France’s Startup Scene tackles the question “Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur?”

Feb 6, 2014
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In different moods or stages as an entrepreneur, I’ve found myself on both sides of the fence regarding the question “Can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur?” On the one hand, there’s nothing special to being an entrepreneur – some days it’s like working in a small team of a big company, only instead of a big company making decisions, it’s you. On the other hand, some people just don’t want to be entrepreneurs, so there is something to be said about having a certain amount of drive.

I’m not the first to ask the question, nor the last. There are a handful of articles from Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Mashable & others - many conclude with more or less the same vague takeaway – “There are arguments both for & against, but clearly some people are natural-born entrepreneurs and some people aren’t ever going to be entrepreneurs.” Doesn’t quite answer the question, but did you really expect a concrete answer for such an academic question?

I won’t bother trying to push my argument – as of today, I have a gut feeling that some people that I meet just aren’t entrepreneurs at heart. Then again, my definition of an entrepreneur is more like a pirate than a small business owner, and more like a hacker than a programmer, so again, how can you have a precise opinion for such a vague term – “entrepreneur” ?

I guess what people really want to know is “was Mark Zuckerberg taught to be an entrepreneur?” “Can an academic environment churn out 10 Elon Musk’s a year?” and to that angle, there are many in Paris who are giving it a try, and I applaud anyone who undertakes such an endeavor.

TheFamily recently announced Koudetat (a mispelling of the Coup d’état), a 5-Month Saturday program during which ‘students’ will take a very academic look at modern-day entrepreneurship. Subjects covered include “avoiding common pitfalls,” “finding your first clients quickly so you can hit the ground running,” & “learning to think like a hacker.” 

In the past few months, I’ve sat in on some of TheFamily co-founder Oussama Ammar’s talks which he gives regularly to founders whose startups are members of TheFamily – they are great pieces of concrete advice for existing startups, like “how to build a kick-ass Kickstarter Campaign,” which sourced much of its knowledge from Lima, a French startup which raised $1.2 Million last year on Kickstarter. Ammar told me that Koudetat will be an opportunity for him to explore more academic topics – the Theory of Entrepreneurship, as it were.

Other initiatives include Le Wagon, a 5-day per week, 9-week program that frames itself as an “Executive MBA for startups” – in short, it takes startup founders who lack a technical background (a big problem in France’s education system, where business & technical profiles are designated in students as young as 16) and give them an intense Ruby on Rails education, so that they can A) build apps at a Junior Programmer level and B) communicate with their technical team from an insider’s perspective. Far from the industrial approach to education that Ecole 42 takes in Paris, Le Wagon has a strict application process, and accepts only a handful of applicants each season.

Will programs like Koudetat & Le Wagon produce the next Zuckerberg or Musk? Only time will tell; however, if your gut is telling you today that you need to learn more about entrepreneurship before taking the plunge, then spending your Saturdays for the next 5 Months learning everything you can isn’t a bad way to go.