Tag Archives: entrepreneur

What The World Would Be Like If Entrepreneurs Didn’t Exist

NOTE: This is a group blog exercise while I’m attending the kickoff reception at the 99% Conference. I played the “why” game; I asked the first random attendee the title question, then gave the second random attendee that answer and asked why, and so on.

It wouldn’t be. Period.

no entrepreneurs
Photo Credit: geoftheref via Compfight cc


Entrepreneurs imagined, developed, and built everything physical.


Entrepreneurs have been responsible for some of the natural things we see and use.


They create.


Entrepreneurs don’t know how to do anything else.


Creation is in their DNA.


They’re weird.

There you have it. Next time you’re talking to an entrepreneur, say “thank you”. Yes, we’re weird at times, and we’re really intense at times. Ignore that  or embrace that. Whatever. Just be sure to say “thank you”.

Stakeholders in the Education System

In a previous post , I shared my thoughts about the “insiders” who can and should help reshape our education system.  As many readers and friends pointed out, there are also “outsiders” who need to play a part.

Parents and Education

In most cases, for better or worse, parents are the most influential person in a child’s life.  Parents need to play a direct role in their child’s education.  We need to monitor and join in their learning.  We need to communicate with teachers and other school folks who all play a role in our child’s education and work as a team.  Our children need to develop their skill set.  They also need to develop the mindset that will be necessary in the future career force – creativity, imagination, collaboration, failure, hustle.  Where the schools fail (in cultivating that mindset and also in exposing them to digital literacy and things like that) the parents must fill those voids.

Entrepreneurs and Education

Entrepreneurs should inject themselves into the education paradigm.  They know how to make something from nothing, how to rebuild something, how to hustle.  We desperately need them to engage in this conversation.  They have the resources that people listen to.  They have the experience people listen to.  They can be the perfect champions; as Brad Feld illustrates, entrepreneurs are the proper people to put and the heart of building and developing such a program.

Organizations and Education

All of our communities have many organizations interested in education, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship.  There are government agencies, local corporations, small businesses, NGOs / non-profits.  It is critical to have the support of organizations, for field trips, for mentors, for internships, for some larger resources (although I hate to feel indebted to someone)

Combining these folks with the teachers, students, and administrators on the inside would create a phenomenally powerful education force.  It doesn’t have to be that hard.  It’s about finding someone who doesn’t seem to have an agenda and that person coordinating discussions to get things going.

Education: Fixing a Broken System

Every morning I put my son on a bus literally across the street (talk about poor use of resources!) and a little piece of me dies.  The experience he has each and every day destroys his creativity, his natural curiosity, his imagination, his self-confidence, his individualism.  Need I go on?

Deliver Children to Their Educational DoomOur education system is broken.  I’m not one of those who gets on a soapbox and blames others.  I don’t care whose fault it is.  No Child Left Behind.  Common Core.  The list of people and programs who have contributed is endless.  Including every parent who never spoke up.  I can’t stay silent any longer.  The system needs an overhaul.

Education as a Process

I view everything as a process.  Including any educational system, or any component within the educational system.  And any process can be split into smaller (more manageable!) parts.  With the educational system, I’m looking at teachers, administrators, students, and resources as the big building blocks.


Teachers are the foundation of education.  They should be the co-creators, the facilitators, the guides, the mentors.  They make it happen.  They have been relegated to delivering packaged content, to helping aggregate big data, to creating robots.  It really is depressing.  Just as students do, teachers need the freedom to design and create.


Create opportunities for students to love learning.  Create content delivery systems based on individual needs and capabilities.   Create a community where parents send their children to blossom, not to be crushed.  Teachers want this.  If they don’t, they’re just perpetuating the destruction of our youth.


In any process are gatekeepers.  In education, the gatekeepers are administrators.  They need to protect our school communities like they would their own children.  Not only keep them safe, but enable them, empower them, mentor them, encourage them to fail.  They need to encourage teachers to create, encourage students to experiment.  They need to enable teachers to innovate and take calculated risks, enable students to enjoy education and find their natural love of learning.  Their job is to champion and permit the transition from standardized factories to individualized laboratories.   This comes from creating cultures of student-driven learning and of curiosity and of experimentation and of fun.


Students are the heart and soul of education.  Although the heart barely beats, and the soul is certainly shattered.  Students need to regain their voice.  This means taking back control.  Education is their experience.  It is meant to help them grow, to prepare them for an uncertain future, to provide a safe place for them to experiment intellectually, socially, spiritually, athletically.


Education cannot happen without students.  Transforming our education system can happen most effectively by students believing their voice matters, building a collective voice, and reclaiming their ownership of the educational process.  Students need to be able to make things.  To code programs.  Education needs to be learning by doing.  Most importantly, education should allow and energize students to learn to learn.  Learn how to ask questions, and how to answer questions.


Resources are the least important of these building blocks.  The resources that we typically think of are so irrelevant.  Buildings that decay.  Desks that confine.  Books that are outdated.  Resources students need are easily accessible in today’s world.  Education resources should include those that allow students to self-organize, to engage, to be curious, to be motivated by their peers, to collaborate.  A computer, tablet, or some device that gets them connected.  Internet access.  Writing materials.

The New Education System

Teachers need to create.

Administrators need to protect.

Students need to love learning.

Resources are already there.

Everyone involved in education should have fun.  If you touch or are affected by education, are you having fun?  I mean really having fun?  I doubt it.  Let’s create the future of learning.  How?  Put entrepreneurs in charge.  They can transform cities.  They can transform communities.  They can build ecosystems.  They can certainly redesign education – because they are lifelong learners at their core, and they engage in learning more effectively than anyone else.  They have to.  Let’s give them education to rebuild the broken system.

Entrepreneurship of a Different Sort

Entrepreneurship is . . .

Entrepreneurship has many different definitions and variations.  I am often asked by students, colleagues, and various stakeholders of the organizations of which I am a part some version of the following question: “Have you ever started a business?”  I am in the midst of starting one right now (internrocket, which is aimed at blowing up the internship and hiring process by focusing on micro-project experiences).  So according to that traditional perspective of entrepreneurship, I am currently an entrepreneur.  I’ve tried a few in the past and failed miserably before much progress happened.  I’ve consulted for many folks who have started both successful and unsuccessful ones.  But the sorts of experiences I’ve had, I would argue, are equally (if not more so) valuable to my goal of engaging students in entrepreneurial thinking and doing.

The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship can be driven by necessity or by opportunity.  I grew up in a fortunate situation where I never had to think about necessity.  I always engaged in opportunity-driven entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship can also be legal or illegal.  In my younger, more immature days, I engaged in illegal entrepreneurship.  In order to get the cocaine I needed, I started dealing for some heavy hitters out of Detroit.  I would put that experience against that of any entrepreneur any day.  I had to manage product.  I had to manage employees.  I had to manage financials.  I had to manage stakeholders.  I had to monitor competition.  Anything a “real” business does, I had to do.  But I had to do it with the highest of stakes.  Not that I wouldn’t have food on my table, or I wouldn’t have enough money to pay rent.  I would have a couple dudes called Slim (he wasn’t slim by the way) and Frosty visit me from Detroit.  I had to cheat and steal and manipulate and operate well over that line between moral and immoral.  Every day I had to make very real, very dangerous (physically and emotionally) choices.  I would say there is nothing more entrepreneurial that this sort of experience.  It certainly shaped my current world view of what is possible and of how to get it.

The Bright Side of Entrepreneurship

As I matured and realized I needed to clean my life up, I turned to education.  As an educator, I am extremely entrepreneurial.  I look for opportunities to disrupt the broken ways of teaching that we too strongly hold onto.  I look for the failures of those who’ve come before me, and I give myself every chance to try some new method or technique, and to fail.  I hustle my ass off – weaving students, faculty, alumni, colleagues, associations, entrepreneurs, investors from around the world together around fantastic experiences.

Am I an entrepreneur?  I honestly don’t know what that means (Babson College is doing some cool projects around defining that word).  But my answer is categorically YES! So when I get asked that question about whether I’ve started a business, I often reply by letting people know that I’ve been entrepreneurial from an early age.  As my path through life changes, the focus of my entrepreneurial spirit changes.  But that spirit has always been in me.  Is it in you?  How does it manifest itself?  Find the opportunity.  Learn to fail.  And hustle.  The results will be extraordinary!