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Business Schools Seek To Help Emerging Market Start-Ups Scale

Berkeley-Haas' Brazil start-up program is latest push by US schools into emerging markets. China, India also accelerating entrepreneurs.

Berkeley-Haas School is piloting a program to train Brazilian entrepreneurs to bring new ideas and technologies to market.

It is the latest push by elite US schools into emerging markets, which are fostering start-up movements, but which often lack credible training programs.

The goal is to train entrepreneurs in the Lean LaunchPad framework developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, who is also a Berkeley-Haas lecturer, to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to quickly create, test, and iterate on their business models.

“Brazil is experiencing an entrepreneurship boom, but there are few structured and scalable training programs in the country,” said Berkeley-Haas lecturer Flavio Feferman. Brazil lacks the deep experience of start-up clusters like Silicon Valley, where multiple generations of founders become mentors to the next generation.

“Our objective is not to just train teams of entrepreneurs, but to train instructors and to build the capacity of institutions that will disseminate the knowledge throughout the country,” Flavio said.

The pilot will start with two rounds of training. Berkeley-Haas hopes to build the program as a national model that can be replicated throughout Brazil.

Stanford GSB, another leading US business school, launched Ignite in 2013, a part-time 10-week program aimed at entrepreneurs and taught in Paris, Bangalore, New York, São Paulo, Santiago and Beijing.

“We’ve been embraced,” said Bethany Coates, Stanford’s director of global innovation programs. “The demand for entrepreneurial education has grown significantly.”

She said there is a gap between what high-potential students learn within their degree programs and the skill-sets needed to start a company. But by leveraging peers and mentors, entrepreneurs can navigate early pitfalls.

Bethany said Stanford is wondering whether the Ignite programs can eventually be rolled out to the Middle East. “This is really about democratizing access to a Stanford education,” she added.

Business schools in emerging market nations such as India and China are ramping up efforts to bring quality entrepreneurial training to their populations.

Aruna Reddy, head of the Cell for Entrepreneurship at the Indian School of Business, said ISB launched an angel investor network to help entrepreneurs with seed funding. The Government is also providing financing through start-up incubators.

“More graduates are preferring to set up their own ventures,” Aruna said.

In Asian economies this represents a divergence from the traditional route into a family-owned business.

Martin Zhu, director of the MBA and Finance MBA programs at CKGSB in Beijing, said the success of Chinese entrepreneurs in recent years has inspired many young Chinese to choose alternative routes.

“A decade ago when our MBAs graduated, almost all of them wanted to work for big-name companies – consulting firms, investment banks,” he said. “However, times have changed.”

Chinese entrepreneurs are also taking advantage of the rising middle class in China.

Rama Velamuri, professor of entrepreneurship and chair of the strategy and entrepreneurship department at CEIBS in Shanghai, said the middle class has opened up opportunities in travel and leisure, the food sector and e-commerce.

“We have seen a whole host of businesses around branded products,” he added.

Experts also point to technology as a reason for a rising tide of entrepreneurship. “There are many opportunities in software and related sectors,” said Nitin Pangarkar, academic director of the MBA at Singapore’s NUS Business School. “With the internet, it is also easier for a truly innovative idea to achieve wider reach quickly.”

Announced by the White House last month during a visit from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the Berkeley-Haas initiative is co-founded by Brazilian universities and government institutions, with a $250,000 grant from the US State Department to fund the pilot stage of the program.

Brazilian universities will provide matching funds. The Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank has also been supporting the initiative.

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