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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Mar 4th 2017

Bobbi Kurshnan: People who come to an incubator come because they’re going to get money. Hopefully, they’re going to finish the program and their company is going to be further along. Entrepreneurs who are doing something in education come to our program because they want to understand and not just to go out and do it. As I said, there are people who read the manual first versus people that do it and when all else fails, read the manual.

I don’t think entrepreneurs can be made. I think entrepreneurs are born in the same way that teachers are born. I think I can make a better entrepreneur.

Sramana Mitra: That’s right. I agree with that.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I think we do it in multiple ways. I’ve studied incubator programs globally.

They tend to get Series A money. When you take it at the whole funnel, there’s no evidence that what you teach them in your incubator improves their chances of raising money at a later date.

Sramana Mitra: But you’re making raising money as the parameter of success. I don’t agree with that.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I don’t agree with that either. I don’t think raising money is one of the attributes of success.

Sramana Mitra: One of the problems we have in the industry is this myth of entrepreneur success being equal to financing. The media has done a very poor job of being smart about it. The media has been very dumb in propagating this myth and it continues to do so. There’s a whole systemic problem that is going on in the business.

Bobbi Kurshnan: I agree with you. We’re talking about the same thing. There are multiple ways of creating success. Part of it goes to the research we’ve been doing around entrepreneurial mindset and what impact that has on the whole ecosystem. I think entrepreneurs fail for multiple reasons. One of the reasons they fail is they don’t understand the space in which they’re working. They don’t understand the ecosystem. The second reason is that they don’t understand what the competition is and how competition can also be collaboration.

They come to me and say, “I’m going to build the best tutoring system ever.” I say, “For the people who are trying to do this, why do you think yours is a better solution?” What I teach them is how to survive in a very competitive market where very few companies are going to make it. If you fail, what’s the benefit of failure?

The third reason is that they don’t understand the timeline to get to be successful and the number of people who get there. Somebody once told me that entrepreneurs in Israel talk about their exit strategy. They’ve missed the whole point of why they’re building the company, which is grounds for failure.

Sramana Mitra: That’s right. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Executive Director of Academic Innovation at University of Pennsylvania, Bobbi Kurshnan
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