Colleges Not Good at Producing Innovative Start-Up Entrepreneurs

(p. 5) I typed these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.
American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.
In a recent speech promoting a jobs bill, President Obama told Congress, “Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin.”
Close, but not quite. In a detailed analysis, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that nearly all net job creation in America comes from start-up businesses, not small businesses per se. (Since most start-ups start small, we tend to conflate two variables — the size of a business and its age — and incorrectly assume the former was the relevant one, when in fact the latter is.)
If start-up activity is the true engine of job creation in America, one thing is clear: our current educational system is acting as the brakes. Simply put, from kindergarten through undergraduate and grad school, you learn very few skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and comfort with failure.
. . .
If I were betting on the engines of future job creation, I wouldn’t put my money on college students cramming for tests and writing papers with properly formatted M.L.A.-style citations in order to bolster their résumés for careers in traditional professions and middle-management jobs in large corporate and government bureaucracies.
I’d put my money on the kids who are dropping out of college to start new businesses. If we want to get out of the jobs mess we’re in, we should hope that more will follow in their footsteps.

For the full commentary, see:
MICHAEL ELLSBERG. “Will Dropouts Save America?.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., October 23, 2011): 5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 22, 2011.)

The commentary above is in a spirit similar to Ellsberg’s book:
Ellsberg, Michael. The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late. New York: Portfolio Hardcover, 2011.

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