“Entrepreneurship is a mindset, not a job title,” quipped Jack Dorsey in front of a captivated audience earlier this month at the NYU Entrepreneurship Festival. This is hardly a novel insight—it was what came next that really struck me. He explained that entrepreneurship and startups weren’t inextricably linked—*”You can be an entrepreneur in a school or anywhere else,”* he told us. The moment he mentioned schools, it clicked.
The more time I spend engaging with the New York City startup community, the more frustrated I become with Columbia and its failure to take advantage of the explosive growth of technology in New York City. Columbia may be one of the worst offenders, but this is a problem that has plagued virtually every major university. The most desirable job candidates are being snapped up by relatively small companies and courted for their ability to code, lead, and think critically about how to solve real problems. With rare exceptions, the best universities are ill-equipped to develop these skills.
Some of the hottest companies founded by people under 25 are nevertheless coming out of these same universities. I’d argue that this is only because the best universities are attracting the best talent. Yet despite the incredible talent pool, work ethic, and passion on these campuses, we see relatively few entrepreneurs actually starting and launching companies. Why?
I don’t think anyone knows the answer. People ask the question all the time, but they’re not asking the right people. In order to begin to craft an entrepreneurial culture on campuses across the country and across the world, we need to look to the pioneers. They are few in number, but they’re hacking away on the next big ideas and talking to each other about how to build amazing products.
If we want to learn how to build this community on a massive scale, these are the people we need to be listening to. And that is precisely what I intend to do. Beginning in April, I’ll be publishing a discussion with a student entrepreneur each Monday, in an effort to decode what makes them successful (thus the title of the blog). I am eager to listen more than to talk. I have met an incredibly diverse group of people during my time in New York building companies that make things that people love. The more I hear, the more excited I am about the future we can build.