We live in uncertain times.
Stop me if you've heard that one before.
Overly-used cliché aside, there's not a single university or college startup center that is operating with full certainty right now. In my talks with various operators in this space, that's become crystal clear.
The responses to a virtual shift have ranged from, "We're going to try and do every single thing that we did last year ... but on Zoom" to "Let's throw the old playbook out the window and start completely fresh", with most approaches being somewhere in the reasonable middle.
But here's one thing that is certain - student entrepreneurs are still starting ventures.
COVID & Student Entrepreneurship
In the wake of numerous summer internships being rescinded due to COVID, many students have taken experiential learning into their own hands by working on side hustles and launching their their own companies. UNC Chapel Hill recently published an article detailing how their students have used the unplanned down time to start small businesses such as selling customized jewelry, community landscaping projects, and COVID-compliant salons.
In fact, COVID has spurred many universities to create entrepreneurial programming specifically tailored to the unique challenge that the pandemic presents. The MIT COVID-19 Challenge has run a series of weekend hackathons titled Beat the Pandemic in which participants around the world aim to address the most pressing issues that have arisen as a result of the COVID crisis. After 48 hours of intense problem-solving, winning teams & ideas were paired with partner organizations in order to help them implement their proposed solutions.
It's clear by now that college students aren't going to stop starting things. It's what college students do. So how are university startup centers adapting?
That's the answer I'm seeking to understand with this comprehensive survey.
What type of questions are in the survey?
One of the main data points we're looking to capture is how university entrepreneurship programs have shifted from the 2019-20 academic year to the upcoming one in 2020-21. Many of the questions are based on that area of focus. Additionally, we are seeking to understand how university startup centers communicate with their students, what tools they use to make their job easier, their biggest challenges, and just overall data regarding their program.
The goal is to collect responses from 200+ university/college startup centers around the country - from the largest universities to the smallest community colleges - in order to understand how they are approaching their student offerings for this upcoming academic year.
Its easy to feel as if sometimes you're operating your program in a vacuum. But that's not the case. Hundreds of other program directors and operators are in a similar position as you, adapting the best they can to the new reality of virtual programming.
By submitting a response to this survey, you will receive a free copy of the full report & a summary version when it's published later this Fall. Additionally, you will have the option of opting into a network of your colleagues across the country who are working through these challenges.
I will host a live webinar later this Fall which summarizes the report's findings and offer best practice suggestions for university startup centers seeking to create innovative new programming.
University startup centers are, by necessity, innovative programs. It comes with the territory of serving innovative student entrepreneurs. With COVID-19 bringing about widespread disruption to the programmatic status quo, it's certain that they will adapt to meet the moment. But what does that adaption look like from program to program? That is the ultimate goal of this report.
So please - take 5 minutes of your time to respond to the University Entrepreneurial Ecosystem survey in order to show what your program has done to rise to the occasion.