Current Education Models Don’t Foster Entrepreneurship

Last weekend, Three Day Startup came to Nashville and took 37 Vanderbilt students through an intense, three day accelerator. They went from idea, through testing assumptions, customer discovery, business modeling, and finally pitch development, in under three days. One team, was out testing an MVP by hour 26.

How’s that for education?

Within college classrooms today, business students work with business students. Engineers with engineers. Computer scientists with computer scientists. The current model of learning doesn’t foster entrepreneurship. Collaboration does.

Over the past three years as an entrepreneurship student at Belmont University, I’ve heard far too many professors classify case studies, in-class discussion, and reports on active entrepreneurs as “experiential learning”. Experiential education requires actually doing something. Until the student has to do it herself, it’s academic.

For an entrepreneurial venture, you need a diverse team with varied skills. 

Vanderbilt’s Three Day Startup broke down silos within Vanderbilt University. Students with ideas met with students that could help them execute.

For the first time, a student running thermodynamic models for a smart water heater met with business students who understood the importance of talking to customers to see if they would even install it in their homes. Do you think it impacted his plans when he found out that homeowners didn’t want to install his add-on themselves? Big time.


Photo Credit: Jonathan Jones, The Photo Jones

The current education model stifles innovation and puts barriers between students with diverse knowledge.

If we want to increase talent in our cities, give students opportunities to begin doing real work before they graduate so they will stay after they graduate.

If we want to increase innovation while students learn, let diverse disciplines collaborate.

If students are going to add value to the world through business while in school, they have to be able to network within and between universities.

This can’t be about one school.

We see three parallel tracks happening at the same time. Nashville’s startup scene is developing, Vanderbilt has a strong academic drive in entrepreneurship, and Belmont has a strong business program. The vision has always been to bring all three together and allow a natural growth of community entrepreneurship.  – Jiten Dajee

“Vandy Three Day Startup” needs to become “Three Day Startup Nashville”. The potential impact for this event requires full support from multiple universities, many more mentors, and multiple for-profit and non-profit businesses, and continued support from government.

It’s important to note that Belmont held its own pitch competition last Friday. The problem is that a single pitch event doesn’t facilitate collaboration between students in different fields of study, nor does it allow students from different universities to interact.

Eight Belmont Businesses Pitch to a Panel of Judges

We need events that bring together marketing, media, computer science and entrepreneurship students from multiple universities to talk through their ideas, pick one and get to work on it.

This year’s Three Day Startup event was brought together by Jiten Dajee and Ben Draffin. Both are students at Vanderbilt and both had to put $500 of their own money into the event to make it happen. While support wasn’t streaming out of Vandy itself early on, they did get great help from Yiaweh Yeh, Nashville’s Co-Chief Innovation Officer, The Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and multiple mentors and local businesses. As the event grows in the future, they need full support from multiple universities and the community.

By bringing all of these students together, through the education of Three Day Startup and with the mentorship of experienced entrepreneurs, their ideas and dreams are given life and they get a place to apply everything they are learning in the classroom through actual experiential education.

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