Going Pro Early: Maybe Athletes Were Only Version 1.0


Anyone who ever saw the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, probably asked themselves: Why can’t that be me!?! Young Indy was schooled not in the traditional classroom, but rather in the heart of the action, ’real world’ style. Likewise, the debate about top basketball talent going pro without a college pit-stop has been raging for sometime. The philosophy being: 1) don’t risk the threat of injury and 2) the best way to learn is by experiencing the big show firsthand.

My question is why this discussion never occurs among the top young entrepreneurial talent? Or does it? Sure Bill Gates skipped college, but only after giving it a try first.

I was shocked to see that George Washington University has stated its 2007-2008 tuition will exceed $50,000. Damn! My thought is that a young person with a penchant for entrepreneurship might be better off investing in a prototype, a boatload of connections and experience rather than several years of flipcup and book learning.

I like the model of Techstars, an entrepreneurial summer camp helping to incubate a new generation of young entrepreneurs by using collective intelligence and VC connections to jumpstart successful startups. They provide seed capital (only a little) and insight in exchange for a 5% equity stake.

Well, I wonder whether young entrepreneurs might even be willing to pay for that experience? Such a ’college 2.0’ experience could be in the form of the increasingly popular ’gap year.’ As an example of a young person debating the merits of traditional education, look no further than the recent writings of Ben Casnocha. For an example of an online and offline mentoring and interaction combo, see Dion’s Web 2.0 University.

Let’s assume that I have a solid software startup concept. Rather than invest in 4 years at GWU for $200,000, maybe I would be willing to pay $15,000 a year to meet weekly with a few VCs who would mentor me for two years. At the conclusion of 2 years I’d likely know if the startup would fly or not. At that point I could probably have a good shot of attending a top college, where I might be more inclined to get a ’virtual MBA’ rather than become an English or Philosophy major (not that there is anything wrong with that.) I do think that the technical subjects (accounting, engineering, etc) only become palpable when young people experience those skill sets in a real world context.

So, could an aspiring VC firm put together an successful business model combining mentoring, entrepreneurship and gap year and sell it to 20-somethings? I bet the answer is YES.

What do you think?

ps: I’d be interested to know the median age of users submitting questions to Ask the VC


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