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Building a Startup Culture

As the school year draws to a close, college graduates will making a move to the next stage of their lives. Will college have encouraged or discouraged them from making that next stage involve entrepreneurship?

Venture capitalist Roger Ehrenberg penned an impassioned call-to-arms on Monday, challenging the venture capital and startup industries to do a better job recruiting young entrepreneurs from college. He urges the “seeding of a startup culture.”

Inspired in part by James Kwak’s post “Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street?” Ehrenberg calls for better efforts to “lure the best and brightest into game-changing areas such as start-ups and social enterprises.”

Ehrenberg says that it may be that too much emphasis is placed on the risks and the fears associated with startups – “bad marketing, plain and simple” – something that makes jobs on Wall Street or with established corporations seem safer. Instead Ehrenberg wants young entrepreneurs to be steeped in a “startup lore” and encourages experienced investors and founders/CEOs to tell what he contends are “better stories” about the challenges and opportunities that come with starting your own company.

Ehrenberg points to a number of VCs who have become instructors at universities in order to “use their positions as vehicles for identifying top students, building relationships that ultimately result in ideas getting funded or students placed in promising start-ups.” However, he questions whether it’s worth waiting for more hiring or for an institutional change at the university level to encourage entrepreneurship, and urges instead a “grassroots effort on the part of local venture investors and successful start-up executives to get into the classrooms and onto campus to re-orient talented students away from the money culture and towards the building culture.”

Although some universities are working to develop entrepreneurial programs, it may be that the “culture” of business school isn’t the right place on campus for the cultural transformation that Enhrenberg wants. (Entrepreneurs do major in things other than business.)

Ehrenberg’s essays calls for a better “startup culture” and focuses primarily on storytelling from experienced VCs and entrepreneurs in order to foster it. How else might we go about fostering such a culture?

You can read Ehrenberg’s full blog post here.

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