Last week, I had a brief conversation that helps illustrate why I teach. The dialogue was fairly simple:
Student: “Your class is dangerous.”
Student: “Because I’m now thinking about doing a startup.”
It was one of those moments that causes a teacher to smile, knowing that you may have lit a spark inside a young person. And as Josh Hernandez, founder of Tap.Me and a terrific young entrepreneur, replied on Twitter, the moment also provides an opportunity to take things to another level.
What I’m talking about is a belief I’ve developed during my time as an entrepreneurship educator. After having been around thousands of students who had different interests and motivations, I realized I could classify them into three buckets:
- Entrepreneurship students
- Entrepreneurial students
The students in bucket #1 are those who simply study the subject. They enroll in courses and may even concentrate in entrepreneurship (contrary to common belief, there isn’t an entrepreneurship major at DePaul). At the undergrad level, most take a course because it’s a requirement for their Commerce degree. Most at the MBA level talk about wanting to start a company, now or in the future, or positioning themselves as stronger job/career prospects.
The students in #2 are those who do something about their interest in entrepreneurship, short of starting a company. They may or may not take courses, but they read about entrepreneurs, attend startup events, join a student club, enter a competition, brainstorm startup ideas, etc. Surprisingly, there are a lot of these students and a fair number remain in this category for an awfully long time.
The students in #3 are those who actually begin the process of starting a business. They invest time and money, start working on a business plan and/or a product, and make things happen. Some transition from bucket #2, others come to school already in this category. They’re the ones who are likely to become or remain entrepreneurs after their degree, although some do end up getting a conventional job years later.
So back to the dialogue with which I opened this post.
That student is already in bucket #1 since he enrolled in the course. After our conversation, he acknowledged that he has several ideas he’s thinking about, putting him into bucket #2. And as Josh Hernandez so concisely directed me, my job is now to move him into bucket #3.
Of course, that may take some time, not knowing his current situation or ambitions. But don’t think I won’t try. Because it’s moments like these that illustrate why I do what I do.