The Kauffman Foundation recently had a Wall Street Journal Editorial on Friday that indicated all net job creation in the US since 1980 occurred in firms less than five years old. With unemployment over 15% in Michigan, we need new businesses to drive economic growth. Fortunately, evidence tells me that a major shift is happening in how students in Michigan are viewing entrepreneurship.
On Thursday, I attended a Center for Michigan community conversation organized by recent graduates of the University of Michigan who have stayed in Michigan. The group consisted of some of our best and brightest: students who led large student organizations on campus, were captain of varsity sports teams, and started non-profits, businesses, and student groups
At the end of the conversation, the group had a chance to vote on what they felt was working in Michigan. Their overwhelming answer – entrepreneurialism. In fact, the Center for Michigan facilitator remarked that this was her first conversation with young people in Ann Arbor and the first time she saw so much enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
As a former student at University of Michigan who is now returning to graduate school, I see a marked shift in entrepreneurial activity on campus. In the late 90s, I would say the university efforts to encourage student entrepreneurship were either non-existent or very poorly publicized. Now, one of the largest and most respected student groups on campus is MPowered, an entrepreneurship organization with over 600 members. On the same day of the conversation, I attended the official opening of TechArb, a university sponsored incubator for student businesses which has a student business earning over 1 million a year selling iPhone apps. The week before I attended an information session by the Zell Lurie Institute that showcased 4 different student business plan competitions on campus that would ultimately involve hundreds of student entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is cool on campus. Finally and thankfully. We need our talented young people involved in helping to recreate our economy – they may be the best positioned to do so.