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Universities' Influence on Student Decisions to Become Entrepreneurs: Theory and Evidence

This project presents and tests a theory of the process that students, in particular Technion students, undergo as they learn about startup entrepreneurship and, in some cases, decide to launch a startup after graduating. The theory is based on the “stage gate” model for product development.

According to this theory, the process that students of science and technology undergo in their journey to becoming high-tech entrepreneurs involves a series of “gates,” or decision points, or “doors.” It a) begins with the decision to study science and/or engineering and technology, b) continues with their increased awareness of the possibility of creating a startup after graduating, c) continues with the intention and desire to become an entrepreneur, and d) proceeds with acquiring the tools and the knowledge, while at Technion, in order to succeed, ending, for some with e) launching a successful startup some years after graduating.

These five stages, then, are preparation, awareness, intention, action and, hopefully, success.

 Our research is based on a survey of Technion alumni/ae, who responded to a Web-based questionnaire. The research found that the greatest impact on entrepreneurship was related to activities that, during their studies, were defined as “experiential” (for example, Biztech, Hackathon, Startup Day). In these activities, students experience entrepreneurship during a short intense time period, during which they practice transforming ideas into businesses. In addition, there are activities in which students hear the stories of entrepreneurs, and about how what they did had an influence, mainly in terms of building their awareness (according to the stage gate model). The research validates the transitions of students from the initial stage of curiosity (about entrepreneurship), to awareness, intention, and action. In addition, it was found that the wide variety of entrepreneurial activities available to students is highly appropriate for students’ wide variety of learning styles.  This research was funded by a grant from Yehuda and Dita Bronicki, founders of Ormat Technologies, one of the earliest Israeli startups, launched in 1965.

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