Thursday 3 September 2015

Education and high growth entrepreneurship

High growth entrepreneurship has not been mentioned in education circles for a very long. There are many definitions of the term, but for the purposes of this article we can take Autio’s description which is “strong owner-managerial aspiration for rapid organisational growth coupled with substantive potential for achieving this aspiration”1.

It’s only recently that the key role that high growth entrepreneurship plays has been highlighted. Its importance becomes clear when we look at its effect on economies. We know that employment, wealth creation and economic growth are achieved in economies where there is a thriving entrepreneurial class. Fostering these attributes is perhaps even more necessary in developing countries. High growth entrepreneurship drives faster development of these factors and high growth firms make a disproportionately large contribution to an economy. One of the reasons for this is that the technology opportunities that drive high growth entrepreneurship have expanded so rapidly.

In fact policy makers around the world are starting to understand and believe that high growth entrepreneurship is crucial for all countries, regardless of their levels of development. To the extent that the United Nations Foundation has asked a business and technology figure of the stature of Michael Dell be its Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship in order to “help shape and advance a global entrepreneurship agenda”2.

High growth entrepreneurship is richer territory than merely more companies producing more products and services more quickly. What it yields is entire economies becoming more vibrant, dynamic and entrepreneurial, which can entirely change a nation’s economic emphasis. It’s not all smooth sailing though – high growth entrepreneurship can be disruptive, making it difficult for government and business to fully take it on board3.

The influence of education

Education levels, the richness of the educational environment, the encouraging of entrepreneurial traits in educational institutions, formal educational courses – these have all been identified as having a positive influence on the development of entrepreneurial drive and subsequent entrepreneurial activity and success.

So it follows that the more hospitable the environment for entrepreneurial development and the more education that can be provided, the more high growth entrepreneurs will be produced.

All of the knowledge related to the influence of education on high growth entrepreneurship shows that high growth entrepreneurs have higher levels of education than average. In turn, higher growth firms usually have founders with higher levels of education than lower growth companies4. More pointedly, there is a lot of evidence from studies in at least 20 African countries that examined the effect of schooling on entrepreneurial performance. It all supports the idea that the more highly educated the entrepreneur, the superior the entrepreneurial performance5.

The message is clear: we need to provide as much of the right sort of entrepreneurial education to as a high a level as possible, and place this within reach of as many learners as possible. In this way high growth entrepreneurship will be maximised, thus stimulating the economy, creating wealth and creating employment.

1. Autio, Erkko (2009) : The Finnish paradox: The curious absence of high-
growth entrepreneurship in Finland, ETLA discussion paper, No. 1197

2. Atkinson, Rob (2015) : “High-Growth Entrepreneurship for Development: Report of a Roundtable with Michael Dell”

3. Ibid

4. Audretsch, David B. (2012) : “Determinants of High-Growth Entrepreneurship”, Report prepared for the OECD/DBA International Workshop on High-growth firms: local policies and local determinants, Copenhagen

5. Sleuwaegen, Leo and Goedhuys, Micheline (2009) : “High-growth entrepreneurial firms in Africa: a quantile regression approach”, Small Business Economics

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