We live in a time where open access to top educators is easy and cheap. Therefore, the quality of content should have a much lower strategic value for students looking to enter a graduate program. So what has value? That is a hard question to answer. Yet, below you will find my two cents.
It is generally agreed that failure is an important aspect of an entrepreneur’s journey. It is their second or third startup that actually pays off. Therefore, experience has value for entrepreneurs. That is why for example, founders put their time at Y-Combinator in their education profile. Could we go a step further?
Imagine that we charge the standard BS fee to students. And in return, we give them a title, ownership in startups, and a year of experience in early ventures. Sounds too good to be true. But a university-run-cooperatively-funded-startup-incubator could make it a reality. Yes, it is a mouthful but it is an idea that I can't get out of my head.
Imagine we use the tuition fees from students to finance early ventures. Let’s say we have 100 students at 60k each. We have a 6M budget. That is not nothing. On day one, students pitch their ideas. We use Valve’s decision rules and any idea for which at least three people want to work on will go through (~30 ideas). We give each a tiny budget (say 20k$ each, i.e. 10% of the budget) and a coworking space to the three or more people who work on each idea (~15% of the budget). Additionally, we set a 4-month deadline and provide students with in-depth training on venture creation. Boundaries are fluid and students can move to where they want with little friction.
After four months, a new pitch happens. Only ideas with 15 or more people go through. We give these seven or so firms more money (say 200k$ each, 25% of the budget). We give them time to grow, a six-month deadline, and further training on venture scaling up. Before the deadline, contracts are written between all the workers of each startup.
Ten months in, the startups present to venture capitalists and angel investors. A couple of the startups get funding, most fail. In the last two months, students prepare their theses and plan their futures. Some will leave their startups, some will stay, all will get experience and ownership.
To make it more viable, the university could get a part of each startup (say 15%) in order to maintain a high budget for the incubation process. Similarly, we could make it that each student owns at least 0.1% of each startup. In other words, that each startup is owned by the students (10%) and the university (15%) who were the original investors on each firm.
A year passes by, graduation comes around, students have one year of experience, a title, and ownership in several startups. They wonder why anyone would prefer to give their money to watch a run-of-the-mill BS program in Zoom.