Review by Arjan Tupan. Arjan is deeply involved with strengthening startup ecosystems, a lead mentor in the Beyond Silicon Valley MOOC, a dad, poet and nomadic European. Curious and challenge-loving.
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Around the world, entrepreneurs are starting businesses with unprecedented potential customer reach. Technology is enabling them to think globally. Many of those entrepreneurs are looking at Silicon Valley and its tech companies for clues. They want to change the world, and become the next Facebook or Google or Airbnb. Local governments are also taking notice. Especially in places negatively effected by economic downturns, or who have been at an economic disadvantage to begin with. These new companies are potentially creating much needed jobs and welfare. Now, many cities and regions globally want to become the next Silicon Valley. But, it’s not that easy. And it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. This is a lesson Cleveland, Ohio has learned, when it started focusing on entrepreneurship to come back from an economic downturn. Through the MOOC Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies, Professor Micheal Goldberg shares the story of Cleveland, and the lessons learned.
When I took the course, I had not long before arrived in a new city. Moving in from a different country, I did not have a network and wanted to build one. As I was exploring options for building my own business, I was looking through entrepreneurship MOOCs when I found Beyond Silicon Valley. Although it’s not the typical course to learn entrepreneurship from, the premise of learning how to support and grow entrepreneurship appealed to me. So, I took the course.
It appeared to be not just a non-typical entrepreneurship course, but also a non-typical MOOC. In documentary style video lectures, professor Michael Goldberg guides the learners through the different elements of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Cleveland. You learn about the challenging situation Cleveland found itself in, the plan to change that, how that plan was implemented and how entrepreneurs were affected by that.
ROOTS AND ORIGINS
The course has its origin in a Fulbright fellowship Professor Goldberg did in Vietnam. There, he was asked by ambitious Vietnamese officials to create a seminar about Silicon Valley and how to replicate the success. He realised that Silicon Valley is a rather unique story, with a success that is very hard to replicate. He also knew that the story of Cleveland was much more comparable to the situation in Vietnam. So, he decided to tell the story of Cleveland, with apparent success. So much so, that upon his return to Case Western Reserve University, he was asked to turn his seminar into a MOOC. As he tells himself, he immediately said yes, but had to Google the term MOOC on his smartphone as he walked out of the meeting.
With his MOOC, Professor Goldberg aims to inspire people around the world to build and grow entrepreneurial ecosystems, more than creating a transfer-of-knowledge type of course. That’s also why this course does not have quizzes. Every week covers a key element of entrepreneurial ecosystems: The Role of Government, The Role of Philanthropy/Donors, The Role of Intermediary Organisations/NGOs, Leveraging Anchor Institutions and Access to Capital and Mentoring. After watching the video lectures, learners have to do a personal learning assignment (PLA), that takes them ‘out of the building’, and makes them explore their local ecosystem. For me, this was very inspiring. Through the PLAs I learned a lot about the startup ecosystem in Düsseldorf, Germany. I even found StartupDorf, an association for and by startups, of which I am now a board member meeting a lot of entrepreneurs and other interesting people. The mid-term assignment and final project are very much focused on understanding the vantage point of entrepreneurs.
Taking this MOOC has been a great experience. After completing it, I even organised a study group for the second run. In the study group sessions, we combined the video lectures with local presentation and reserved some time to generate ideas on how to strengthen our local startup ecosystem. This was a great way to meet many of the ecosystem players, and understand which parts of the system needed either a bit of change, or simply a bit of pr. In a later stage, Professor Goldberg visited Düsseldorf to talk to us in person. More importantly, it has made me part of an international network of startup/entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, from Japan to Canada, Zimbabwe to Germany, covering practically all continents.
It has made me part of an international network of startup/entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, from Japan to Canada, Zimbabwe to Germany, covering practically all continents.
I strongly encourage you to become part of our network. Enrol in the course (now available on-demand), make change happen.
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