mwc

02.06.2015

High schools are becoming a training ground for young entrepreneurs

Image | Shane Global

Until recently, our idea of a CEO was of a middle-aged person with lots of experience under his belt. And our idea of the average worker was someone at least 20 years old. However, it’s become increasingly clear that this stereotype no longer reflects reality. Just look at the staff of many companies in San Francisco, where young faces abound, some of them practically adolescents.

Some of these young people have gotten there thanks to a grant from the Thiel Fellowship, which as its name suggests, is managed by Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal. Since 2010, the foundation has given $100,000 annually to help 20 young people from around the world exchange knowledge, research and develop their projects in a creative environment.

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Image | US Embassy Canada

Although young people participating in the Thiel initiative must put their studies aside, that is not always the case. Many schools have begun to include entrepreneurship training programs allowing the students to become familiar with the intricacies of the business world before even going to college.

Around the world there are educators and people from the business world who are committed to immersing students in an authentic experience in the operations of a startup, all by the books. Steve Blank, with an experience in eight major technology companies and co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, advocates this strategy, and emphasizes to his students that an idea is not everything. Only customers have the ability to validate a product.

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Image | Junta de Andalucía

Spain has been following the same trend. In addition to educational reforms that seek to promote the “entrepreneurial spirit”, including new subjects in the field, several communities have their own initiatives. The Government of Andalusia, for example, has launched the Miniempresa Educativa program, aimed at primary, secondary, high school and vocational and professional training students. The plan is intended to help young people develop skills for entrepreneurship.

In Cantabria, 20 schools have opened travelling entrepreneurship education classrooms and 3,000 students from Castilla-La Mancha have presented a project at the Emprendimiento en las Aulas (Entrepreneurship in the Classrooms) contest.

But possibly the best known case in the country, which aims to bring together entrepreneurship and education is mSchools in Catalonia. The key, according to its promoters, is not in teaching students how to program, but providing them with basic knowledge about entrepreneurship and the economy.

Another example is the App Education Initiative, which encourages children to think of an idea and develop it – with business plan included – throughout the school year. These ideas will be presented at the beginning of June at the App Awards.

The result of these initiatives? More and more young people will follow in the footsteps of Luis Iván Cuende, an 18-year-old programmer who has founded three companies; Pep Gómez, who at 22 created the Fever application; or the Irish Collison brothers, who at a very young age founded Stripe, the online payment company already valued at over billion dollars.