At which age should we start raising entrepreneurs?
University students are the catalyst in modern entrepreneurial ecosystems
Written by: Amal Malhem
The endless debate is whether entrepreneurs are born or made. In the tech-world, entrepreneurship became a modern trend where talent comes up with potential lifesaving solutions from their own perspective and personal demand. But what about the eligibility and readiness to be the one? How can you prepare yourself to be the “superstar” entrepreneur among them all? Is it by experience, genes or education?
In my opinion, it is a mix of all factors. An entrepreneur can become one after being an employee for a few years where (s)he observes market trends and comes up with a product or a solution that fills a gap in the industry in which (s)he has worked. Entrepreneurs can either support their organizational innovation with their solutions or step out and build their own ventures and here comes the “Experience” factor. As for the “Genes” factor, if a person is raised in a family that runs its own business for example, then they are more likely to have the entrepreneurial mind and skillset to start their own endeavor.
The main focus is the third factor; “Education”. We can teach our children to “start their own thing” by letting them sell homemade lemonade to the neighbors. However, what about continuity? The curriculums of both schools and universities should address entrepreneurship and innovation in more practical methods. What is meant here; is introducing fundamentals to entrepreneurship and innovation as a compulsory course where students learn the essentials required to become an entrepreneur or an innovator. They will learn that starting up their own ventures is also an option they would have after graduation, in addition to joining an existing organization as an employee. They will learn that failure is a potential scenario; however, the best successes are achieved after they learn from their own mistakes. They will also learn that they have the power to contribute to national economic growth and create sustainable job opportunities.
Tackling schools is to be addressed in a separate article, seeing university students are the concern here. Nowadays, generation Z is exposed to many technologies and social media platforms at a very young age that their lives are driven by utilizing many of them. Therefore, spreading the entrepreneurial spirit and planting the innovative seed has no shortage of mediums and methods. Many universities worldwide and specifically in the region have established their own entrepreneurship and innovation centers to provide support and incubation services to their students. In fact, I have recently been involved with one of the universities in Dubai which are currently establishing its own center as a recent initiative to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the United Arab Emirates; especially after the announcement of the new strategy last March, to create economic and creative free zones in universities by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in line with the 50-Year Charter unveiled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Similar to the UAE, many Jordanian universities have focused on the creation of young entrepreneurs mainly during the last decade. Through my observation, while working for one of the university entrepreneurship centers in Jordan in 2014, many universities were in the process of establishing similar dedicated centers where main efforts are directed towards offering elective undergraduate courses, related training workshops, and incubation support through those centers in collaboration with the universities. One of the Jordanian universities even offers a master program in Business Entrepreneurship that competes with similar programs at a global level. Such centers also encourage those universities to support graduation projects as a pool for potential startup ideas, organize student hackathons, celebrate entrepreneurship university day and create entrepreneurial student clubs run by the “Student Affairs” deanships. All of these efforts are examples of how universities can be a base for raising future leaders with entrepreneurial and pioneering spirits.
Furthermore, universities can always build exchange programs to widen their students’ exposure to other universities entrepreneurial experiences which will shape their innovation skills with a more regional and global taste. Agreements with startup ventures or companies with a startup background can be established in order to offer university students internship opportunities to deeply experience the atmosphere and operations of an existing startup. Another aspect worth mentioning is collaborations with accelerators and co-working spaces, to attract those young entrepreneurs after graduation with reasonable running costs. Banks and financial institutions will always be a potential partner to higher education institutions, which can offer supportive loans or financial programs with attractive rates to the potential business owners.
In conclusion, university students will be the catalyst in the modern entrepreneurial ecosystems. However, all the key players in the ecosystem; whether governments, higher education institutions, innovation centers, incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and financial institutions, should collaborate in order to support this fuel of innovation to better assist governments with their ongoing efforts in enhancing the business environment, fostering economic growth and creating sustainable job opportunities.
About the writer
Amal Malhem received her BSc in Business Information Systems from the University of Jordan, and her Master’s degree in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology from Waterloo University, Ontario, Canada. During pursuing her Master’s degree, she gained experience in commercializing ideas, discovering and exploiting new market opportunities, and introducing innovation and disruptive technology within existing organizations. Also, she gained knowledge in bringing new technologies to market and indulging in today’s real business world through being involved in starting up two tech-ventures in Waterloo region.
For two years; in her capacity as the Entrepreneurial Programs Manager at Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship, she managed an array of programs and services in entrepreneurship development and technology commercialization that mainly focused on youth innovators in order to graduate entrepreneurs who will be trained to further grow their businesses and support the economic growth. Consequently, Amal served as a lecturer of “Introduction to Business Entrepreneurship and Innovation” at Princess Sumaya University for Technology.
Within the context of Dubai, as part of her consulting career, Amal was involved in running the second acceleration program for Startupbootcamp Smart City Dubai at Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA). Hence, she possesses a comprehensive knowledge of how early-stage companies can be supported to thrive and unlock their potentials, particularly within the local context.
Amal is also a big believer in the power of mentoring in the entrepreneurial journey; especially after managing the outreach team of “Forsa” mentoring program delivered in the MENA region by Adam Smith International.