Toward Effective Education of Innovative Entrepreneurs in Small Business: Initial Results from a Survey of College Students and Graduates

This paper describes preliminary results from a pilot survey of college and MBA students and alumni from five universities. This survey was designed and conducted by a team of researchers from the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stern School of Business and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, both at New York University (NYU), and was funded through a challenge grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. This survey project is intended to identify the nature of the courses and their teaching approaches and materials that were most useful, later, in carrying out entrepreneurial activities. The goal of the project is to provide the foundation for an evidence-based redesign of educational programs that focus on training innovative entrepreneurs. It also seeks to contribute to the effectiveness of public policies that are designed to promote and support economic growth. 

Highlights include:

  • Taking an entrepreneurship course as part of an undergrad or MBA program significantly increases the odds of later founding or working for an entrepreneurial organization.

  • Having a parent involved in entrepreneurship also tends to increase the likelihood that the respondent has founded or worked for an entrepreneurial organization.

  • The authors found no statistical relationship between a student’s grade point average or SAT score and their propensity for involvement in an entrepreneurial organization.

  • Students who took an entrepreneurship class were more likely to have engaged in three separate types of “innovation”: (1) offering new products or services, (2) obtaining patents or copyrights, and (3) using production techniques that differ from those of the industry’s main competitor.

  • The survey results suggest that there is a strong correlation between respondents having taken an entrepreneurial course and their self-reported skill in identifying new business-related opportunities.

  • As this project moves forward, the research team plans to focus on providing data that will help instructors train prospective innovative entrepreneurs more effectively. In particular, the team wants to identify the educational approaches that will stimulate students’ creativity and alertness to promising technological developments and other opportunities for innovation.

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