March 26, 2004
Silicon Valley 101: Website provides tools to teach high-technology entrepreneurship
By Dawn Levy
For scientists and engineers, it's often easier to develop a product in the laboratory than it is to create the company that will deliver it to the world. Now, a website provides free resources to those interested in becoming high-technology entrepreneurs (http://edcorner.stanford.edu).
Called the STVP Educators Corner, the website is a creation of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), an entrepreneurship education and research center within the School of Engineering. It includes videotaped interviews with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Stanford course materials, case studies, and links to organizations, events and journals.
"Our goal is to teach students the skills they need to be entrepreneurial leaders both in new ventures and existing organizations," says STVP Executive Director Tina Seelig. "It is not enough for students to leave school with a purely technical education. [Students with entrepreneurial skills] are much more valuable to the companies they join and are much more successful in their careers."
Since its launch in late October, the website has attracted almost 1,000 registered users from 300 universities in 45 countries.
"There is an age-old argument about whether entrepreneurship can be taught or learned," says Katherine Emery, Educators Corner project director. "We believe that we provide an environment in which to develop and improve entrepreneurial skills. The site's popularity reflects how much users value material relevant to high-technology, high-growth companies."
The site was developed with funds from the Kauffman Foundation with the goal of reaching the 3,000 entrepreneurship educators across America and another 3,000 around the world. It provides a database of modular content that professors can put together in different ways to customize and update their curricula.
"The website is like a box of paints, providing endless opportunities to combine the content in different ways," says Seelig, who teaches Creativity and Innovation (Management Science and Engineering 277). Seelig, who is a Fenwick and West Entrepreneurship Educator, often begins class by showing video clips from the website. Her virtual guests have included Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures, Lynn Reedy of eBay, Jeff Hawkins of Handspring and Kavita Ramdas of the Global Fund for Women.
Other professors use the content in different ways. Some ask students to watch video clips beforehand to prepare for class while others encourage students to download video clips to augment their own presentations.
Half of the website's registered users are not educators at all, says Emery. They are entrepreneurs, sometimes scientists and engineers, interested in the "war stories" of those who have started businesses. Other users include K-12 students. Students in Brazil, for example, have used the website to learn English because they are interested in its content.
The website is a window into some of the most innovative minds in Silicon Valley. Stanford wants to share that content with the world, Seelig says. "We're very lucky that we are in Silicon Valley and have access to this rich environment. However, in phase two of the project we plan to include content from schools in other regions to offer different perspectives."
A main offering of the website is information about building an entrepreneurship education center. The site lists programs, centers and grant-making organizations worldwide. Listings for Stanford alone include the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (in the Graduate School of Business), STVP (in the School of Engineering) and the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network (campuswide).
The site also includes advice about starting a work-study program, such as Stanford's nine-month Mayfield Fellows Program, which combines an intense sequence of courses on the management of technology ventures, a paid summer internship at a start-up company and ongoing mentoring and networking.
To connect the entrepreneurship community, the website lists professional associations, conferences, journals, awards, newsletters and news articles.
The site augments other Stanford efforts to share knowledge about entrepreneurship. For example, every week the Business Association of Stanford Engineering Students (BASES), STVP and the Department of Management Science and Engineering co-sponsor the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar Series. The seminar series presents life lessons from high-technology trailblazers including Vinod Khosla of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Judy Estrin of Package Design and Larry Page of Google. Free and open to the public, the series also serves as a class, Management Science and Engineering 472.
"STVP is pleased to be a part of the world-class entrepreneurship education and research activities at Stanford," says Professor (Teaching) of Management Science and Engineering Tom Byers, STVP's founder and academic director. "Stanford students of all majors benefit from learning the lessons of entrepreneurial leadership to increase their potential for impact in business, government and educational careers. STVP Educators Corner allows us to share and eventually exchange this world-class curricula and set of best practices with educators around the globe."