If you were to ask me what is entrepreneurship, I’d say it is making something from nothing. This question came up recently in Philosophy of Entrepreneurship taught at CU by Brad Feld, Brad Bernthal, and Phil Weiser. I was surprised when Brad Feld’s answer to the question was exactly the same as mine.
Entrepreneurship is creation. I love the line in Genisis 1:31, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” I imagine that is the same feeling I had as a child when I drew a house and showed it to my mom or when I made up a song on the guitar and played it for a friend. I also imagine it is the same feeling I get when I look at MyNiceTie.com or HappyFreebie.com.
I’m writing a paper right now on the best practices of entrepreneurship education throughout the world. At the end of the paper I’ll make recommendations for CU’s entrepreneurial program. In my research I keep bumping into the question of whether entrepreneurship can be taught.
I still remember the first time I was confronted with this question. I was sitting at a Defrag 2012 dinner with Jim Franklin, the CEO of Sendgrid, and a couple other people. After hearing that I was studying entrepreneurship, one of the people at the table challenged the idea that it could be taught and asked my opinion. At the time I had never thought about it and didn’t have a good answer. Since that dinner I’ve thought about it on and off and I don’t know if I have the best answer yet, but here are some thoughts.
I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since I can remember, but I don’t remember learning to be one. There was never a moment when I decided to be an entrepreneur, I just started doing stuff. I sold lemonade, golf balls, collected cans, and sold trinkets out of a magazine. I was motivated by Nintendo games and Ninja Turtles.
So, if entrepreneurship is creating something from nothing, then it doesn’t need to be taught. We don’t need to be taught to create, we’ve all been creating ever since we were born. We started creating coherent thoughts, then words, and then sand castles. The ability to create is one of the greatest rights and privileges we have as human beings.
So my answer to whether it can be taught is no, but it doesn’t need to be. We are all born entrepreneurs, the trick is to believe it. Being an entrepreneur is more of a mind set than anything else. It needs to be adopted rather than learned.
That said, I’ve learned many skills over the years that make me a better entrepreneur and I’m way thankful that I came to CU, which has turned out to be the best school in the country to learn these skills in practice.