A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Should millennial entrepreneurs go to college? Given the stellar startup careers of non-college graduates like Zuckerberg, Ellison, Disney, Gates, Jobs, Branson and Dell, the answer to this question might surprise you. In sports, outliers generate headlines. Basketball stars LeBrone James and Kobe Bryant achieved immediate success in the NBA as 18-yr old high school graduates. However, what about Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry? Ever heard of Jonathan Bender and Darius Miles? Like James and Bryant, these talented players opted to skip college, in favor of a professional career. Unlike James and Bryant, they were journeymen, not superstars. The same is true in business, where outliers are given an outsized amount of attention. If you believe the mythology surrounding the handful of entrepreneurs who did not obtain a degree, you may think that the path to entrepreneurial success is enhanced by avoiding college. I must admit, I furthered this anti-college narrative with a provocative article about college dropout successes. In my role as a Professor of Practice within UC Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurial Technology Management Program, I am confronted by several millennials each quarter who ask me if they should quit school to work on their ventures. My response is almost always the same; I think dropping out is a very bad idea.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Even Stephen Curry Needs To Practice Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. It cannot be learned from a book or in a classroom. The skills which underlie entrepreneurship are largely learned first-hand, through trial and error. However, you do not need to start a business to begin exercising your entrepreneurial muscles. There are a number of tasks you can perform that will allow you to train in the art of entrepreneurship while you are in school or working at a large organization. The key to effective rehearsing is to first establish the goals you want to achieve. If you don’t know which specific skills you want to improve, you will only get better them by accident.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. When I published This Remote Working Experiment Failed And Succeeded on the Wall Street Journal last year, I had no idea it would generate so much social media attention. Given TimeHop’s failed experiment, I was especially intrigued when I learned that a team of a dozen remote entrepreneurs hack the typical corporate structure and creates a company that generated nearly $100 million in revenue. Creating an effective remote team is often difficult, especially for a startup, as the core business issues are ill-defined and the pace is chaotic. Thus, even though it is enticing to start a company based with a remote working structure, it is often a challenge to maintain a decentralized approach as a company expands beyond its founding team.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. After 28 years as a public-school teacher, Bob Wood reluctantly left the classroom and took the helm of his elementary school. During his 10-year tenure as Principal, his team was awarded the White House’s National Blue Ribbon, a distinction granted to the top 0.3% of all elementary schools nationwide. Under Bob’s leadership, his school was also named a Distinguished School by the California Department of Education, earning an unprecedented score of 10 out of 10. As noted in You're Never Too Old (Or Too Successful) For A Mentor, Bob is my mentor and friend. Thus, I was honored when he agreed to share his insights regarding the fundamentals of success with my UC Santa Barbara entrepreneurial students.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. We’ve all met them. The world’s out to get them. Every boss, coworker and subordinate is scheming to assure their demise. Setbacks are never their fault. They are a victim. Victims are bad enough in our personal lives, but they can be especially disastrous at a startup because a small company’s culture can be disproportionately poisoned by a single bad hire.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. When entrepreneurs describe their venture, they are often met with encouraging words, such as: “Great idea. I wish I had thought of that.” This propensity for people to be polite when you discuss your startup can make it difficult to determine who really believes in your opportunity and who is just being nice. Fortunately, you can separate the polite from the committed by issuing the Blondin test. Each generation, a few magnetic personalities emerge and generate a mania of public interest. During the mid-19th Century it was Jean Francois Gravelot, who wisely abandoned his given name and dubbed himself The Great Blondin. He was a true rock star of his day.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. Fanstasy sports sites DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s popularity has spurred a new-breed of political betting sites. Unlike sites of the past that were deemed illegal, the current crop of election sites appear to well positioned to exploit the unprecedented focus Americans are applying to the 2016 election cycle.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. Car companies spend a significant amount of money on superficial design features, including the timbre of the sound emitted when a car door is shut. Why? Because many consumers value design features over those which impact performance. Even less time is spent on developing the aspects of a car that become evident long after the purchase is completed. For instance, have you tried to use a car jack lately, let alone the toy-like spare tires included in many cars? These “hidden” features seldom cross a consumer’s mind at the time of purchase and thus do not impact the buying decision. However, they clearly have a long term impact on the customer’s overall satisfaction and thus their propensity to purchase additional products in the future.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. Entrepreneurs see the world like a cash booth from a 1950’s game show. On such shows, winners were placed in glass booth filled with money. Once the timer was started, a fan blew the money about and the contestant had a few seconds to grab all the cash they could hold onto. Once you begin seeing the world with the eyes of an entrepreneur, you realize that money-making opportunities are all around you. I encourage my UC Santa Barbara students to launch mini-ventures while in school so they will begin to see the opportunities that surround them. Along the way, they grab some cash while stressing their entrepreneurial muscles.
A version of this article previously appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Did I passed on Uber’s seed round? No. It’s worse than that. I never even bothered to listen to Travis’ pitch, even though I was repeatedly offered the opportunity. I then passed on Uber’s A Round as well, which I thought was valued too high, in light of the company’s progress. Too bad, as the initial funding round has increased over 4,000 times in value, making a $250,000 investment worth more than $1,100,000,000. Nope, that’s not a typo. Two hundred and fifty thousand would have netted my firm more than one billion dollars. As discussed in Why I Passed On Twilio, VC's love to talk about their successes, but seldom publicly acknowledge their mistakes. However, passing on a killer investment is not the worst error an investor can make. It is far more detrimental to one’s returns to make investments in companies which fail to return capital. A VC has done their job when their funds include enough great companies to generate an industry-leading outcome. Thus, while it is painful for a great investment to pass you by, the pain is wistful, not acute.