Investors, ed stakeholders discuss whether or not campuses should support startup culture through curriculum, campus resource centers.

[Editor’s Note] It’s a debate gaining traction across the country: Is college worth it? Part of this debate is the notion that as Gen Z becomes more savvy via free and available resources provided by the internet and social media, entrepreneurial opportunities outside of a college education perhaps can provide better financial opportunities that yield tangible return-on-investments. But, is the growing focus on entrepreneurial education and startup fever a wise move? According to those in STEM fields, the answer is a resounding “no.” [Read: “Urgent: This innovation myth needs to end.”] On the other side of the debate, McLaughlin and Lydecker argue that there is, in fact, a place for startup fever on campus…if careful considerations are taken into account:

The startup ambitions of MBA students and college undergrads have spawned discussion about whether aspiring young entrepreneurs should launch new business ventures while still in school. Students, graduates, professors, and investors have varying opinions on whether startup fever should be a pursuit that is encouraged or discouraged while students live out their academic requirements.

Sure to be an ongoing dialogue for quite some time, here are three important topics of conversation that have been voiced on the subject:

1.Is Starting Up a Distraction?

Wall Street Journal writer, Lindsay Gellman, recently reported that Stanford Business School is encouraging its MBA students to avoid the distractions of a startup and instead focus on their courses, campus life, and getting their degrees.

Educators argue that students need time to test their ideas and “embed desirability into the products, services, and experiences they create.” Instead of taking on the obligations of planning a new business and the pressures that come with meeting investors’ requirements, educators want students to spend their time on campus in preparation—not execution of their new businesses.

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This runs counterintuitive to the lure of the Mark Zuckerberg startup experience with Facebook, which began with the collaboration of students in a Harvard dormitory and catapulted Zuckerberg to billionaire status by the time he was 23. But isn’t Zuckerberg the rare exception, the unicorn, not the rule?

(Next page: More startup fever considerations)

About the Author:

Ed McLaughlin is the founder & CEO of Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and angel investment firm based in Darien, CT. Previously, McLaughlin founded and served as chairman & CEO of United Systems Integrators (USI) Corporation, a corporate real estate outsourcing firm, sold to Johnson Controls (JCI) in 2005. In 2001, he earned Entrepreneur of the Year honors from Ernst & Young, and USI was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing companies. A member of the Board of Governors for Tufts Medical Center, McLaughlin founded its David E. Wazer Breast Cancer Research Fund. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, where he is a member of the Board of Trustees.

Wyn Lydecker is the founder of Upstart Business Planning, where she works with entrepreneurs to develop plans that answer the questions investors ask most often. Previously, she was Managing Director of Business Plans International in New York and Co-Director of the Small Business Resource Center at Norwalk Community College. Lydecker has an MBA in finance and marketing from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She serves on the board of a local nonprofit she helped found, At Home In Darien.


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