Hey Kid, Go Be Entrepreneurial

One of the things that we hear a lot about in the economic development community is the importance of small business and entrepreneurship. A majority of jobs get created by small business, to say nothing about how many new products and innovations get launched that way as well. Here in Washington state, we’re great at entrepreneurship, with one of the highest rates of business starts per capita…except that we also have one of the highest rates of business failures per capita.

We’ve done a lot of research on that topic, and there are several reasons why those stats are somewhat misleading (for example, the high percentage of seasonal businesses…like farming…that get created and then close on purpose each year). And there’s issues with the B&O as a tax on businesses in the “valley of death” (pre-profitable, yet forced to pay a gross revenues tax). But it’s also true that successfully starting and running a business is hard, and there’s not actually a lot of resources out there to prepare you for it.

I’m not talking about organizations that provide technical assistance to small businesses, of which there are many. I’m talking about the education system. I happened to come across this announcement about a new graduate certificate in entrepreneurship, and my first thought wasn’t “Oh good, a solution,” but rather “too little, too late.”

The real need for those classes is not in a separate, later-stage program, or even in standard business school classes, but rather incorporated into the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees. Getting a BA in computer science? You need to take CSE 237 – “Entrepreneurship for start up computer science companies.” Getting a Master in Bioengineering? You’ll be seeing a lot of Professor Start-up and his cadre of guest lecturers from the biotech community. Is everyone getting a STEM degree going to start their own business? Hopefully not, because we need innovative, entrepreneurial people in our major companies too (when was the last time you didn’t hear someone criticize a big corporation for not being innovative and entrepreneurial enough?).

I know that a lot of universities are already doing this, or at least seriously discussing it, but the sooner the better. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see that Washington state business failure rate decline because of it.

3 Responses to Hey Kid, Go Be Entrepreneurial

  1. sambrose says:

    This discussion immediately made me wonder where Washington is with respect to the rollout of Professional Science Master’s (PSM) programs. Over the past few years, the Professional Science Master’s—the so-called “MBA of the 21st Century”, combining advanced training in a specific math or science field with the development of business skills valued in the workplace (e.g. project management, business fundamentals, tech transfer, IP law, regulatory affairs, team building, and entrepreneurship)— has been gaining traction around the country. PSM graduates gain skills useful both in start-up environments and established tech companies.
    A growing awareness of the unique ability of PSM programs to fill unmet needs in the talent pool has generated strong private sector buy-in, as well as stimulus funding and foundation support.

    WSU recently announced that it will launch the state’s first PSM program (in molecular bioscience) this fall. I’m hopeful there are more in the works.



  2. There has been significant growth in the number of PSM programs across the country including several in Idaho and Oregon, though not too many yet in Washington. My colleagues at the National Professional Science Masters Association would love to help folks in Washington get PSM programs on the books. As of today, there are over 200 PSM programs at 98 universities.

    Dan Chatham
    Dean of Admissions, Keck Graduate Institute
    Treasurer, NPSMA

  3. As the daughter and sister of two Washington entrepreneurs, I couldn’t agree more. As a graduate of Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s MBA in Sustainable Business with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, I would encourage you to take a look at BGI. http://www.BGI.edu

    BGI is the pioneering school of sustainable business and its co-Founder, Gifford Pinchot, has pulled together all the elements that he is best known for: Intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship, creativity, democratic organizations, environmental responsibility and social justice.

    Come to campus and check us out! 206-855-9559

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