Crain’s New York Business, Education Report: “Startup Factories”

New York’s colleges are stepping up support of budding entrepreneurs with courses, mentoring, networking, awards. High marks were given to Pace’s Lubin School of Business, where a 2011 pitch contest drew an audience of 400 — including venture capitalists, angel investors and bankers.

A special Education Report in the April 23 issue of Crain’s New York Business focuses on how New York’s colleges and universities have ratcheted up their commitment to supporting budding entrepreneurs in recent years.  With courses, mentoring, networking and cash awards, they are growing crops of would-be entrepreneurs that they say are far better prepared than their predecessors. 

Lubin Professor Bruce Bachenheimer,  Director of Pace’s new Entrepreneurship Lab, was interviewed by Steve Garmhausen for the article and his comments are highlighted below.  Read the Education Report in its entirety by clicking here:

  • One of the latest manifestations of the trend: the February launch, by Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, of an entrepreneurship lab that aims to facilitate collaborations between students in schools as diverse as nursing and business.  “The idea is that it will involve all Pace students and faculty from all the schools,” said Bruce Bachenheimer, director of the lab and of Lubin’s entrepreneurship program. “We’re stressing an interdisciplinary, hands-on experience to find new ways to solve difficult problems.”
  • Entrepreneurship programs are trying to teach just about everything else. The most straightforward subjects include writing a business plan and doing financial, competitive and market analysis.  “When it comes to the harder stuff, such as the ability to recognize opportunities, Pace and other schools use case studies, brainstorming lessons and other exercises to nurture that skill. “It’s kind of like teaching music or painting,” explained Mr. Bachenheimer.
  • Pitch programs—in which teams of students, alumni and others vie for cash prizes by developing and pitching business ideas—are a centerpiece of the entrepreneurship push among the city’s schools.  Pitch contests have also proved to be a great way to network and meet investors. The most recent contest at Pace drew an audience of 400, including venture capitalists, angel investors and bankers, said Mr. Bachenheimer.
  • Schools are grappling with the question of how to gauge the success of their entrepreneurship programs.  And by one definition, entrepreneurship training doesn’t have to result in a business launch to be successful. If a person is trained to size up opportunities and take initiatives, he and his employer have an edge, said Mr. Bachenheimer. “The nature of work is changing dramatically,” he said. “There’s no more ‘Give me a job and tell me what to do.’ ”

 

 

 

 

BPC/BizPlanCompetitions.com: “Pitch contests gain popularity”

For years, business plan competitions were the only option for would-be entrepreneurs seeking prizes, funding and the chance to get in front of venture capitalists via a competition framework. But now, more and more competitions are adding elevator pitch — or simply pitch — contests as an option within an overall business plan competition.

Many of the major Ivy League competitions — including Harvard, Yale and MIT — feature pitch competitions. The advantage of a pitch competition is that it’s much easier to enter, organize, participate and judge than a typical business plan competition, which typically encompasses an entire academic year, according to Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor of management who runs both the Pace University Pitch and Business Plan Competitions.

“Basically, competitors have three minutes in front of a panel of judges to sell their idea,” he told BPC/BizPlanCompetitions.com, a website which bills itself as the “world’s most complete listing of entrepreneurship contests and business plan competitions.”  He added that “there’s an audience for our competition, who can suggest questions, and who also get an education in entrepreneurship. Last year, Pace gave $50,000 in prizes to the competition winners.  The pitch competition has become very popular among business students.”

Pitch contests require different skills than business plan competitions.  In a pitch contest, you don’t necessarily need to have the fully-fleshed out idea that you need to succeed in a business plan competition. Instead, as Bachenheimer puts it, competitors need to “have excellent presentation skills, be quick on their feet, be able to provide a quick summary and be responsive to the very pointed questions of a panel of very distinguished judges.”

He’s very pleased with the way the pitch competition, which is now in it’s eighth year, has evolved. “In the beginning, some of the ideas were kind of crazy, but it’s gotten very serious,” he continues. “It’s very educational and very entertaining for the presenters and the audience. It’s a fast-paced, fun learning opportunity for everyone, including the audience.”

One big advantage of pitch contests is that they are relatively painless to enter. Instead of writing up a complicated, in-depth business plan that participants may have to revise numerous times over the months, a simple 500 word or so entry form, a brief biography and a 10-question form are the sole requirements for the Pace Pitch Contest. Not only is it simpler for the contestants, it is also much easier for the judges and organizers, he says.

And that makes it a good selling point for judges, who have to make a big time commitment to judge a business plan competition. Those can take months and judges must read multiple business plans, evaluate them at various stages and mentor competitions. With the pitch competition, it’s a one-day commitment. It’s also much easier on organizers, which is why it’s easier to start and run a pitch competition than a full business plan competition, Bachenheimer continues.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser: “Want to be your own boss?”

If you think only young people have the guts and stamina to start a business, think again.

The highest rate of American business startups is in the 55-to-64 age group, and nearly one-quarter of baby boomers are self-employed, acccording to the Kauffman Foundation. But you need more than a good idea to run a successful business, says Bruce Bachenheimer, who launched several successful entrepreneurial ventures before beginning his career as a professor.

Becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t easy …  even for those with advanced degrees and healthy bank accounts.   Here are some steps to becoming your own boss.

* Be honest with yourself.  Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  “The best are risk takers confident in themselves and their ideas,” Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor of management at Pace University in New York told Consumer Reports Money Advisor, a newsletter distributed to about 300,000 paid subscribers.

* Take time to consider what you’re giving up or getting into.  Do you need a structured environment?  A steady paycheck?  Are you fleeing a bosss only to find all customers will be your boss?” Bachenheimer asks.  “Are you dumping a time clock but investing 100 hours a week?”

* Buying an existing business can be a good route.  “Sometimes owners run out of capital or enthusiasm,” Bachenheimer says.  “You can get a lot of assets, inventory, and a client base.”  Still, he warns buyers to perform due diligence to prevent gettting stuck with someone else’s bad debts.  

* Smart entrepreneurs surround themselves with even smarter experts.  Find a financial consultant or lawyer for advice, but choose advisers carefully.  “Don’t pay hucksters to do things that are free – like obtaining an employer identification number,”  Bachenheimer says.  “Anyone can sell themselves as an expert, so get references and proposals.”

* Funding will probably come from your own bank account, not from some wealthy venture capitalist.  Even bank loans are tough to get these days.  “Once your business has some cash flow, you might find it easier to get a small-business loan, Bachenheimer says.