Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught, Or Are Entrepreneurs Born That Way? Reflections from a UEA course

The discussion if entrepreneurs can be trained in a classroom has long been spread in academic and practitioner circles. Much of these discussions have been inconclusive. Indeed, there is evidence to support and to challenge the idea that entrepreneurs can be taught. The students from the MSc in Enterprise and Business Creation at the University of East Anglia have brought additional indications to encourage the case that entrepreneurs can be taught.

This is the first group of students completing this innovative MSc course which represented a challenging and exciting journey to both students and lectures. With two taught semesters the students had the opportunity to develop their own business ideas. The MSc offers the chance for aspiring entrepreneurs to work on their business ideas under the guidance of an experienced teaching team.

The MSc culminating event asked the ambitious entrepreneurs to present their business plans to an investment panel. The panel comprised a venture capital fund manager, a bank manager, a business angel and a crowdfunding investor. The students presented a wide-spread of opportunities from a smart phone application to a theatre production. The winner of this event would receive 6 months extra support in the form of a rent-free space at The Enterprise Centre (UEA) with supported incubation to get their business running.

enterprisecentre

The feedback from the investment panel was very positive with seven of the ten opportunities gathering interest from one or more investors. An example of the positive feedback was the business angel’s thoughts about the pitching event:

“I was very impressed with the standard of the presentations and variety of ideas on offer”

While the venture capital fund manager took it a step further and noted that:

“It was a pleasure [to be involved] – thanks to all the participants for such interesting proposals. I’d like to think that some will apply [for… funding] when we open for applications in the New Year.”

The students also reflected on their achievement in the MSc programme, in particular, how it had impacted their ventures and views on the entrepreneurial process. One student, recognised that:

“The MSc modules have provided me with the fundamental knowledge on how to create a company from a simple idea”

To conclude, these observations and the overall results of the pitching event provide clear indications that the work developed with UEA lectures, in and outside of the classroom, has helped these entrepreneurs to become closer to guaranteeing external investment. Hence, it is possible to state that entrepreneurs can be taught. However, this cannot be done without the motivation and drive of the aspiring entrepreneurs!

Many thanks to Tiago Botelho for contributing to the NBS Blog

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