Teaching Entrepreneurship via Business Plans

How do universities teach entrepreneurship?

The most popular way is to place the writing of a business plan at the center of the curriculum. Almost every school has a business plan competition at the end of the semester.

Yet most real-life entrepreneurs do not put much stock in business plans. They think they’re overrated. Recent studies show that VCs don’t care what is in a business plan; the content of plans has little to do with which businesses get funded.

So there’s a gap between how schools teach entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurship is being practiced in the real world. Students graduate with an entrepreneurship major and when they start their first business they think, “Step one is write a business plan!”

To be sure, business plans have their merits. Writing a business plan forces you to think about all the fundamentals of your business idea.

But even entrepreneurship professors would probably agree that the best way to learn about how to start a business is to start a business. If you’re a college sophomore interested in running your own company, start businesses while in school and learn by doing it. This is what they do at Babson and Bentley.

Alas not all students can get real businesses off the ground while tending to their studies. So what’s the next best thing?

Start micro-businesses. Start affiliate businesses. Sell stuff on eBay. Do web design. Write and sell e-books. Heck, write a blog and try to gain huge readership. A micro-business, which requires less than full-time work and could be operated out of a dorm room, probably would teach more than taking a class on entrepreneurship and writing a business plan.

Finally, you might just consider not studying entrepreneurship in school. Wait till you’re out of school and start your business then. Meanwhile, study topics (philosophy?) for which the classroom has a comparative advantage over self-education and real-world learning. Business and entrepreneurship are probably near the bottom of the list in terms of teachability in the classroom.

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