Special Episode: I was interviewed on the Marketing on the Move podcast and I shared the findings of my 4 years of research on studentpreneurs!
Studentpreneurs are a growing phenomenon with some famous entrepreneurs (Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google and Steve Huffman from Reddit). The numbers are rare numbers about it but in the UK a study showed there 80,000 studentpreneurs (3.5% of uni students) with an estimated collected revenue over 44 million pounds or AU$80M.Remember, the best time to start a business is when you are a student, pretty much no expenses, you can undercut everyone and nobody cares when you fail.
What this study does is back up with some management theories our gut feeling on studentpreneurs. This is necessary to build dedicated programs.
Here I am going to summarise 4 years of research in a list of 7 items without encryption in academic language.
SECTION 1: The main problem is that studentpreneurs do not see themselves as entrepreneurs. Mostly because they do not know what is an entrepreneur, or what they know is too daunting (eg: Steve Jobs). It takes them a long time to build and embrace that identity.
1- Three stages on the journey of studentpreneurs. The uni programs for studentpreneurs need to take them on that journey but at a faster pace.
- HOBBYIST: driven by the student’s personal interest
- MAKER: the stage where they want to make money or love the process of making money or build a product/service.
- ENTREPRENEUR: they finally call themselves entrepreneurs, co-founder, business person…
2 – Four profiles of studentpreneurs to identify when designing a dedicated programs:
- The Creatives: started with their passion for creating things. They start at the hobbyist stage.
- The Student-Athletes: they were student-athlete before starting a business. They can transfer a lot of the traits they developed as athletes: focus, dedication, sacrifices, competition.
- The Family Studentpreneurs: at least one parent is an entrepreneur, grew up in that environment. Most expected case.
- The Enterprisers: they started late, at Uni, with the motivation of making money or building something, without identifying as entrepreneurs yet but they aspire to become one.
3 – Three ways to support studentpreneurs in constructing their identity of entrepreneurs:
- Positively validating what they do as entrepreneurs: entrepreneurial competition (hackathons), winning a big contract, being accepted in an incubator or accelerator program, or winning awards such as 30 under 30 entrepreneurs.
- Getting them to realise that they want to make money and that it is okay! They can’t progress otherwise.
- Most important is to support them understand they are different from other students and then cultivate that difference. Some call it a mindset.
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SECTION 2: 3 key elements in how studentpreneurs pursue opportunities with limited resources, need to be fostered by uni incubators and accelerator programs.
4 – Entrepreneurial Human Capital
- Skills possessed
- Learning Skills. Need to encourage all type of learning and run hands-on workshops.
5 – Entrepreneurial Social Capital: building relationships
- Networking – need to attend event, organise events with entrepreneurs
- Mentors – key. Can be found in incubators, events
- Co-founders – 12/19 had co-founders. finding one is a skill
6 – Entrepreneurial Cognition Capital -> Decision Making & How to make their own luck!
- Initial disregard for resources at hand. This feature is a great way to identify studentpreneurs for dedicated programs.
- Sensemaking: capability to make sense of the opportunity and what is around the studentpreneur. Needs to be developed! it’s where the Ah-ah moment happen.
- Serendipity: capability to act on luck -> needs to make luck happen
7 – All these elements apply to pivoting: developing at are important to start a business or pivot it. They are going to keep using them
Summary: need to organise entrepreneurial events to help studentpreneurs go through their journey to become entrepreneurs. Uni programs need to help them realise they are different, that they want to make money and it’s okay. Different profiles can be targeted.
Help the young entrepreneurs around you find about other studentpreneurs’ journey by listening to StudentPreneur podcast.