For schools looking to attract the best aspiring entrepreneurs, offering Business Plan 101 doesn't cut it anymore. Even boasting about amazing competitions, demo days and pitch contests might hardly raise an eyebrow. Instead, many universities are thinking outside the box and expanding their offerings to support an array of students across various programs.
We took a look at four innovative trends making headway in entrepreneurship:
1. Going beyond business students.
With students from numerous concentrations taking an interest in entrepreneurship, schools are looking to provide resources. One such institution is Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. The school's Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship for the School of Theatre and Film created a curriculum centered around helping students learn how the “principles of entrepreneurship can support the development of creative opportunities for all artists.” The program includes such classes as "Marketing for Artists" and "Theatre Organization and Management," along with an art incubator for both for- and non-profit business models and seminars.
Other schools have also stepped outside their business program and integrated entrepreneurship courses in concentrations including engineering, medicine and journalism.
2. Taking teaching outside of the classroom.
While offering hands-on experiences isn't new for the entrepreneurship curriculum, Houston-based Rice University is taking it one step further. For its "Technology Commercialization" course, the university's graduate school teamed up with its biomedical engineering department to offer students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The course requires students to develop business plans revolving around medical technologies and then travel to Africa to test out their theory and see if the model is viable. After receiving feedback, students tweak their model to address the particular needs of the community.
While Rice University is a bit of an anomaly, more schools are teaming up with organizations like Venture for America, a nonprofit modeled after the successful Teach for America organization, to allow students to gain experience by working at startups.
3. Trying a hand at fundraising.
Fundraising is a tricky dance that many entrepreneurs have yet to master. Looking to help aspiring entrepreneurs demystify the fundraising process, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill allows a group of students to manage one of three private-equity funds (each having $3 million in capital) focused on acquisition and pivoting, scaling or real estate. The student-managed fund runs just like any private-equity firm fund: Participants are required to perform research before investing in a startup, commit to funding and track the progress of the investment.
Keep in mind students aren't flailing in the dark, because the school's alumni network provides a helping hand when making decisions. The first fund closed and has an annual internal rate of return of 45 percent.
Other universities on this bandwagon include Miami University's Student Venture Fund, New York University's Student Social Venture and Pennsylvania State's Garber Venture Fund.
4. Mingling departments.
Entrepreneurs can't know it all and often need the help of other folks to get their startup dream of the ground.
Tucson, Ariz.-based University of Arizona realizes this issue and has found a creative solution to this thorny issue. For its business/law exchange program, aspiring entrepreneurs, along with law students, work side-by-side at a mock law firm. By working together, the students are able to gain insight into how to work with attorneys when it comes to incorporating, intellectual property development, ownership contracts and patent applications. Other co-department exchanges include engineering, medicine and education programs.
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