Aug 13 2013

Teaching Entrepreneurship To Undergrads

Guest Post By David Williams – Explorateur Ventures, Ltd – (CEO)

Explorateur Ventures

We are a few weeks away from the autumn 2013 semester at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Lee Business School , which will mark my fifth year of part-time/adjunct teaching Entrepreneurship to undergraduates. In autumn 2012 I also co-taught an Entrepreneurship-related course at the Boyd School of Law  with local attorney Josh Westerman. This year Boyd is re-calibrating its curriculum to include more business/entrepreneurship course offerings. While our course is not offered this academic year, we look forward to further course offerings at Boyd, which could include a prerequisite to our course.

There will be three courses in LBS this autumn:

  • FIN345, Managing New Venture Funding – a finance course which takes a holistic view of finance within a venture, throughout its life cycle; in its fifth year
  • BGES430, International Entrepreneurship – a management course which is part of the Global Entrepreneurship Experience Program; in its third year
  • FIN480, Entrepreneurial Finance – a re-launched finance elective course which will principally focus on valuation and negotiation; first year after a three-year hiatus

While all three present a different perspective on entrepreneurship, they present real-world material integral to entrepreneurship education.

As standard procedure we do not use textbook(s) in these courses (caveat – BGES430 does use a supplemental text written by Professor Robert Hisrich at Thunderbird’s MBA Program). Instead the curricula are curated largely from case studies from top global MBA programs, such as Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Darden, Ivey, IMD and others. Ergo, although these courses are indeed undergraduate, they have a “MBA lite” bent and students are pushed to operate at a quasi-graduate level. In addition to these case studies, we have been grateful for a wide variety of guest speakers who have participated in our courses, from the local, national and international business community, from countries as far away as Finland, Japan and China. Their contributions add rich content and bolster the real-world emphasis to which we adhere.

While textbooks per se are avoided, we have used from time to time supplemental readings and books, such as Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. This semester, we are pleased to include in all three courses Brad Feld’s Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City text, which allows us to continue to stress in the respective last class sessions the importance of building, collaborating and leading the evolution of our startup ecosystem. What good are basic tools taught in the courses if there is no community to support the execution and usage of these tools?

The inclusion of Brad’s book this autumn arrives at an interesting time for us. For the past five years, we have ended the courses with a case study on Austin, Texas and how they methodically created from the 1980s their ecosystem environment to what it is today.

Ironically, I am myself a University of Texas McCombs MBA graduate, and a significant amount of that Harvard Business School case research takes place during my time there in the mid- to late-1990s. A personal interest/experience in the content as well as an important pedagogical message. Comparing Austin with Las Vegas has been fairly intuitive for me; both cities and states had to emerge from dire economic straits, with Texas’ emphasis in oil and gas and real estate, while Las Vegas and Nevada heavily concentrated in gaming and real estate. Due to technological advancements over the past thirty-plus years, I would anticipate that Las Vegas’ ecosystem will evolve at a more accelerated pace than the time it took Austin to develop its unique startup culture.

Coincidentally, this next week will mark the first-ever South by Southwest event outside of Austin, with the SxSW V2V conference held in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel , as well as related events at community venues such as Startup Weekend at the Switch InNEVation Center, an event at the renovated Gold Spike downtown hosted by Tech Cocktail, and other activities. It is therefore timely for us to move from a single data-point ecosystem reference to what things can be done generally, to more focus on sustained growth of our community. We look forward to leveraging lessons learned and suggestions made from Brad and the Boulder, Colorado community in course group projects.

Attached below are the attendant syllabi for each of the above-mentioned courses; please refer to those for specific course details and curricula.

BGES430 Syllabus 13 1.0

FIN345 autumn 13 syllabus 1.0

FIN480 autumn 13 syllabus 1.0

You may also want to follow our Twitter feed (@socraticstartup) to follow course content and guest-speaker participation as we move through the semester, and a Facebook page of the same name. The FB page is only open to current/former students and guest speakers for course/curriculum reasons; however those interested in our activities certainly may follow our posts and information on that open page.

David C Williams is Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he teaches Entrepreneurship courses focused on finance, management and law. He is also CEO of Explorateur Ventures, Ltd, an international consultancy that advises startups and growth companies. In addition to being an active member in the #vegastech community in Las Vegas, he has lived, worked and travelled abroad in South America, Europe and Africa. He can be reached via [email protected] or on Twitter @explorateurven.

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