Launch Pad: A Different Kind of Entrepreneurship Competition/Workshop
We've heard all about competitions/workshops where startups and budding entrepreneurs pitch ideas. There are already startup weekends for ed-tech. But what I'm about to propose does not fall into either category...
Let's start with what successful entrepreneurs are really great at: identifying new efficiency. While some entrepreneurs succeed in better identifying consumer tastes, those that can identify concrete ways to make firms and consumers more efficient win out at a much higher rate. Yet the startups have been most effective in high-tech, where identifying new efficiency mostly requires technical knowledge. In areas such as education, knowledge of institutional constraints is incredibly important.
My idea for an entrepreneurship competition would entail TC students (and possibly other potential entrepreneurs) to not pitch an idea but a problem. The task would be to identify an area of education where there are greater improvements to efficiency for the taking. The proposed solutions to these inefficiencies would have to be limited to entrepreneurial efforts (specifically not public policy). The greater the improvements to efficiency and the greater the specificity with which the problem and suggested solution(s) are outlined, the better the idea is judged. The competition would have two parts: a presentation and a q&a session with a panel of experts (a la Fed Challenge). The Q&A would be partially rooted in the entrepreneurs' presentation and partially in testing the entrepreneurs' knowledge of the particular issue being addressed. The panel of experts should be a mix of TC faculty and folks from the entrepreneurship world.
This competition takes a slightly different view of entrepreneurship on two fronts. One, it fleshes out some of the institutional concerns that come with addressing educational issues that don't exist in other sectors where entrepreneurship exists. Where else can you find as expansive a faculty that is knowledgeable about the variety of issues that plague education? Two, this sort of competition is not for those who might have a super-clear idea for their startup. Rather, it will help entrepreneurs keep efficiency considerations in mind as they build towards a concrete product. This competition should bridge the gap between entrepreneurial interest to concrete idea/product.
The workshop half of this project would be a little different too. We would use the many of the same experts from the panel of experts of the competition to conduct a workshop with some of these same entrepreneurs to help sharpen their ideas.
If you've read this far, you're probably interested and you're in a position to answer this question. Should the workshop precede or succeed the competition. If the workshop comes after, it almost serves as a prize in and of itself. If we conduct the workshop before, we could charge a lot more for participating in such a competition. Keep in mind that it will cost more to get faculty and other experts to help nearly everyone, as opposed to the winner or top 3 teams.
Let me know if you would like to see the full-fledged project proposal for this idea if you're interested!