Student Entrepreneurs

In 2021, this interactive webinar addressed 3 Key Questions -

1) Which students should become entrepreneurs?

2) How can we best prepare students to become entrepreneurs? and

3) Why is entrepreneurship the right career choice during a world pandemic?

Our speakers were:

Bob Bastian, SHINE Project Founder, Italy 🇮🇹

Cyron Chan, Guest Speaker, Hong Kong 🇭🇰

Hala Barakat, Guest Speaker, Egypt 🇪🇬

The event was moderated by Paul Coyle, SHINE Project Founder, France🇫🇷

Registrations were received from participants in 19 countries:

Australia🇦🇺, Brazil🇧🇷, England🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿, Egypt🇪🇬, France🇫🇷 Germany🇩🇪, Hong Kong🇭🇰, Hungary🇭🇺, India 🇮🇳,

Ireland🇮🇪, Italy🇮🇹, Lebanon🇱🇧, Malaysia🇲🇾, Norway🇳🇴, Pakistan🇵🇰, Scotland🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿, South Africa🇿🇦, Tajikistan🇹🇯,

and United Arab Emirates🇦🇪,

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Key Question 1) Which students should become entrepreneurs?

The first question the speakers and participants considered was “Is entrepreneurship the right career choice during an ongoing global pandemic?” An on-screen poll revealed generally positive responses: Yes 50%, Maybe 50%, No 0%.  Comments included the view that  more than ever, there was a real need for students and graduates with entrepreneurial mindsets. The context of the pandemic was seen as restrictive in many senses but also creating new market opportunities.  Students might become entrepreneurs out of necessity or opportunity.

Looking to the future, we have an opportunity to create Normal 2.0 i.e. something better than before. In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated us towards the 4th Industrial Revolution, where permanent full time work will be less relevant than self-employment, micro-business, freelancing and the Gig economy.  In this sense educators and students have no choice but to be better prepared for entrepreneurship career paths.

Bob Bastian

Bob Bastian was our first speaker. Bob is a PhD candidate in Applied Economics and Management at Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy. His research interests centre around entrepreneurial judgement and decision making, well-being and social entrepreneurship. In his first video clip, Bob explains why he thinks it is a good time for a student to become an entrepreneur. 

In a second clip, Bob talks about which students should become entrepreneurs. He explains the different ambitions held by students from different academic disciplines including business, engineering and medicine with regard to employment vs entrepreneurship.

Cyron Chan

Our second speaker was Cyron Chan. He is based in Hong Kong and has an entrepreneurial mindset. He is experienced and passionate about coaching young people, startup incubation & social innovation. In this first clip, Cyron explains that he works with students who don’t have business experience, and how he helps them develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

In a second clip, Cyron describes how every student can have an entrepreneurial mindset, not just business students. He shares an interesting observation about the differences in entrepreneurial abilities amongst different student groups.

Hala Barakat

Hala Barakat, our third speaker is the Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the  American University in Cairo, Egypt. Being an entrepreneur herself, she has experience of all the ups and downs of the business world. In her first video clip, Hala discusses supporting women entrepreneurs in Egypt.

In her second clip, Hala talks about the role of her Centre in supporting student learning, the development of an entrepreneurial mindset and preparing students through multidisciplinary experiences for careers in corporates as well as startups.

Key Question 2) Which students should become entrepreneurs?

The second main question discussed by the panel and the participants was “Which students should become entrepreneurs?” There was 100% agreement with the Poll option ‘Entrepreneurship can be a valid career option for any and all students’ and nobody agreed with the option ‘Entrepreneurship is only a valid career choice for some students.’ 

Key Question 3) How can we prepare students to become entrepreneurs?

The third question was “How can we prepare students to become entrepreneurs?” The discussion began with a poll about the current quality of preparation to help students become entrepreneurs. The results were:

very poor 6%, 

poor 13%, 

ok 69%, 

good 13% 

very good 0%

Clearly there was a shared view that there is room for improvement.

An interesting additional question that arose in the discussions was - “If we want the students to be entrepreneurial, what do the people teaching them need to have in terms of knowledge, skills and mindset?”  Participants identified the need for changes and improvements.  Key points are discussed on the opposite page and in the next video clip.

Paul Coyle and Jay Wasim

In the next video clip, Paul Coyle, Director of the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, and Jay Wasim, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Robert Gordon University, discuss what academics need to be like if students are going to learn how to be more entrepreneurial.

Susanne Klein

In the following video clip, Susanne Klein, a lecturer at Hochschule Harz in Germany, considers how university bureaucracy could better support student entrepreneurs and the full range of ideas that they have.

Discusssion and Reflections

The webinar was an opportunity for participants to exchange ideas with each other about changes that are needed, in this case changes that would help student entrepreneurs. Here are some examples of our participants’ observations about the  academics and other experts who help students to learn about entrepreneurship:

* People that are running incubators (generally) have never been an entrepreneur or they have no idea how entrepreneurs work. This gap in theoretical and practical knowledge needs to be closed.

* Many professors also often suffer from limited experience or have had no interaction with practice; we need more professors with relevant experience.

* Subject matter experts, academics with in depth subject knowledge are required, but we also need more entrepreneurs and business owners from the external community. 

* We need teams of people to support the entrepreneurial development of students (academics, business support, entrepreneurs, alumni, researchers etc.)

* Significant engagement with the wider business ecosystem would provide students with mentors and a practical understanding of entrepreneurship.

Building on this discussion about the relevant knowledge and skills of academics, the debate moved on to the role of risk in education and in universities:

* Academics face relatively little risk.  Often their projects are underwritten by the University and they have a secure job. Lone entrepreneurs outside Universities face huge risk and financial consequences. Therefore, career academics need to have a better insight into these aspects of what it is really like to be an entrepreneur.

* Universities need to change their attitude to risk (across a wide range of areas) in order to become more entrepreneurial. There needs to be less emphasis on risk avoidance and more support for risk taking.

The webinar was an opportunity for participants to identify actions that they can personally take to bring about change within their own context.  

It is an essential attribute of the entrepreneurial mindset to go beyond identifying the need for change, to go beyond just wishing for somebody else to do something. Instead, like an entrepreneur you decide to take action yourself and do what you can to bring about the necessary change.

Here are some of the actions that participants shared, actions that they intended to take as a direct result of the discussions in the webinar:

* Exchange insights from this webinar with my colleagues and find out more about the examples and good practices that were shared by other participants.

* Pick up the idea of a real case competition shared by Hala Barakat and see if we can adapt it for our students.

* Create more space and opportunities for our students throughout the semester to propose their ideas.

* Help students identify skillsets that they can commercialise.

* Use my voice to support more diverse business models and multidisciplinary teams.

* Raise entrepreneurship and innovation with my colleagues in researcher development.

* Connect more intensively with other universities and institutions to develop the interdisciplinarity and diversity of our entrepreneurial teams.

What change is needed in your own context? What inspiration have you found in this article? What action can you take to bring about change in your own context? ◼️