Everyone wants something to call their own. From owning a home to writing a book, people seek channels where they can express their identity. That’s the catalyst behind entrepreneurship too. Aside from providing a living, a startup is a means to share one’s values and vision, to make a difference and leave something behind. Being able to call the shots just makes it all the more enticing.
So why don’t more people do it? It requires risk for one. Who wants to be tabbed as a failure if the business goes south? Fear is another factor. Everyone has a story about some brave soul who lost his home and became persona non grata to creditors after rolling the dice. Here’s the biggest reason why entrepreneurship can be so scary. No one knows where to start. It’s a huge endeavor. It’s hard enough to come up with an idea. Then, you have to figure out a way to build the solution, scale the operation behind it, and somehow fund it. There’s billing, taxes, and legal. You’ll eventually need to onboard employees and rub up against competition? The market is bound to shift and consumers’ expectations are certain to grow. Beyond that, you have culture: How do you create an environment that fosters creativity, accountability, and buy-in?
MAY MOOCs HELP STUDENTS MAKE SENSE OF THE STARTUP PROCESS
That’s a lot to digest. Despite the long hours, uncertainty and risk, over two-thirds of businesses make it through their second year according to the Small Business Administration. How can you increase your chances of success? That starts by de-mystifying the whole startup process, breaking it down into digestible chunks with steps that can be stripped down and prioritized. In May, some of the top business schools are doing just that through MOOCs.
One place to begin is the idea itself. For that, students can turn to MIT’s Sloan School of Management, one of the world’s premier institutions for technology and entrepreneurship, for You Can Innovate: User Innovation & Entrepreneurship. In this course, students will examine the concept of innovation, disrupting status quo players and models to carve out a unique position that is difficult for other competitors to execute. As part of this six-week course, students will learn how to identify potential problems before brainstorming, partnering, and testing potential innovations.
It is easier to do this than ever says Eric von Hippel, an entrepreneurial legend at MIT who’ll be co-teaching the course, in a 2013 interview. “The tools for high-quality innovation are getting so cheap and so ubiquitous that individuals can innovate for themselves at a steadily higher quality and at a steadily decreasing cost. Because of the Internet, it is also true that people can innovate collaboratively at a steadily lower cost.” For von Hippel, one place for aspiring entrepreneurs to start is with the products and services they use everyday. The trick is, of course, is converting it into something that they can commercialize themselves. “When we trace the sources of innovation in our research,” he adds, “we find that users actually are the ones that typically develop the functionally new products that later become major commercial successes.”
LEARNING ECONOMICS FROM WHARTON AND HIGH FINANCE FROM MICHIGAN
That’s just the start. Babson College, another hotbed for startup activity, is rolling out Financial Analysis for Decision Making: Funding your Business. This course addresses one of the most terrifying — and necessary aspects of the startup process: financing. Taught by the school’s associate dean and former finance chair, the class outlines the pluses and minuses behind various financing options available to entrepreneurs. The University of Maryland covers similar terrain with another section of New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs. For students looking for a 30,000, start-to-finish look at the startup process, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne is back with its popular Launching New Ventures MOOC.
Entrepreneurship isn’t the only subject on the May menu. The University of Pennsylvania is launching Microeconomics: The Power of Markets, to help managers better understand the relationships between individual actions and how they should price and position their products. The University of Michigan’s Gautam Kaul, a pioneer in online education, is introducing Valuing Projects and Companies, with an emphasis on using both hard (assets and earnings) and soft (brand and leadership) measures used to peg an organization’s worth. In addition, the month boasts the return of several popular courses to keep the summer busy, including the University of Virginia’s Foundations of Business Strategy, the London Business School’s Managing the Company of the Future, and IESE’s Corporate Finance Essentials.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.
Management and Marketing