Facebook, while an outlier in terms of scale, is just one example of the boom of entrepreneurship among college students. Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman when he launched thefacebook.com in 2004, and now he is one of the 100 wealthiest people in the world. Facebook currently employs more than 12,000 people. And he began as a student entrepreneur working out of his dorm room.
If universities offered more support for their budding entrepreneurs, how many more Mark Zuckerburgs might we have? So let’s suggest three vital kinds of support that schools could offer.
1. Legitimacy. Acknowledge that student start-ups are not hobbies or counterproductive to their studies. The millennial generation is unparalleled in terms of optimism about their own capabilities, and that needs to be taken seriously. Schools can help by providing practical experience in running businesses, classes in business management available to all majors, and mentor-ship resources.
2. Students are, by and large, already living on loans and have limited resources. But some schools, like U.C. Berkeley, have begun to make small grants available to undergraduate enterprises. If a school isn’t able to budget funding themselves, they could provide resources and education in how to safely seek investors elsewhere.
3. Support for failure. Nine of ten beginning businesses fail inside a year. It is the responsibility of educators to make sure that a student’s first failure does not kill their future attempts. When failure is backed by the right education and not by shame, it leads to taking smarter risks, with higher payoffs. It leads to working out the kinks and an improved final product.