“Blockchain is Here to Stay” – University Professor Says Students Should Consider This Industry

United States North America Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News Jan 31, 2023

Syracuse University Professor Cristiano Bellavitis

Entrepreneurship education is crucial in equipping students with skills essential for economic growth and innovation in a rapidly changing world.

In 2022, about 43 percent of graduates said their post-college plan is to start their businesses and pursue their passion, while 31 percent said they want to start a business because they want to be their own boss, according to a survey involving 1,000 college students, conducted from Intelligent, an online magazine committed to education.

To better understand the importance of entrepreneurship education, in an interview with Erudera, Cristiano Bellavitis, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University and the co-editor of “Venture Capital,” an International Journal of Entrepreneurial Finance, spoke about benefits of studying entrepreneurship abroad, challenges that new entrepreneurs face, blockchain studies, and more.

Erudera: Why is entrepreneurship education important and needed?

CB: Entrepreneurship education is important because it helps and creates entrepreneurs, and we well know that entrepreneurs are very good for society and themselves, especially in certain countries where there are limited employment opportunities; entrepreneurship can be a way for young entrepreneurs to make a living for themselves as well as improve the lives of others.

Erudera: What advice do you usually give your students who want to start their own businesses?

CB: The advice is usually the same as I basically provide in my courses. The first is to do research before starting your company; for example, even simple customer interviews can help save a lot of money and time. Sometimes, you think the product may be really good because you want to use it or you have this idea about the market. Still, nobody answers or agrees with you, and you are just wasting time if you are designing a product or launching a shop or a website. Just talk to your customers in advance and see what they think. They may give you some ideas on how to improve or even sometimes just tweak your product a little bit and then you can save time and money and have a better company later.

At the same time, experimenting, I think, is also an interesting way to go forward; not only should you do research before, but once you think you have an idea, just launch it faster and see what type of feedback you receive from the market if people like it or if you should change it. So, do it faster, do it cheaply, and see whether these things stick. If not, change the product. Research before and then again experiment as much as possible to see the things that work best, and if things work, you can dig deeper and invest more money into your start-up.

When you start your own company, looking at competition and market trends is also useful. Some industries are very saturated with competition. There are millions of different companies and very large enterprises competing, so if you want to start a company in that domain, it might be very hard to succeed. However, there are newer industries, for example, AI, growing rapidly, with not much competition, and your start-up can impact the industry.

So, the first piece of advice is to research before starting your own company. Second, once you start your company, experiment with a minimum viable product, and try to gain an immediate response from the market. Third, choose your industry and technology wisely, looking at competition and market trends.

Erudera: When is the best time to be your own boss?

CB: That really depends on the person, the situation, and the college. If you think you have a great idea and are passionate about it, do it whenever you want; you don’t have to wait. If you think you might want to be an entrepreneur but you are not sure and still exploring opportunities, then maybe college can be a good way to find cofounders or find your idea or maybe get some knowledge you think you need to start your company. After graduation, it depends on whether you have a job or not. Suppose you have a great job at a great company. In that case, you may not want to start your initiative.

I really think it depends on personal circumstances, alternative opportunities, available capital, knowledge and expertise, cofounders, and idea. It is an opportunity cost that needs to be lower than the opportunity you are taking advantage of, and of course, cost and advantage really depend on the personal situation.

For example, in the US, it is very expensive, and not everybody can pay for their education, so starting companies can be a way to earn a living without having to spend money in advance for an education. Most of the time, you don’t have much money when you are studying. You are probably working but not making much money to support a family, so it depends on personal circumstances.

But success stories come from all free scenarios, and you can finish your degree and start a company. Some entrepreneurs don’t finish their degrees because they are excited about their idea; therefore, they are successful. There are many famous dropout cases, such as Zuckerberg, who was at the university and dropped out and started Facebook, and some people started their own companies in their 50s. Success stories come from every corner.

Erudera: What challenges must entrepreneurship graduates prepare for when they enter the job market?

CB: Entrepreneurship graduates probably face the same challenges as any other graduates. It is a competitive job market; everybody wants to work for the same companies and jobs, so there is a lot of competition. I think entrepreneurship graduates have an advantage compared to other graduates because even if you work for a company, nowadays, a lot of employers are looking for people with initiative, business skills, with a broad spectrum of skills that an entrepreneurship degree can offer, but of course, it is never easy to find the job that you are looking for.

One important thing to consider when you are studying is, first, what job you are looking for. Even if you are a business or entrepreneurship graduate, you can go into supply chain, finance, or marketing, and of course, there is location, there is industry, there is the size of the company if you want to work for a start-up or you want to work for a big company. It is likely that each of these, although to a similar degree, will look for different types of expertise. A start-up might prefer a more entrepreneurial candidate, while a large company might prefer a more established set of skills. So first, try to understand what you want from your next job and then work backward, what type of courses you need to take, what type of extracurricular activities you want to do and this will make you more competitive to find the job you are looking for.

The other way to work on the challenges is to network as much as possible, there will be events at your universities, internship opportunities, and other types of events you can attend and introduce yourself to people, and these are ways to stand out compared to sending your CV to the companies.

Another challenge for the job market is that it is changing rapidly, and the set of skills and jobs available are changing very fast. Now we have artificial intelligence, which is replacing many jobs, and there will be automation and many new technologies that will replace many jobs. And so it is very important that before you even start university, you start to think which jobs will not be replaced in the next five or ten years, and then you try to get into these job markets. Anything that does not require a lot of thinking and empathy will be easily replaced within twenty years, so you don’t want to be in these industries. That is a challenge that every graduate must consider for the next twenty years, as the job market will change a lot, and robots will replace simple jobs.

Erudera: What is the main benefit of studying entrepreneurship abroad? Is there interest from international students in entrepreneurship studies at Syracuse University?

CB: There is a lot of interest from everywhere to come and study at Syracuse University. We always have a good number of students from every country worldwide. There are many advantages of studying abroad. In some cases, you just get into a better university. If your local university is not so strong, going abroad, you find better opportunities to study, great students, and great professors.

I did my Erasmus in Belgium, and it was a great learning opportunity to expand my knowledge. I was studying in Italy and didn’t even speak English well. I realized that Italy was just a small part of the world, and if I hadn’t done my Erasmus, I probably wouldn’t be here; I wouldn’t be a professor and still be in Italy. By going abroad, you become more mature, more open to the world, learn from other cultures and countries, and travel more, which will open your future opportunities. If I had stayed in Italy, I probably wouldn’t have had the same opportunities in my career.

Going abroad will open your mind and even if you work for a company, just because you have contacts all over the world, know a language better, makes you a better employee. So, I encourage everybody to study abroad and also be open to working abroad, but I think studying is an easier path to internationalization than working abroad.

Even if you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s a great way to learn about the world. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to launch a company that is not international, unless you are opening a restaurant or shop in your local city. But if you want a fast-growing, successful company, the world is now global; there is nothing, apart from local shops, that is not global.

As an entrepreneur, by going internationally, you learn about other cultures and the needs of other people around the world; it could be employees or market opportunities, or supply chain opportunities. Going abroad is important for any company or entrepreneur to just take advantage of global opportunities. There could be competition from abroad even if you want to start a local company, so by being aware of global trends, global opportunities, global supply chains, and global labor markets; you can improve your company and increase your success chances.

Erudera: Much of your work is related to research concerning cryptocurrencies. Is this an interesting and profitable industry that students should pay attention to? Is blockchain a better move?

CB: It is an interesting industry because it is a new technology. Many large companies, as well as central banks and governments, are looking into the space, so as I said before, it is important to look at what is coming in the market in the next few years and be ready to take advantage of it.

I think cryptocurrencies are very risky investments and companies. I am more positive about blockchain as a technology. If you study blockchain and become a blockchain developer, that will be a very strong signal to the market, and you will be able to get very interesting jobs.

So, it is definitely an area that students need to pay attention to but also be careful about. Not everything in the cryptocurrency space is good, but blockchain is here to stay; it is a great new technology, and again, large companies central banks are looking to hire people; and I think this is definitely something students need to look into and get a job or entrepreneurial opportunities if they are interested in this market.

Erudera: How does entrepreneurship education impacts innovation?

CB: Well, education, in general, is useful because it helps students gain knowledge, and by knowing what is available, they can create combinations of new knowledge and invent something new. Entrepreneurship education is useful as it allows students to learn frameworks to analyze the market and its current state or technology innovation and try to create a company to launch an innovative product in a specific market.

Suppose you study physics or chemistry and create a product. In that case, you usually need an entrepreneur to take advantage of this product. In most of my classes, we try to combine invention with commercialization because if you have a great product, but nobody knows about that product, it maybe is an innovation, but it is useless innovation because nobody is buying or using your product. Therefore, you need entrepreneurs and business students to take advantage of these opportunities by combining scientific and market knowledge.

Related: List of Entrepreneurship study programs around the world

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