Can You Learn Entrepreneurship?

July 16, 2019

Entrepreneurship as the most important competence in the 21st century

In 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia furnished the apartment they shared in San Francisco with air mattresses and rented them out. In this way they wanted to cover their rental costs and offer those who came to the city an alternative to the expensive accommodations. This was the birth of "Air Bed and Breakfast" - today better known as Airbnb. This entrepreneurial ability - creatively bringing problems to mass market solutions - is as important to employees of large companies as it is to those who are starting up a business. But it is often not so easy to acquire it. Only very few, it seems, are born with it. So can entrepreneurship be learned?

Pic of a woman trying to learn Entrepreneurship
Can entrepreneurship be learned, or does it have to come naturally? Photo © CC0 Licence

Entrepreneurship Has to Be Learned

Professor Nikolaus Franke of the WU Executive Academy in Vienna affirms this question with a firm tone of conviction. He says that entrepreneurship is better seen as a skill than a natural talent.

Portrait Nikolaus Franke

Prof. Nikolaus Franke

  • Academic Director of the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation

It is like learning to play an instrument. You have to bring talent, but without feedback and help from others - whether coach, trainer or peers - the road to the top is long and rocky. Entrepreneurship has to be learned in a similar way. Babies are usually not good entrepreneurs, which is not surprising, because people are simply not born with the knowledge of how to recognize and use business opportunities.

Like other business areas - such as marketing and operations - entrepreneurship is based on a solid theoretical foundation. As Prof. Franke explains, teaching this is the focus of the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the WU Executive Academy. Following the business core training in the first year, in the second year, during the specialization, students explore in depth the identification of entrepreneurial opportunities, the development of strategies, and the practical aspects of organizing, financing, and marketing ventures.

Pic of students of the MBA in Entrepreneurship
After the Business Core in the first year, the second is dedicated entirely to entrepreneurship.

What You Need to Know

For entrepreneur Heidelinde Kranzl, the part-time program offered an exciting opportunity to deepen her business knowledge in the context of an MBA program and, at the same time, to advance the development of her own training company in the field of virtual reality.

A large part of the training takes place between the attendance phases, which take place approximately once a month. This way, professional activity and studies are well compatible for the participants, and Heidelinde Kranzl did not run the risk of having to put her business plans on hold temporarily, which would have been the case with full-time studies.

 Portrait Heidelinde Kranzl

Heidelinde Kranzl

  • Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation alumna

I like that there are these phases between the modules and you can really take your time to internalize all the information from the lessons.

Anyone who wants to learn how to be an entrepreneur and has acquired the theoretical skills is only halfway there though. What really counts in the end is being able to put theory into practice and develop functioning business plans.

Students of the Professional MBA at WU therefore have the opportunity to network within the prospering entrepreneurship ecosystem in Vienna. During the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Bootcamp, which is part of the specialization in the second year, they will have direct access to entrepreneurs, incubators and accelerators, all of whom are active in the Austrian capital city. Moreover, they can also pitch a project at the Demo Day in front of an audience of venture capitalists, managers, professors and students.

Pic of a pitch of an Entrepreneurship student
Students of the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation get the opportunity to pitch their project in front of investors and managers.

Heidelinde Kranzl experienced how all this affects her own company. Her knowledge about entrepreneurship, which she did not have before the training, played a decisive role in this context. She immediately put what she learned into practice and received feedback from fellow students and professors - with the result that her company developed significantly, be it through the development of a sales team, the successful acquisition of financial resources or the improvement of her competence in terms of employee management.

Program participants also benefit from learning how innovative entrepreneurship approaches can be applied in large companies. Innovation and its application in the areas of marketing, strategy and organization is a focus of the continuing education. As their final thesis, students can develop a strategic business plan including practical applications. Prof. Nikolaus Franke praised a graduate who presented his thesis at a job interview and said, "If you hire me, you will receive a sophisticated consulting project free of charge.” He got the job immediately.

In an economy characterized by change, innovation is the key to success. Prof. Franke refers in this context to the decline of established companies such as Kodak, Blackberry and Saab, all of which got into trouble when they failed to innovate. Employers increasingly expect employees to be innovative. Being able to solve problems creatively is one of the five most important skills, according to the Financial Times Skills Gap Survey 2018. Business schools are therefore called upon to provide this critical entrepreneurship skill set to prepare their graduates to be adaptable and innovative, regardless of whether they work in startups or large corporations.

Can you learn entrepreneurship? You can - and must - learn it.

For more information about the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation, please click here!

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