I recently sat in on an entrepreneurship course at a smaller New England college. The class was not for credit and taught on Saturday for six hours by a devoted alum; by design it attracted students who were energized and committed to their ventures and maturing concepts. We went around the room and each student concentrated on three points; their pitch, what they had already accomplished, and what their goals were for the following class (in three weeks).
Very very impressive. The class reaffirmed that college students are very talented and capable, but continue to be underestimated and under-served when it comes to start up potential. As technology accelerates us towards meritocracy, enabling the boy next store with a computer and server to build the next 50MM-user business, there is still an untapped wealth of ideas and businesses in the dormant college arena and a dearth of resources supporting these entrepreneurs. Moreover, the ideas are really solid. Equally as impressive as the sophistication and drive of the students in the class was the freshness of their concepts and businesses.
A quick snapshot of the types of ventures currently getting funded shows a space that is looking a little crowded; location-based technologies, social platforms, deal-of-the-day, mobile mobile mobile. Not to say these deals aren’t getting support for good (great) reasons. They have astronomical adoption rates that make them infinitely scalable, they generally have very profitable business models, their valuations are great and seemingly without ceilings, the technologies are intuitive and easily learned, etc. And the success of these “sweet spot” start-ups will endure, because they continue to roll out tools and apps that we rapidly incorporate and then expect in our daily lives. Nonetheless, many of us are still left brainstorming what the next disruption will be and where it will come from.
Forward thinking about what will “change the game” is vital, it guides investments, where time and energy are spent, and is likely the only way to reinvigorate this stalled economy. There is only so much to go around before someone has to innovate. Yet it is equally important that we concentrate on canvassing the greatest pools of talent and leave no stone unturned. It is easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that where we are is good enough, and that in the face of a century of unprecedented growth we are now decelerating. However as a born-again optimist, it seems we are only beginning to scratch the surface and as we launch into the next heyday of invention, fully appreciating all ends of the innovation spectrum is an essential step.