Entrepreneurship: The Nuts and Bolts of Nerve

April 30, 2013

A recent article in the Economist talked about a new PwC/Google Australia report, The Startup Economy, which found that, among individuals who said they were interested in starting a business in 2011, only 17% of Americans actually tried to do it.  That’s not bad; we came in second only to Australia, where that number totaled 19%. See the table.

But when we consider that business startups account for almost 20% of gross job creation in the U.S., creating 2.5 million jobs in 2010, that lowly 17% takes on a whole new meaning. It made me wonder: imagine what could happen if we could move that 17% to 20% or even 25%? An increase of just 5% in new business creation in a year would mean another 114,260 jobs.

Both the PwC and a 2011 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study also found Americans are more willing to take risks, while countries like Japan and Australia appear more risk-averse, with higher fear of failure rates. According to GEM, the U.S. has the lowest rates of fear of failure in the developed world…and yet our percentage of those that start businesses is still only 17%.

So what can we do to build on our risk-taking DNA and move that percentage higher? According to GEM: We believe…exposure to entrepreneurship education throughout an individual’s lifelong learning path, starting from youth and continuing through adulthood into higher education–as well as reaching out to those economically or socially excluded–is imperative.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’m a big fan of programs like DECA, STEM, the Small Business Development Pathways in schools and others that not only enable kids to envision creative possibilities, create enterprises and practice taking risks in safe environments, but also learn the necessary science, math and tech skills to be future innovators. In other words, programs that teach HOW to move from just being interested in entrepreneurship to actually doing it.

Many studies illustrate the areas where entrepreneur education can fill in the gaps…from improving students’ skills, capabilities and confidence…to exposing them to local entrepreneurs and startups that—just by existing—increase their belief in the opportunities available to them.

If we focus on these areas as we continue to redesign our educational system—and not lose sight of the importance of the metric in the PwC table when we’re busy looking at test scores—that’s how we grow entrepreneurs who do more than TALK…who take the risk and START.

Just imagine…from greater jobs and economic growth for the nation, to greater creativity and capabilities for individuals…what could we accomplish if we DID move that 17% of new businesses even higher? Now let’s do more than imagine it. Let’s make it happen.