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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan (Part 4)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 2nd 2017

Sramana Mitra: I actually have seen a lot of bootstrapped companies that have reached even $20 million but they’ve taken more time to get there. I’m very much in favor of that model of building EdTech companies because it takes out all of these tensions in hyper-fast expectation.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I agree with you. I’m not suggesting that education doesn’t have a long runway. I think the work you’re doing is very interesting. I think there are a lot of people out there who are going to give you $1,000 to invest because they believe in the mission.

Sramana Mitra: We don’t raise money for people. It’s a pure education program.

Bobbi Kurshnan: Right.

Sramana Mitra: We support very heavily, bootstrapped entrepreneurs because of our understanding that over 99% of companies who go out to raise funding get rejected and should get rejected. We do have venture-funded and venture-style companies in our accelerator program, but we also have a large number of bootstrapped ventures.

We are encouraging of these bootstrapped ventures. As you said, in many sectors, these companies should be built as bootstrapped ventures because they just don’t have the velocity of growth.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I agree. There are lots of other ways to look at exit strategies or growth for people who have an entrepreneurial mindset. A lot of our research at Penn is about the entrepreneurial mindset and what that means in terms of how you build an grow a company.

Sramana Mitra: Yes. In our vocabulary, entrepreneurship doesn’t mean exit. It’s customers, revenues, and profits. Exit and financing is optional.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I have to agree with you. One of the interesting things about your work is that you’re creating a network of people who are thinking about this. You’re creating a support system. You’re helping entrepreneurs figure out what they want to be when their companies grow up or whether they want to go on to something else. One of the things that we’re interested in is developing a tool to be able to assess whether you have an entrepreneurial mindset and assessing your risk factor. It’s sort of a money ball for educational entrepreneurs.

Sramana Mitra: You talked about a few other activities besides your incubation work. Pick one that is interesting and worth discussing.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I think our Master’s in Entrepreneurship and Education is designed for people who want to start EdTech companies and want to build new school models whether they be in the public school or charter school system. Our average age is about 38 years old. We had one who was a school board member. We have people who have come from corporations. It’s a 13-month program. It’s part online and part executive.

We have put through about 80 people now and we’ll be putting through 50 more students in our acceptance for the summer. We’re the only Master’s in Entrepreneurship and Education and we’re not trying to make everybody entrepreneurs. Similar to what you were saying, we’re hoping to help people think about what it means to be an entrepreneur and apply it to whatever field they’re going into.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan
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