Both independent professionals and companies have come to appreciate the entrepreneurial mind-set, but how is entrepreneurship taught in European MBA programmes?
The European premise
With three schools in the Financial Times (FT) Top 10, entrepreneurial education in Europe is steadily growing, and teaching entrepreneurship is now part of many business schools’ curricula. Many schools and universities, such as ESADE or IESE, have developed programmes to support students and alumni who are starting their own businesses.
Companies are now placing more emphasis on employees’ entrepreneurial skills, prizing an ability to forge fresh sources of revenue in tough economic times. That’s the case even if you are not among Europe’s rising number of independent professionals. Hence European entrepreneurship MBAs focus not just on starting a business and obtaining capital and financing, but also on general management skills, business planning, strategy and innovation, as well as entrepreneurship within large companies. These are skills that alumni can apply not only as entrepreneurs, but also as intrapreneurs - as managers in large corporations that still focus on turning ideas into profitable finished products.
Against its unique background of numerous, relatively small, yet powerful and inter-connected independent markets, entrepreneurship education in Europe not only highlights local markets, but also promotes global thinking and the pursuit of global opportunities. Many universities offer joint programmes, for example the French EMLYON Business School offers its Global Entrepreneurship Programme in partnership with the US Purdue University and Zejiang University in China. Hence it’s useful that most entrepreneurship programmes in Europe encourage you to learn another foreign language to support your efforts, and will allow you to immerse yourself in another country’s environment for a project or specialisation.
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It is not just schools in Europe that focus on nourishing and developing entrepreneurial talent. Building and developing entrepreneurial spirit is even part of the European Commission’s 2020 strategy. Local government also promotes it in a bid to transform Europe into an innovation hub and spur business creation. One of the main goals of European entrepreneurial education is not simply to provide entrepreneurial know-how, but also to offer reasons why it’s important. A number of programmes across Europe begin entrepreneurship studies with ‘entrepreneurship backbone’. HEC Paris is especially well known for that. It comprises a balanced view of entrepreneurship, and the topics assess whether entrepreneurship matches your aspirations. Specific coverage is given to high-tech startups, execution, business modelling, governance, how to network, intellectual property strategy, and entry strategy for new firms.
How do you, as a business owner, distance yourself from the day-to-day minutiae of your company to focus on growth strategies? How do you grow from “one man in a room” to a global player? How do you attract capital and maintain stable relationships with creditors over time? What is the psychology of managing people and businesses? And that of venture capitalists? Wherever you are in the world, you will need both soft and hard skills to achieve lasting entrepreneurial success.
An MBA focused on entrepreneurship will help you explore growth stage startups and experience the difficulties they are facing scaling up. It will teach you networking, team working, leadership skills, creativity and flexibility in decision making.
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Given that you’ll have to take care of all aspects of business, you will have to understand strategy, finance, marketing, analytics and much more. You will be examining how to manage growth, how to secure finance, social impact, market research and monetise innovation. Courses will be taught from the entrepreneur’s perspective and will be targeted to help students understand how value can be maximised for the entrepreneur. You will also come to understand, by necessity, the perspective of those who invest in new ventures: angel investors, venture capital and private equity.
Programmes will provide different tools to implement skills immediately. Business incubators, practical consulting projects, internship opportunities, real case-solving, networking opportunities, venture projects, management practice courses and leadership seminars. And that’s where being in Europe makes a difference.
Europe offers the unique economic environment of a prosperous yet diverse market base with a global reach and a wealth of experience to build upon. Schools on the Old Continent have begun offering a host of solutions to allow future business makers to test their skills, ideas and approaches in a safe environment where failing is not so painful.
Here are just a few examples of how different European business schools have been teaching entrepreneurship:
At HEC Paris, teams of four to five participants come together to create high-quality ventures in the context of the HEC eLab, an exclusive entrepreneurship lab equipped with state-of-the-art interactive technologies that stimulate creativity and communication. The venture moves forward from inception to business plan completion through hands-on exercises and challenges integrated into course work, as well as through tasks and deliverables, scheduled outside of regular courses.
ESADE in Barcelona offers both an E-garage, a dedicated space for entrepreneurial students, providing them with resources and environment to start new ideas, and a business angels network, ESADEBAN, which is run by alumni.
Rotterdam School of Management provides MBA students direct access to the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Rotterdam Science Tower, home to more than 50 innovative companies.
Oxford Saïd, as well as many other business schools, organises regular forums to support budding entrepreneurs who wish to become immersed in all things entrepreneurial, from pursuing startup ideas to starting and scaling a business, and showcasing ideas to business angels and venture capitalists.
Cambridge Judge School of Business (CJSB) offers the Cambridge Venture Project (CVP) which offers projects, providing consultancy for real clients, based locally in Cambridge or the rest of the UK.
And then there is Spain, which has been working hard as a nation to reinvent itself as a European hi-tech powerhouse, with the help of its numerous business schools. The weGrow initiative from the IESE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, Passion>IE; the collaboration between IE Business School and Accenture; Spain Startup Co-investment Fund and local administrative support such as the Business Plan Contest, Global Entrepreneurship Competition and the Growth Potential Business award, organised by Barcelona City Hall - the Spanish startup scene is more professional and ambitious than ever.
With its diverse markets and strong support from governments and universities, Europe can be a great place to pursue an entrepreneurial MBA. Its business schools seamlessly blend traditionally strong academic education with practical, hands-on experience. In so doing, they nourish ideas and transform them into profitable ventures, capitalising on strong alumni support to minimise risks.