Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg stand out as remarkably successful entrepreneurs who all dropped out of university. To them, their higher education was an unnecessary distraction. But several studies show that the vast majority of successful entrepreneurs follow a more traditional path - university, corporate experience and then entrepreneurship. In this oped, Dr Vikas Nand Kumar Batheja, the co-founder and director of Capital College in Dubai explains why a university degree is important for entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is a unique profession in the world of modern business. Research suggests that only 10 per cent of entrepreneurs succeed while the rest fail due to different limitations such as low financial aid, poor marketing, economic situation and many more. These factors tend to pull aspiring entrepreneurs down and create more pressure to survive in a competitive market. Even people who have an impressive business background can still fall short if they do not have a strong academic foundation.
According to a report produced by Small Business Trends, 82 per cent of successful business owners claim to have the ideal qualification with a professional background to run a company, even with limited capital. Similarly, a report from Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation says that 95 per cent of entrepreneurs have at least an undergraduate qualification from a reputable university that gives them an edge while starting a business. It seems that higher education can play a pivotal role in supporting and shaping an entrepreneur's career.
A strong foundation
Some aspiring entrepreneurs drop out of university as they believe it does not give them the necessary skills to help them in their entrepreneurial career. Today, many millennials and generations Zs do not resonate with the idea of receiving a qualification that will prepare them to work for someone else. Fortunately, colleges and universities have worked on this feedback and have introduced many pathways to allow students to develop entrepreneurial skills.
According to a report submitted by Innovation Cluster for Entrepreneurship Education, students who enroll for higher education programmes experience diverse benefits including active inserting company-collaboration in the curriculum which has ultimately improved student performance compared to other programmes. The report further states that pursuing entrepreneurship education positively reflects on their academic performance in other subjects that shapes the development of all essential competencies. Although many people do succeed without an academic background, a higher education qualification certainly opens pathways to lay a concrete roadmap to success.
There are many technical skills that cannot be picked up anywhere other than in a college or university. For instance, many universities have business curricula that allow students to review financial statements and create pricing strategies. Some proficiencies perhaps cannot be gained through informal experiences. Hence, individuals must consider such academic experiences that will support their entrepreneurial journey while acquiring licences or other certifications. For many industries, obtaining a university qualification would be the best path to completing many legal procedures.
Corporate experience is important for those who set out to become entrepreneurs, it is in the corporate world where expertise is attained and the skills in navigating the business environment are learned. In this day and age, getting a job in the corporate world is difficult without a university education. A degree is also a backup plan for many entrepreneurs who venture out and then fail. In such a worst-case scenario if a startup fails, founders can use their qualifications and experience to seek new employment, until perhaps, they try again.
As an entrepreneur, it is highly complex to give a precise value of the risk one is taking while setting up a business. Many times, it comes down to remaining optimistic about the success even if it may seem highly irrational. Studying at a business school will allow business enthusiasts to make an informed decision as almost every fellow student is a potential co-founder, students will be able to work on a prototype and the corporation’s structure without fewer risks and then evaluate and decide the future of their entrepreneurial career.
Universities are not only a place to make lifelong connections, they also enable students to exercise professional benefits. An entrepreneur’s most rewarding advantage could be his/her connections. During challenging times, these connections can be beneficial. While graduating may not guarantee success for an aspiring business owner, alumni associations are often called a ‘breeding ground’ for networking opportunities. In fact, research indicates that 85 per cent of work-related opportunities and jobs are filled via networking. Any form of networking can be beneficial in the long run, from fellow students, sorority and professors all present an opportunity for future clients, investors, employees and other associates. Above all, a university is a space where one can get their ideas validated by the faculty and fellow students.
As Harvard Business Review says, education is a good ingredient to be a successful entrepreneur. To get a quality education that will support one’s career, it is important to enrol in reputed institutions that offer flexible modes of learning as business requires patience, resilience and optimism until all the eggs hatch.