We’ve become a “Shark Tank” nation. Since the show’s inception in 2009, it’s become a household staple. Members of generation z — who were weaned on investments, valuations, royalties and Mr. Wonderful’s snark — have embraced the concept in a big way.
Is it any wonder that these late 1990s babies are poised to become the biggest entrepreneurial generation yet? They’re so comfortable seeing themselves as founders that business schools are offering more startup-style classes, including the opportunity for students to compete in Shark Tank-inspired events.
This shift represents a true evolution in academia. With hands-on experience now driving the curriculum, could the old style of business school be dead? Perhaps on some level — if the up-and-comers have their way.
Sharks on campus.
Gen z students aren’t satisfied with simply riding the wave of this transformation — they want to be in the driver’s seat.
Take Daniel Newman. He’s not a household name yet, but around the University of Southern California, a junior working on a dual degree in business administration and real estate development, the former Hawke Media intern has become a bit of a sensation. Newman launched TAMID Tank at the school — the first Shark-style pitch event to be held on the campus.
It took $14,000 in sponsorship money and a whole lot of legwork to secure three venture capitalists (including Eytan Elbaz, who sold his company to Google for $100 million), but the results were magnificent.
The event included a fireside chat with Tinder’s director of product management, Jeff Morris Jr., and a VIP reception for top USC entrepreneurs and investors. And over the course of this event — three startups entered Shark Tank and got a few bites.
This philosophy may be why Shark Tank-inspired events have become a craze at other universities as well — not the least of which are Johns Hopkins University and Emory University.
On the heels of these campus-bound events are campus-authorized entrepreneurship programs. These programs have helped move interested young people into the business market with externships, internships and everything in between. Babson College, the University of Houston and the University of Missouri are just a few schools that now offer learning laboratories for budding business leaders.
At MU, the Entrepreneurship Alliance promotes innovation through entrepreneurial learning. Established in 2011, it fosters and fuels entrepreneurship by allowing members to explore opportunities.
EA participants have the chance to hear the tales and travails of actual entrepreneurs through various events, including luncheons and conferences. The results? Those who go through the program have stronger self-confidence, leadership abilities, creativity and attention to detail.
Why we should swim with the sharks.
Having a bevy of sharks in the waters may not sound appealing to beachgoers, but swimming with the sharks makes perfect sense in our evolving corporate bionetwork. Here are four reasons why:
1. More gen z-ers are interested in entrepreneurship.
Members of gen z are taking entrepreneurial enterprises seriously. According to Gallup, approximately eight in ten middle and high school students want to be their own boss. The Gallup study also found that nearly half plan to launch their own companies.
42 percent of these hope to “invent something that changes the world.” In light of these findings, universities and incubators would do well to focus curricula on gen z’s natural leanings.
2. Entrepreneurism creates well-rounded individuals.
In addition, millennial Branding’s “The High School Careers Study” found that more and more parents are pushing their gen z kids toward entrepreneurism — and for good reason. According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, “Youth who are taught about entrepreneurship show a positive change in attitude and strong success orientation and are more likely to be focused on academic and professional achievements, aspirations and leadership.”
3. Students can fail safely at first while at home, then draw on those lessons later.
Often, a fear of failure holds us back from getting started in the first place. Baby boomer, gen x and millennial entrepreneurs had to fail the tough way. Gen z doesn’t have to fail in the same way.
The college atmosphere provides an interesting safety net, allowing young entrepreneurs to make mistakes and learn from them without going bankrupt. Plus, as they put business theories and concepts to work, they can see how what they’re learning applies to the real world.
“As college students, we have absolutely nothing to lose by pursuing a venture,” Newman said. “If a startup takes off, excellent. But even a failed startup is a gained experience that will compound and prove exponentially higher results in the long run.”
4. Future employees will get their employers.
Not every business school grad will pursue entrepreneurship, but possessing an entrepreneurial mindset can still comes in handy. How many times have employers lamented that their employees don’t understand what it means to own and operate a company? Young workers who have tested the Shark Tank waters will bring more to the table in terms of insight and understanding.
The waters are just right to support the plethora of would-be sharks raring to get their chance for a swim. Instead of keeping them at bay, the educational institutions of our nation should be tossing them the nutritious chum they’ll need to stay healthy and alert as they transform our ecosystem.