly defined time frame to make something big happen (try comparing the
intensity at Startupbootcamp with that in a business school…)
- Get exposed to loads of true mentors and serial entrepreneurs to learn from
- Are fully focused on doing innovation, not just reading and talking about it
We all learn ten times as efficiently when we are truly motivated to learn. The fear of an upcoming exam can make us remember stuff for a few days, but never for life. We need a positive motivation (like building a great product and a profitable company) instead of negative motivation, such as fear of not getting the right credential on our resume.
Already in 1997 Peter Drucker claimed: “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive”. Since then change has happened, mainly in the way teaching has started to move online, most notably:
Western Governors University
You can now learn much cheaply, and much more flexibly and efficiently than ever before. But I believe a true disruption consists of much more than “just” doing the same teachings online that used to be offline. Yes, it is a necessary development, and an obvious improvement – one we have only seen the first wave of, but surely there must be more. It was boring to watch my business school professor talk about Schumpeter back in the class room, and I am sure it will be almost as boring to watch the same teachings online. So who can come up with something more radical? And how do we solve the issue with credentials that after all is half the reason we take an education anyway?
Friday the 25th of May – Carsten Kolbek:
06.07: woke up
06.35: bus and train to Waterloo station, London. Cleared inbox on the way
07.25: meeting with Esther Dyson. Fascinating discussion about how big corporates can help startups scaling. Esther also agreed to become member of advisory board in startupbootcamp. Yeah!
08.05: Linda Hickman joined the meeting – thanks to Linda for making the connection to Esther!
09.01: walked to Rainmaking office in Mayfair and enjoying the splendid weather – trying not to think about work while just being in the moment
09.30: connected with Ken Chang in Shanghai about to discuss an event we help Castrol BP with in July
09.45: talked to Kasper about some problems we face in Greenwire and some hard decisions that needs to be taken
10.00: conference call with LaunchGroup about PR for an event we lead in London on Monday with 5 teams from US, UK, Ireland, Finland and Sweden and a bunch of investors
10.30: discussed a huge quote we are putting in for used mobile phones in Italy with Anca from Greenwire
10.40: provided feedback to Zara from NEF about 4 interviews I had the day before with 4 entrepreneur wannabees – two invited for next round
10.50: agreed investment deal with Fivevc to provide more capital to Greenwire (hopefully last capital needed before breakeven)
11.00: shared news on the Rainmaking yammer about a terrible investor meeting I had the day before and a new subpage we have launched about value for startups joing startupbootcamphttp://www.startupbootcamp.
org/details/startupdeals11.10: talked to our processing centre in Wales (Greenwire) about some logistic issues in Holland
11.15: various emails and scanned borsen.dk
11.25: moaned with Mats about a supplier to TrueSkin who was acting in a bad way
11.55: Marco arrived from Munich to discuss strategy for Greenwire
12.05: lunch with Marco and discussions about how to boost volume in Greenwire through enhanced sales force in Italy and Spain
13.00: moved indoor at Apostrophe and had fresh orange juice and a brownie (in warm weather!!). Now Marco and I talked about how to make Greenwire more lean and efficient
14.10: back in office and working on ROY forecast for Greenwire – loads of number crunching
15.20: helped Jakob and Marie with guest lists, name tags etc for the London event next week
16.00: skype call with Pegasor from Finland to help them optimise their pitch for next week
16.25: connected with martin Kelly from IBM to arrange a meeting about a Health Accelerator
16.35: met with Sandy and Mike from Pilot Lite Ventures to discuss an investment in Startupbootcamp Berlin and an exciting preventive health startup they are engaged with
16.55: signed new rental agreement for our office in London
16.56: more input to the ROY forecast for Greenwire
17.43: finally heading home (too late for my taste since I missed dinner with the family – very unusual)
18.35: family time (laughing, hugging and talking)
20.15: family asleep
20.16: agreed skype call next week with Christian from etventures
20.20: last mails of the day
20.30: reading a book on the kindle
23.30: sleeping time
Rainmaking and the London School of Economics (LSE) have worked closely together since 2010 and each year Rainmaking partners mentor teams from the entrepreneurial class. The first batch of teams had a very academic approach to entrepreneurship but in the last two years we have witnessed an increasingly practical approach with much more focus on taking concrete actions and establishment of real companies with websites and revenues before the end of the program.
This year was no exception. We mentored 13 teams and all had put tons of hours into designing and validating their concepts. Several teams had achieved revenues. Others had letters of intents from potential customers or vital partners. Teams had produced real physical products. And several teams had reached into other disciplines to design products, websites or physical stores/shops.
The intellectual quality is always top notch at LSE, but it is also encouraging to see how several teams proved real entrepreneurial talent.
In the end we decided to award the Annual Rainmaking Award to StellArtist, which is an online platform for top quality artist to sell art editions. The team had already established relationships with Guggenheim and leading galleries and artist. And they had developed a beta website plus secured the first orders and produced special editions in cooperation between artist and galleries. Altogether a very impressive team, traction and idea, which we hope we can continue to support going forward.
Friday we kicked off the quarterly Rainmaking event Rainy Friday – a quarterly social event where we bring together the most talented, bright and interesting people that we know in the startup scene – for drinks, jazzy tunes, and informal networking.
It was a great crowd coming – in total more than 75 people came by for an unforgettable evening, CEOs and founders from 35 of the hottest Copenhagen startups, 20 top notch techies, and a hand-full of early investors.
Will we do it again? Yes we will!
Stay tuned for more info about the next Rainy Friday.