2022 Ecosystem Predictions — Trends in Higher Education to Support Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Predictions by Matt Waller
Dean, Walton College University of Arkansas
Business schools in universities need to provide business knowledge to all areas of the university, not just the business school because entrepreneurs do not just come from business schools. The knowledge business schools teach helps entrepreneurs succeed. Seven of the top 10 companies on the 2018 Inc. 5000 had founders with at least one degree from a business school and this finding was even more pronounced in the top 10 of the 2019 Inc. 5000. The majority of the 12,000 thousand LinkedIn profiles who are CEOs of companies of more than 50 employees have this in common—a degree in business (see “Business Degrees Help Entrepreneurs”). The challenge is that most innovation comes from crossing concepts, technologies, and theories from disparate areas, so business knowledge must be widely distributed in order to catalyze the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Seven of the top 10 companies on the 2018 Inc. 5000 had founders with at least one degree from a business school.”
Trend #1: Universities that are successful in stimulating their entrepreneurial ecosystems will provide business education broadly within the university.
To address this trend, over a year ago, the Walton College started a new academic department–the Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Venture Innovation (SEVI).
The new department offers a minor, which is open to students of any major and of any college at the University of Arkansas (they also offer a major). This program provides knowledge that helps students prepare to start and manage a business or to innovate as a part of a larger company. Students face lower barriers to entry for this business minor than most business minors (in terms of requirements).
In addition, we created the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, managed by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It is an interdisciplinary collaboration venue, co-working space, and training center that helps instill the entrepreneurial mindset. The McMillon Innovation Studio is another venue we created that has been effective at linking students from a wide variety of colleges and majors to business leaders and the business problems they face. Students learn to innovatively solve these problems.
Trend #2: Universities that are successful in stimulating their entrepreneurial ecosystems will provide business education for those who already have an undergraduate degree, which provides highly targeted business knowledge.
We addressed this trend by identifying specific business knowledge needs in the community where there are gaps and then created several new specialized master programs in a variety of areas: economic analytics, business analytics, finance, supply chain management, and accounting. Each of these programs have unique and in-demand areas of knowledge.
Each of these programs have unique and in-demand areas of knowledge. We also created a number of new graduate certificates in areas such as blockchain and business analytics. Early-stage organizations need access to managerial talent with education in these important subjects. That is, in order to catalyze an entrepreneurial ecosystem, you should not just focus on the entrepreneurs, but also the development of the talent and workforce that they need to succeed.
Trend #3: Universities that are successful in stimulating their entrepreneurial ecosystems will provide education in business ethics, emerging technologies (from a business perspective), and integrate with the business community.
I will focus on business ethics since entrepreneurial ecosystems work best when the early-stage companies have leaders who are operating with integrity. Business school students get some exposure to business law and business ethics, but students from many other colleges and majors do not get any substantive education in business ethics. But most everyone goes into business, one way or another. Prior to the formation of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative, less than 20% of our students were getting a substantive dose of education in business ethics. It is now 100%. It provides access to students from all colleges at the University of Arkansas as well as the entire community. Cindy Moehring, retired Walmart senior vice president, Global Chief Ethics Officer, and senior vice president, U.S. Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, is leading this initiative.