BLENDING OF SOCIAL VENTURES WITH BUSINESS VENTURES
“In the past, we had a class that was for students who wanted to start an entrepreneurial venture and another class for students who wanted to start a social venture,” Zenios says. “We found it beneficial to have students be part of the same class and the same curriculum and in a way, give them a vehicle to learn from each other.”
Now, Zenios says, every single student that goes through the Startup Garage is asked to think about their venture in a socially-responsible way. “It’s something we’re asking of every student who goes through our Startup Garage course to think about their responsibility to society as they’re starting their ventures,” Zenios says. “So we wanted to be more mindful about how their venture will be perceived by their main stakeholders beyond investors.”
The change is a response to the changing beliefs of Stanford MBAs, Zenios says. “There has been a shift in their mindset from here’s a business model that succeeds — there was a period where our students wanted to create the Airbnb of X or the Uber of Y, so taking those models and figuring out what the next model would look like — but now they are increasingly becoming more problem-driven,” Zenios explains. “They are finding problems to solve, looking outside the window, or talking to customers, users, and people outside of the environment in which they are in. Once you start doing that, there are some problems that are deeply social in nature.”
More and more students are applying to his Startup Garage course looking to solve social problems instead of business problems.
STANFORD EMBARK WILL TAKE ENTREPRENEURSHIP TO THE MASSES
“As I’m going through the applications for my course, we have students that want to solve business problems. But then there is a whole slew of teams that are looking into social problems that they want to solve — areas where they think they can make their communities better,” Zenios says. “It’s not something that is tied to a particular business or business model, it’s tied to a particular problem. And then they want to find ways to address those particular problems. That’s where the lines of traditional entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are becoming more blurry.”
The next step, Zenios says, is taking Stanford’s entrepreneurial teaching to the masses. So this past summer, the school launched Stanford Embark, an online learning platform for entrepreneurs accessible to anywhere who has an internet connection. The membership-based toolkit is for entrepreneurs looking to launch their first venture to seasoned entrepreneurs looking to scale.
“It essentially is providing guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs how to get started on their entrepreneurial venture,” Zenios says of the resource, noting they have essentially synthesized lessons in Startup Garage and other entrepreneurial mindset courses. They have synthesized what they teach in the Startup Garage and other entrepreneurial mindset courses. “We help answer the most pressing questions to launching a venture,” Stefanos says. “We wanted to create something that could be scalable and we hope it will reach tens of thousands of entrepreneurs around the globe.”