Please Welcome The Students
Scott Kirsner writes today about how inaccessible many of the local industry groups are to students. It's interesting that the less formal organizations are some of the more welcoming. Our local 'old school' mentality among businesses may be leading to us dismissing the contribution that students can make.
It's ironic to write about students on Election Day. Today is about the future -- both the coming four years and the track that the country will be on for years after that. At a time like this, we should also recognize that students are the lifeblood to our future success.
I've had a steady involvement with students since I graduated from college. I've been involved with my college fraternity at MIT, including some formal advisory roles. I've been a judge at the MIT $50K (now $100K) business plan competition. I've also led several i-Teams at the Sloan School, in cooperation with the Deshpande Center for Entrepreneurship. I've even taught some classes for my friend Angelo Santinelli at Babson. The most fun was negotiating with students in the Sloan School Early Stage Capital class.
From all of this, I've learned that, although they are often inexperienced in the nuts and bolts, students bring phenomenal new energy and ideas to new ventures. Mentoring these students is extremely rewarding. And, students often come up with huge ideas that teams can be built around. Students are usually not jaded after going through a few major downturns. They see the possibilities. When you can temper that with some real world supportive experience, you have a winning combination.
So, any organization that wants to foster entrepreneurship should be welcoming to students and should actually seek them out. This goes beyond the low admission prices that Scott Kirsner was looking for. It also means marketing to students and explicitly welcoming them. And, if the students show up, make sure you get to know them. From my experience, you'll be impressed.
As someone in my late 40s, I can also tell you that working with students can make you feel younger, not older!