My alma mater, Johns Hopkins, has been building it’s focus on entrepreneurship education over the last several years and I have been honored to be able to be involved in judging the business plan competition and speaking to the students. Now with an incubator to help jump-start fledgling companies, they are upping their game. It’s about time too as they fell behind many universities who recognized the importance of entrepreneurship education early-on, even though Hopkins has an enormous built-in advantage and incentive: they do more research than any other university in the country. The intellectual property that results from that research can provide enormous opportunities not just for the university to make money through commercialization, but for the students to create businesses around those technologies. As some students will succeed in these ventures, it will in turn reflect well on the university and all students who matriculate there.
But this is important not just for the university, but for our country as a whole. I am currently reading “The Weary Titan: Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1896-1905” by Aaron L. Friedberg. It has me wondering how the US will side-step the same fate as Britain and I am convinced that remaining the global leader in intellectual property creation and commercialization, i.e. startups, will be a key part of any successful plan. According to the Kauffman Foundation, new business startups declined in 2011 from 2010, but remain relatively high compared to the pre-great recession era. I hope this is not the beginning of a down-trend. We are not going to gain economic strength primarily through manufacturing or exploiting natural resources as other countries have significant advantages over us, even with our newly accessible natural gas reserves. Our greatest advantage is our higher-education institutions, the risk-taking and ambitious nature of our populace (and the people that feel the pull to immigrate here), and a fiscal and legal structure that makes creating valuable businesses relatively easy here.