Few weeks ago me and Anna-Greta had the opportunity to visit many legendary and iconic places in the startup and university worlds. Our stay included visits to Berkeley University of California, Stanford University as well as startups and organisations in the Silicon Valley area. In this post I will describe our visits to Berkeley and Stanford.
The purpose of the visit was to learn about entrepreneurship education and mindsets in the mentioned universities and to try to understand Silicon Valley and its secret sauce. The excursion was part of the YTYÄ project and the delegation was represented by entrepreneurial education experts from various Finnish universities.
Berkeley and Stanford
Our program started with a visit to Berkeley where we had the opportunity to learn about Sutardja Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET) as well as walk around the beautiful campus area. SCET offers courses, programs, labs and resources for entrepreneur minded undergraduate and graduate students. We were welcomed by Susan Giesecke and Kevin Singer. Susan told us that the entrepreneurship education they offer has a horizontal approach, enabling growth and decision making on all levels. The focus in is in creating an entrepreneurial mindset through project based courses, the right mindset is seen as a key to both academic and work life success.
Kevin gave us an introduction to his interactive teaching methods where he intentionally puts students outside their comfort zones, according to him these methods especially develops the students’ mindsets. He is exclusively keen on using games in his education, games he has developed himself. It was inspiring to learn about these games, we also had the time to try one of his games! Kevin also encouraged us to develop games that suits the course curriculum.
At Stanford University we visited the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) where the focus lies on entrepreneurship, innovation, education research and outreach. Matt Harvey, executive director st STVP, told us that STVP tries to focus on individual development and sees entrepreneurial skills as crucial in post university life.
An interesting point was that STVP doesn’t measure their entrepreneurial educations’ success through established startups during the students time at the campus, instead they believe in that successful startups and companies will be founded later on in life, as alumni. STVP’s role is to light a spark and give students skills to build on. According to figures 35% of the Stanford alumni establish their own company or work in newly founded companies at some point during their working career. The average age for founding a company is after all over 30 years, not when you are studying.
Tom Byers, entrepreneurship professor, told us that Stanford’s entrepreneurship classes have during the last 20 years moved out from the business school to become more like an interdisciplinary discipline. The courses are also very popular and attract students from all over the university.
The Finnish delegation at Berkeley
One thing that keeps fascinating me is the alumni contribution and the giving back culture. After graduating you are not forgetting your university, you give back. There are numerous ways to take part in alumni activity; donations to the university, mentoring and various fellowship programs. Kevin Singer from Berkeley enlightened us about the alumni activity and especially about the donations. He introduced to us the mindset behind donations, after graduating you need to keep investing in your university, if you don’t invest in your university it ranks may drop and your degree isn’t that valuable. Therefore you want to help your university to keep a high ranking among universities.
Another takeaway was the students and teachers ambitions. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t have ambitious students and te
achers in Finland, but how the ambition is shown is on a completely different level. At D-school in Stanford University the teachers are e.g. pitching to the students why the students should enroll their course. The teachers are in other words competing against each other on the stage in front of students, this setting is rarely seen in Finnish universities, but why not?
I was surprised how much we know about entrepreneurship education in Finland and how much other universities can learn from us. We also have a great startup culture, ecosystem and success stories. The trip to California taught me that we are on the right track with entrepreneurship education, even when we compare our methods with world’s top universities.