A short-term, medium-intensity social interaction like being in contact with an entrepreneur mentor for a few weeks as part of a university entrepreneurship course may be sufficient to influence young students to join a startup, but not to start their own business.
Students are assigned either an entrepreneur or a non-entrepreneur as a mentor to see whether mentors with entrepreneurial experience can influence individuals’ career choices of entrepreneurship.
A 10-week elective course on innovation and entrepreneurship where students team up to work on a startup project. Each team is assigned two mentors who are closely related to the industry of their startup. Mentors are expected to spend 5 to 10 hours with the students over the course of 10 weeks, required to provide feedback to the team in at least two in-person meetings before each in-class presentation, in addition to any interactions via email or phone, and asked to open up their networks.
- To influence students’ decisions to become a founder or a joiner (someone who joins an early stage venture)
The entrepreneurship course took place in an engineering school located in a global high-tech hub where startup career opportunities are abundant.
A carefully selected group of undergraduate students with an interest in entrepreneurship who are also exposed to other sources of influence from the entrepreneurial ecosystem environment surrounding the university.
Some teams are paired with a former or current entrepreneur, while the rest are paired with non-entrepreneurs. Besides their entrepreneurial experience, mentors have similar characteristics in terms of age, gender, work experience, education, etc.
- Students assigned to entrepreneur mentors were more likely to pursue a startup career by joining an early stage venture.
- The effect was concentrated among students that didn’t have entrepreneur parents and stronger for those that had two instead of only one mentor during the course.
- Having an entrepreneur mentor instead of a non-entrepreneur mentor didn’t influence students’ decisions to start their own venture.
- A short-term, medium-intensity social interaction like having an entrepreneur mentor may be sufficient to influence young students to join a startup but not to found their own.
- Focusing only on founding decisions and not on decisions to join early stage ventures when assessing interventions aimed at fostering entrepreneurship might understate the contribution of these programmes to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.