Collegiate Entrepreneurship – Learning through sharing and collaboration



by Brandon Nolte
University Innovation Fellow at SIU Carbondale
Originally posted on his Linkedin


I’ve been wanting to write this article since I presented at the University Economic Development Associations Annual Summit with 4 other University Innovation Fellows.  This trip was one of the most eye-opening experiences since I decided to join the Fellows program and became dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. Recently I attended the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization National Conference where I gained some amazing connections and learned from inspiring speakers.  From both the students and the speakers, I gained new insight into this discussion of Collegiate Entrepreneurship.

Why Entrepreneurship?

Every time I meet new entrepreneurs, I always ask them, why entrepreneurship?  Do you know why I ask them?  Because almost every time, they will tell you story about how they were introduced into entrepreneurship and how they are inspired to work harder.  It inspires me every time I hear a new story about why they want to create change, be innovative, and be forward-thinking.

What does entrepreneurship mean thou?  Everyone has their own definition. My definition does not define entrepreneurship as someone who owns a business, but someone who creates a solution to a problem in a different way than their competitors.  Entrepreneurship is a mindset and isn’t defined by a single individual but by how well a team chooses to diversify its skill sets.

Sharing and Collaboration is Entrepreneurship

When you think about what entrepreneurship is in my definition, it speaks in two different areas focused on skills.  You have the sharing of skills and you have the collaboration of skills.  Both of these complement each other in several areas but what is important is that they are different and once they come together, that is when great things happen!


When you are launching your next startup or looking at developing that idea from the dorm, you should be looking at how someone can share their expertise with you.  If you are an engineer and can build a product, most of the time I bet you have not a clue on who is going to buy it.  If you are a businessman and you understand how to sell a product, find your target audience, and generate revenue, most of the time your ability to develop a product is going to be below par.

What is important is to note that each individual brings a different expertise to the team, and each person will boost the odds of having a successful entrepreneurial team.


Sharing is only successful if those resources can collaborate on a productive level.  There are a lot of factors for if a team will work well.   I framed in the beginning the skill sets of an engineer and a businessman.  These individual must have the same vision for the company, they might have different skill sets but both individuals are required for the companies success.  They must be driven and they must know how to be leaders when leadership is required and know how to be followers when needed.

How does this tie into Collegiate Entrepreneurship?

Collegiate entrepreneurship is on the rise all across the United States. Never before have universities been more pressured to giving attention to this discipline than ever before.

Entrepreneurship creates solutions to problems in a unique perspective through creative design, their mindset and their teams diversity.

We students have started a movement and there are a lot of parts to this forward-thinking movement. Students who have an entrepreneurial mindset are actively and publicly challenging their schools’ current teaching methodologies in teaching.  As education shifts, so does students’ preferences on how they want to gain experience and learn entrepreneurship.  If you ask student entrepreneurs, they will tell you that they would much rather work on their business than attend class, and here is why.

The experience a student obtains through experiential learning and learning through failures can be much more influential than any classroom setting.  When universities teach entrepreneurship, it should be taught around principles that show sharing of resources and collaboration of disciplines. By building a teaching curriculum around the foundation of start-ups, you create a center for students to live and act entrepreneurial every time they step in the door.

As any university begins to establish or evaluate its entrepreneurship program, remember to create an environment that is designed for students and if possible by the students themselves.  When students come together to create a shared collaborative space, they will feel home.

To all you student entrepreneurs, remember you matter!  You are designing your future, don’t be held back, what makes your an entrepreneur is your ability to overcome any obstacle and learn from your failures.


What the movie “Jobs” tells you about being an entrepreneur

By Elliot Roth

I went to see “Jobs” the other day with some friends and was thoroughly entertained. Ashton Kutcher’s acting was spot-on, with an excellent appearance from Josh Gad as Woz, who acted as Jobs’ conscience for most of the movie. I’m not sure whether Woz agreed with the performance, but it definitely tugged at my heartstrings.

The film was very Hollywood, with plenty of inaccuracies , but still gave some important lessons about entrepreneurship and starting a company:

1. Find the oddballs with the crazy ideas

From the very beginning of the movie, you can tell that Steve Jobs was a bit different. He dropped acid, cheated on his girlfriend, went to India, and sat-in on college courses without paying. Not only was Jobs different, but he gravitated to others who were strange, others with obsessions. You could label them as “geeks” but it’s more about having a single-minded determination and focus.

For example, Woz was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, a fringe group of electrical hobbyists that believed in the social power of computers to connect and enable humanity. Back then, that idea sounded crazy, but this fringe group had the skill and knowledge to make it possible.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, but have no marketable skills, go to your local DIY meeting or Makerspace. You can learn something new, and find co-founders who may want to partner with you to bring their idea to life. Also, these groups may contain some of your first customers.steve-jobs-in-his-own-words

2. Customer first

Apple had its first customer before it was even a company. Paul Terrell ran a small computer parts store in the Valley and agreed to retail the Apple I. Jobs and Woz were in way over their heads before they even started. They needed to ship 50 boards in two months. They didn’t have the parts, they didn’t have the labor, and the prototype still needed some work. It was do or die.

The story of Steve and Woz’s first customer illustrates that you can never be ready for starting a business; you must constantly adapt and hustle to get things done. Their first customer also taught them some essential lessons for the future.

3. Oversell and over deliver

In the movie, Jobs is approached by Paul Terrell who still wants to buy the Apple I after a fumbling presentation. Jobs immediately begins underselling by saying that there are others interested in the Apple I (in truth there were none), but he’d stop by the shop. He walks into the shop the next day and immediately begins bargaining with such confidence that Terrell is taken aback and agrees to a large sale.

This salesmanship is repeated again when Mike Markkula comes to invest. Steve is quick and never loses his cool in the face of defeat or success. He renegotiates the contract to better benefit Apple and shows that Markkula isn’t dealing with amateurs.

What “Jobs” doesn’t show is the amount of behind-the-scenes research that goes into those snappy sales. By knowing the industry, and finance, you can make investments and sales work to your benefit. Steve knew that he needed some money in advance in order to build the Apple I. He worked out the pricing beforehand and oversold the computer to make a profit.

The last thing any entrepreneur should do is give up equity in your company. Steve knew that at a $300,000 evaluation, $90,000 is less than 1/3 of the company. At a certain point, it was this lack of control that ended Steve’s position at Apple. This happens over and over again to founders so be ready for it. Be indispensable to your company.

Overselling is nothing without delivering. Jobs delivered 50 motherboards to Terrell who immediately critiqued how they weren’t packaged products. Jobs countered by saying that Terrell could move more inventory by selling to hobbyists because he had all the components in shop, therefore he could make money. Without that quick counter, Apple would have ended as soon as it started. They under-delivered to their first customer. Terrell had taught them a lesson: customers only care about the final product and how simple and accessible it is to use.

4. Hiring is your worst mistake

There were two hiring mistakes in the movie. The first came from Steve’s best friend, Daniel Kottke. When hiring, there are numerous things to consider. The first is if new hires can create value for the company, the second is if they mesh with the team, the third is if they can adapt and learn, and the fourth is if they share the same values as the company. The movie portrayed that Kottke was only friends with Jobs and lacked the skills to adapt as Apple grew. Although the movie took some liberties, the story is generally true.

The second hiring mistake was John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi-Cola and a proclaimed “marketing-genius.” Seeking to augment Apple’s marketing department, Jobs hired Sculley, who had great success with Pepsi’s brand in the late 70s. Sculley did not directly fire Jobs, but let the board axe him after the Lisa failed and the Mac did not produce the numbers they expected. Sculley was more focused on immediate gratification and revenue rather than long-term outcomes. When picking a CEO, you not only need someone who is a good executor, but someone who aligns with the core ideals of the company. Sculley bent to the will of the board instead of embracing the ideals of “thinking different.”

5. Relationships or business. Choose one.

A recent article caused an uproar among the entrepreneurial community. In it, the author states that entrepreneurs cannot have relationships. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of this. In the movie, he left his pregnant girlfriend and disregarded former friends, all in the pursuit of Apple. A start-up takes up your attention and, in order to be successful, you need perseverance in order to make your idea come to fruition. Relationships may pose as distractions when there are one-hundred-hour work weeks. That is why it is much easier to start a business when you are young. You have the energy and limited attachments; you can afford to be thrifty and frugal without others to count on you.

If you ever become a CEO, it will become even more difficult. Many founders are divorced because their startup is all-consuming. A relationship is a balancing act that is very difficult to keep steady during the tumultuous first months of a start-up. Also, if friends are working in your company, your relationship is fundamentally changed. It’s lonely at the top, and emotions cannot cloud decisions made for the good of the company.

6. Heart over talent

Emotions run high at many points in “Jobs.” The love that he poured into Apple is felt throughout the movie. Steve was the company, the company was Steve. Without that love of the values that Apple espoused, there would be no Mac, iPod, or iPhone.

There is a scene in the movie where Steve goes around recruiting for the Mac team. He seeks out not the technical best, but the ones who really care. The team goes on tours of art museums, nature walks, and works with determination and attention to detail because the product is an extension of themselves. The Mac team is an example of how a group can transcend the sum of its parts to become something truly incredible.

7. Every detail matters

Let me repeat that. Every. Detail. Matters. It is not the overall product that the customer remembers, but the little experiences that go with it. The Mac team had this incorporated in its DNA. Only take projects at which that you can excel. Always produce terrific work. This means that you should say no to 99% of the things that come to you. For that 1%, hit it out of the park by crafting delightful user experiences that change the way people interact with the world.

The first thing that Steve Jobs did when he returned to Apple as CEO is to cut all the projects that weren’t innovating. They were the projects that were clones of what other companies were doing, projects that were focused on product, not user experience.

One of the first lessons to learn as an entrepreneur is to start a business because it is different. The second is to build experiences into your designs so customers always come back.

8. Go for needs not sales

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” ~S.J.

Steve led his company like Wayne Gretzky, always going to the open spot, where the next big play was going to be. The Mac was years ahead of its time. The iPod revolutionized the music industry. I’m not even going to talk about the repercussions of the iPhone.

Jobs excelled in his ability to find the need of the customer, the root of the problem, the “pain point.” He then created with simplicity in mind, taking from Braun designer Dieter Rams to make a blank canvas for customers to interact with and imbue personality into. Apple’s products are beautiful because that is what users needed even before they knew they needed it. This attention to need has enabled Apple to develop products that are years ahead of its time and to rightfully hold the spot as the number one computer company in the world.

9. Absolute focus and adaptability

It’s a long way to the top. The only way to get there is with unyielding drive. Steve was a very direct person. He got straight to the point and wasn’t afraid to cut through bullshit. As Woz said: “Steve doesn’t like foreplay.” Jobs had a single-minded determination to carry out a project. He’d forgo relationships, food, and sleep in order to finish. Entrepreneurs would do well to take from his example.

Steve also had a diverse skill-set. He understood many things at a moderate level, which allowed him to communicate clearly and effectively with all sorts of people and employees. At different points he was an engineer, artist, manager, salesman, and advertiser. As an entrepreneur you must be able to learn quickly and do what ever job is necessary. Steve Jobs threw his entire being into his work and it showed.


We can all take value from the life that Steve Jobs lived. His legacy lives on in Apple and in the numerous products he produced while working there. The film ends on the cusp of his success with the iPod, and shows the culmination of all the lessons he learned during his lifetime. I would recommend any aspiring entrepreneur to see the movie to discover how Apple became synonymous with innovation.


Elliot Roth is a Junior in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests are myriad and include slam poetry, music, international jewel thievery, being an EMT, and writing incredible articles as a Student Ambassador. You can reach him at and follow him on twitter @rothet.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Source: ODesk and Millenial Branding, The Future of Work

Thank you to ODesk and Millenial Branding for conducting this study and producing an awesome infographic that articulates the mindset of our Student Ambassadors. Our Student Ambassadors, most of whom are engineers, have “seen the light’. They have come to realize that through engineering, they can solve some of the world’s most pressing problems be it through a corporate job as an ‘intrapreneur’, a startup of their own or doing independent project work as many of the users at ODesk.

What makes our Student Ambassador Leaders different is their commitment to helping their peers on campus see the light.

Let’s face it, the most entrepreneurial and creative thinkers amongst us are going to find a way to pay down our college debt after graduation. It doesn’t matter if its by landing that dream job, creating a portfolio of projects that pay the bills or creating a venture spin-out while at school that ultimately employs ourselves and, for the sake of our fragile economy, many others. Student Ambassadors have a deep passion and motivation to enable their peers to pursue curricular and co-curricular opportunities while at school to prepare them to think entrepreneurially, operate independently and pursue a career path that is more meaningful than the peers that get stuck in a cubicle. For more information, check out the Future of Work Website and flip through the summary Powerpoint on Slideshare.

Untitled~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Entrepreneurship on College Campuses

infographicsnapshotHere’s a great infographic for why student ambassadors are leading the charge to create entrepreneurial ecosystems on their college campuses. Click on the graphic to see the larger image and read the post “The Rise of Entrepreneurship on College Campuses (Infographic)” by Diana Ransom, Contributing Editor of Young Entrepreneur.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Redefining the University & Entrepreneur’s Definition of Innovation.

When you google innovation, the definition pops up as “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device.” Sure. But I see the NCIIA as able to challenge students to truly innovate. To take their freedom at academia and imagine the non-existing, mess around and see what happens, or apply two polar opposites in the same thought.

Today, we’re seeing lots of new products and ideas- but many are combinations of preexisting ideas with a twist or an existing application tried in a new environment.

As an Ambassador, my NCIIA Invention to Venture event will have an opening night called NYU Ambition. I’m out to reawaken and engage dreamers- students with ideas that society might make them feel are unrealistic or too hard to accomplish.

My goal this year is to ignite discussion and better understanding of the definition of innovation and how our University is faring from all angles…while simultaneously providing students the resources to take action and get rolling.

Vivek Wadhma recently tweeted something I agree with…

So how about we start considering innovation as the unknown- and allow ourselves to reach for it? I will be contemplating and working to initiate more ways for schools, governments, and businesses to provide more fertile grounds for innovation.

And if you’re still worried about Silicon Valley having it all, this chunk from Fred Wilson’s blog should ease your worries and inspire you:

“The entire world is now a rival to Silicon Valley. No country, state, region, nor city has a lock on innovation in technology anymore. The Internet has made this so and there’s no going back. We will see Apples and Facebooks get build in China, India, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and plenty of other places.”

But please, spread the word that technology is not limited to internet startups,  that Universities are the place to experiment and start research or a company because of the freedom, support and resources available, and lastly- that you don’t need to be in or near a “hub-” you can start your own overnight!

Samantha Smith