“Be a student as long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” —Henry L. Doherty
This quote sums up my recent experience after touring Colgate University with my son. There we were, college shopping like many other families, and, as part of the experience, we had the opportunity to participate in an entrepreneur weekend set up by the school. Conceptually, the event was set up to introduce this group of millennials, many of whom are would-be entrepreneurs, to the skill set they will need to innovate in today’s competitive business world.
For those of you who are fans of the television series Shark Tank, the scenario will be easy to imagine. In fact, it kicked off with a video introduction by one of the show’s most well-revered sharks, Mark Cuban, who presented a special message on the big screen in Colgate’s basketball arena. That was followed by a panel discussion from the college’s own “sharks,” a group of successful CEOs from BuzzFeed, RTR, Warby Parker and The Honest Company. Yes, even Jessica Alba was on hand that day. (Burying the lede, maybe? I know. But this isn’t about Jessica.)
After an introduction to each of these leaders, including a rundown of their respective experiences and education and a summary of what got them to this point in their careers and lives, the fun really began. Four Colgate students presented a product or app to the panel, competing to win a $15,000 investment to help them put their ideas into motion … and they had only a few short minutes to do it.
Each presenter was well prepared, with attention-grabbing visuals, drawings and a detailed plan. These students were full of enthusiasm, personality and even wit! The products included a dog feeding timer, to help those individuals and families that might forget to feed Fido; a rubber wristband to conceal dorm keys while at the gym or about town; a sustainable swimwear line made from recycled water bottles; and an app to track potential singers and entertainers. My son and I were amazed with the depth of the ideas and the provocative, insightful commentary from the panel.
At the end, the panelists shared in the prize, but there were definitely clear winners—and I was among them. I left the collegiate “shark tank” inspired, recharged and refreshed. While I certainly have my own knowledge to share from decades of swimming with the sharks, so to speak, every now and again it’s good to get back to basics. Those students reminded me to remain forward-thinking and unafraid to take risks—key attributes for any successful entrepreneur, not just one at an early stage.