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Definitely! A virtual incubator for students

Entrepreneurship is a difficult subject to teach as it has to balance practice and theory. Providing a computer-based simulation that can be used in class will allow students to experience concepts and frameworks discussed in class.

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As I was reading the LaunchLand concept , it made me think of simulations I used in my teaching or that I know others used. Amy Bonsall's comment on this concept and her pointer to business schools made me seriously think of the connection. In business school education, in order to provide experiential learning (without necessarily going outside of the classroom), faculties have developed and used various simulations for organizational behavior and change management ( Change Pro), Marketing ( MarkStrat) or Strategy ( Blue Ocean Strategy simulation). All these simulations are based on mechanisms and situations generalized from real-case studies and theories about the topic they illustrate.
For example, in Change Pro, a simulation that I regularly use, my students have to convince 24 top managers of a company in 6 months to implement a major change. I usually introduce the topic and then let them go and work in groups for 2 to 4 hours (depending on the course context). We then debrief and draw lessons, and I introduce the major frameworks. Change Pro is particularly interesting as it's based on psychological steps of adoption, yet includes stochastic processes that allow randomness (and the possibility to re-play it). Students always love the experience and get both "hands-on" experience to which they can relate the theories.
What about having a similar simulation for entrepreneurship?
Students would play in team to represent a project. They would have a certain number of skills, resources and constraints to start with. They will have a number of web start up ideas to select from. They will then have preselected steps (following Ashley's map and maybe some of the steps and tools suggested by Louise's angel app) to go through for developing, getting feedback and finding resources.
The simulation would represent a 6 months journey of an entrepreneur.
It could be abstract enough that it could be any country in the EU (but specific to the EU context in order to support EU entrepreneurs; however in the long term we could develop simulations that would fit other contexts).
The simulation could be developed to run either for one session (2-4 hours) like Change Pro, or could be designed in parallel with a course and last for the time of the course (Like MarkStrat). In the second case, students would have to play certain phases in the simulation (and plan for it). Faculty members would coach them through the process. There will also be debrief sessions where teams and faculty can get together and discuss the simulation context and link it to theories, frameworks and real world example.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

It will provide a great tool for faculty to teach a subject that sometimes seems impossible to teach. It will provide students with experiential learning. In some cases, it will probably make the whole process less scary and inspire them. This simulation would not only be used in business schools, but also in engineering, technology, design, art schools, etc. It could be used in undergrad and grad programs.

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

Business simulations listed above were all start-ups launched by teams of faculty and developers. In this case, the EU and / or a business school could provide seed money. As there is a lot of interest for entrepreneurship all over the world, and also a lot of interest for new educational tools, there would be a lot of potential customers. To design the simulation, we will need expertise from faculty teaching entrepreneurship, from entrepreneurs to develop the scenario and scripts for the simulation. We will also need a team of developers with good building skills as well interface developing experience.

How could we get started?

We could create a paper based simulation that would act as a pilot (there are also very powerful paper-based simulations that could act as inspirations, e.g. desert survival simulation that I also use in my class) and help us develop the personas, scripts and scenarios. We would need to get a faculty teaching entrepreneurship interested in the idea (they are a lot of faculty teaching entrepreneurship at NYU; we could contact them). The faculty would help develop the idea as well as provides feedback at different stages. We could contact the companies that developed the simulations mentioned above to see if they would be interested in exploring the opportunity.

Virtual Team:

Ashwin Gopi - co-conceptor OpenIDEO student chapter Amy Bonsall (for her inspiring comment)

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