The challenge of teaching entrepreneurship (particularly business plans) in a business school is (politely) sifting through all the restaurant, bar, website or other service businesses that are unlikely to amount to a hill of beans. Maybe the business plans of science and engineering students are equally likely to fail, but the potential payoffs are higher and they’re more likely to learn something relevant in the process.
I was reminded of this when reading a HBS case† from my intro entrepreneurship class. The case centers on four Harvard MBA students who want to start a business. So they spent a year sifting opportunities through six criteria, which included these quintessential MBA student goals:
- “Be their own boss”
- Invest a minimal amount of start-up capital
- Build a sustainable and defensible business
This goes back to the fundamental problem of b-student business plans: anything a typical MBA student can start is something any fool can start. Meanwhile, science and engineering students are working on creating something that hasn’t been done before — one that hopefully has a lucrative commercial application.
So instead of dreaming about the perfect opportunity, the Harvard students would have been better off buying drinks down at the bars near MIT for smart technologists who actually have some secret sauce.
† Title omitted to protect the guilty.