Our Latest Project: Inventing A New Paradigm for SMB Purchasing and Sourcing

August 27, 2013

Before the Internet, we used to build software that took years of an Expert’s learning and knowledge and build it into interactive databases to help businesses get that expertise from a computer instead of a person. We called them ‘Expert Systems.’ Now with the Internet as a platform, we’re able to not only bring the expertise but also the ‘processes’ that the experts use to successfully leverage their knowledge. This is a big deal in the Purchasing and Sourcing World.

Here was the challenge. Digitize the expertise and help of a Fortune 500 Purchasing Manager for free for small and medium size businesses. The result is Focusedbuyer.com, which has been 3 years in development. It brings Purchasing Expertise that big corporations pay big dollars for, to any sized-business with an hour to spend and thousands of dollars to gain.

 

FB-Home-8-8-13

Buyers are able to create Listings for their needs and have the world respond with Offers. The Buyers can also issue Purchase Orders online and track their Suppliers Performance.

Our assignment was taking what could be a very complex User Experience such that the Users – Buyers and Sellers – can easily and intuitively make their Listings as simple or as detailed as they choose. The Expertise comes in prompting the user to provide information and detail, if they choose, that they may never have thought of. The minimum 10 required fields are shown with a plus’+” sign next to each. If the User clicks the ‘+” it opens up the world of ideas and details that could lead to a more cost-effective, high-performance sourcing outcome.

FB-pluses-8-27-13

FocusedBuyer.com is a great example of using the Internet to gain a ‘Digital Advantage(DA)’ for its customers. What does that mean?

There are 3 kinds of Business Web Sites:

1>  The brochure or marketing web site that provides mostly information and a sales pitch. These sites include text, graphics and maybe a few interactive forms for contacting or signing up with the company.

2>  The Ecommerce site that basically takes brick-and-mortar retail or wholesale and puts it online.

3>  The Digital Advantage site that leverages the Internet to do something creative and desirable online that could not be done offline in the brick-and-mortar world.

FocusedBuyer.com is a great example of Digital Advantage. There is no offline way to create Requests for Quotation, rally thousands of potential suppliers from around the world, accept offers and issue Purchase Orders in realtime.

Check out FocusedBuyer.com for your business or contact us to help you invent a new business paradigm online. Huge thanks and kudos go to FocusedBuyer.com founders, Don Jean and Tom Middleton, for providing their decades of Fortune 500 Purchasing experience, vision, hard work and patience in making this amazing new platform possible.


7 Keys To A Highly Effective Mobile Web Site

May 23, 2013

We are all aware of how our lives – and particularly our Online lives – are connected to Mobile Devices (see our March Post – “The Increasingly Mobile Web”). However, creating an effective Mobile site is not just a matter of using some conversion software or shrinking the size. Highly effective mobile sites are re-conceived to take advantage of mobile phone capabilities while minimizing their limitations.

I’ll use the example of a mobile site that we built for Coopskw.com and share our top 7 Keys to a Highly Effective Mobile Web Site.

1>     Make sure your Mobile Web Site looks good and fits all mobile phones. Too often the Web Site owner or developer is an Apple iPhone User and sees the mobile world as all Apple. Well 60% of the Mobile Users out there, use Androids! Now I hear many developers complain the Android varies so much from device to device, that they can’t control how their site will look or behave on an Android. Non-sense! Get a new developer or better yet, hire us – it can be done.

Developers also frequently use conversion software to scrunch their regular web sites to fit the smaller screen. Bad idea. Text and images become too small to read or use. Best practice is to re-conceive your site for mobile. See the screenshots below comparing the PC Web Site version to the Mobile Version. We changed the Mobile layout to fit better on the screen and display only priority links and content. We pull the content from the same database as the Full Site but redid the display.

Pathfinder Consulting builds web sites

Full Site – Fig. 1

Pathfinder builds mobile web sites

Mobile Web Site – Fig. 2

You can easily see how your site looks on various Mobile platforms from your PC by using a Mobile Phone Emulator like http://www.mobilephoneemulator.com/

2>     Show only the most important content and links. Eliminate the fluff. People on mobile devices are generally in a hurry and want a quick answer to their questions. They don’t want to sit and read a long dissertation or use a magnifying glass to read your content or click links.

Pathfinder Consulting Group Mobile Web

Key Product Details Fig. 3

3>     Make your Phone and Directions links hot. Here’s where your mobile device beats your PC – take advantage of it. Mobile Users either want to call you or find you. By making your Phone# and Directions hyperlinks, a User can click the phone number and have it call you or click ‘Directions’ and have your location appear in your ‘Maps’ app. Cool and convenient!

4>     Provide a link to your ‘Full Site.’ You may have some more content or Forms on your Full Site that a User may want to explore. Give them that option.

5>     Make Navigation Easy. Mobile devices now have a universal symbol for a ‘Menu.’ Use it.  A good clear Menu(Fig. 3) will help your User get quickly to what they want.

Pathfinder Consulting Mobile web Sites

Mobile Nav Menu – Fig. 4

6>     Include Tracking and Stats for your Mobile site. Most of our clients use Google Analytics. Remember to include their tracking code on your mobile pages. Tracking is just as important to your success on Mobile, but is often forgotten.

7>     Search Engine Optimize(SEO). Do you want your Mobile site to be found on Google, Yahoo and Bing? Remember to do all the best practices you do for your Full Site on your Mobile Site as well. I’d even venture to say that Search position is even more important on mobile. With a smaller screen and a smaller attention span, mobile users are most likely to click on the top few Search links. It should be yours.

If Pathfinder can help you master the Mobile World, please contact us. Your first hour is free – so feel free to pick our brains.


The Increasingly Mobile Web

March 9, 2013

E-Commerce has, without question, forever changed the way we shop. The question is: has it changed the way you sell? In 2010, e-commerce represented 4.2% of retail spending, that’s $164.6 billion, up from 3.9% in 2009. The internet is constantly changing the way shoppers interact with stores, and nothing is more crucial for retailers in the modern age than to be versatile and adaptive along with the evolving technological stage. Over the past two years, and upcoming in the next 2 to 3, a major change has been and will be taking place. We are smack in the middle of a major shift, truly an epoch-change, in how the internet integrates into modern life and naturally, into business.

2011 Mobile Usage Statistics via Microsoft Tag

The Mobile Shift

If you haven’t noticed, the web has gone mobile. Of the world’s 4 billion in-use mobile phones, 1.08 billion are smart-phones. According to the Pew Research Center, 11% of adults own tablet computers. By 2015, the majority of users accessing the internet will be doing so on mobile devices. This is an incredibly significant prediction. It signals a complete change in the way we understand the internet and how a business adjusts (or fails to) will without question impact its future. To quote Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley’s internet analyst, “Rapid ramp of mobile internet usage will be a boon to consumers and some companies will likely win big (potentially very big) while many will wonder what just happened.”

Mary Meeker at Google Event

Mobile Changes Everything

The absolutely crucial piece of information for retailers to know about this mobile shift is what it means for how people use the internet. Let’s say this: it’s very good news for retailers. A smartphone is more than just a laptop with a small screen. It is, and is increasingly becoming, an optimized mobile shopping machine. For a consumer, a smartphone is a store-finder, a quality-distiller, and a bargain-hunter. For a mobile-ready business, the smartphone is a marketing godsend. With the right preparation, on that little screen your store can pop up on a map with positive customer reviews, your phone number and hours, and a link to your handy, mobile-optimized website. If you have a special app through which customers can, for example, view your products, find special deals, and review or share their experiences across various social media platforms, the smartphone becomes a customer-loyalty-machine. This is not a fantasy or a prediction, this is how smart-phones are being used right now. According to Nielson, 50% of smartphone shoppers use a GPS/mapping app to find a retail location; 44% access the site of a retailer where they typically shop; 34% downloaded a retailer’s app; and an equal number (24%) search for a coupon to use at checkout or use a barcode-scanning app to comparison shop. Mobile e-commerce is good for consumers, and it can have huge benefits for involved retailers.

Making your Mobile-Presence

There are basically two options for going mobile:

  1. Optimize your existing website for mobile browsing. This means designing a site which responds to and adjusts for changes in screen-resolution, so that it stays mostly the same from desktop to tablet to smartphone. This requires redesigning elements of your website however, the extensiveness of the redesign required depends on your site’s age, technology, and content layout. Keep in mind that when it comes to the internet, change and adaptation are good things; they mean moving forward, keeping up with or ahead of technological trends.
  2. Design an exclusive mobile site, separate from your existing online presence. Whether this is optimal depends on your business and how well your current website adapts to mobile platforms. However, for certain businesses, a standalone mobile site can attract customers and keep them coming simply by virtue of its ease-of-use. Consider Papa John’s mobile site, which is designed specifically for the needs of mobile-users and is a good example of a straightforward way to make mobile make money, so to speak.

To finish up, here a few tips for a great mobile site:

  1. Large Buttons: Good navigation is fundamental to web-design, and it becomes even more important at the more concentrated scale of the mobile web. When done properly, with big buttons which fit into your overall branding and marketing strategy, even the simplest navigation can guide mobile users quickly to the most important parts of your website.
  2. Vertical Navigation: Due to the dimensions of smartphone screens, horizontal menus will either run off screen or cause your whole website to be shrunken down. Nothing is worse for a mobile user than to have to scroll around a barely visible site, and a frustrated customer is not a customer for long. Vertical menus or, if necessary, shortened horizontal menus with vertical sub-menus, will make your site more compatible and pleasing for customers to use on the mobile web.
  3. Avoid Flash: iPhones and iPads don’t support the flash-player, and flash loads slowly on other mobile devices. A mobile adaptation of your site will require replacements for flash elements. The simple truth is that flash will always be an impediment to the quality and ease-of-use of your website, and is best avoided.
  4. Make Pages Shareable: Social media buttons (“Tweet this” “Like this”) on every page, article, video-clip, and gallery photo on your website will give visitors more chances to do your marketing for you. Mobile users are both likely to share what they like online and likely to notice elements that distinguish your mobile site, such as positive social media response. Total social media integration is a simple step with big benefits on the mobile web.

Your Email Personality – How to Be Real in Email – Part 1

May 3, 2012

This is the first in a Series about Effective Online Business Communication
Please let us know how you like it . . . .

Business is About Communication

On every level of business, within the company and without, communication is crucial. In the past, that communication was done entirely in person or over the phone, and was about conveying a certain type of attitude and personality. This is a type of communication that comes more naturally to us, interacting directly, in real-time, with another person. Nowadays, a large part of business communication is done not in person or over the phone, but through seemingly impersonal text, in the form of email. Though email has existed for decades, many people whose livelihood depends on email are still sending ineffective, impersonal emails every day. We’ve all received them, emails which do not properly explain their meaning, or which come off with an unintended attitude, emails which are off-putting.

Writing an Effective Email

There are a few elements to the email, and it’s important to give each of them equal consideration. Most importantly, don’t rush an important email, don’t take any aspect of it too lightly. Remember this is a message that the other person can sit with and read over multiple times. They will put as much time into reading your email as you put into writing it, they will only take it as seriously as you do.

The Subject

Start with the first thing your recipient will see – the subject line. The subject line, like the entirety of the email, should be focused and on point. Try to convey the sense of the email succinctly and completely. This means that vague summaries such as “quick question” or “important! read immediately!” are not good subject lines. Why not state the question or a summary of the issue in the subject line itself. By providing specifics you give your recipient a reason to immediately begin thinking about your message and an incentive to open and reply to it. Vagueness gives them an idea of what they’ll have to deal with, and a reason to deal with it later.

The Content

Next, the body of the email itself. The core principle of an effective email is to remain focused and on point, to use standard capitalization and punctuation, essentially to treat it as if you are writing an important letter. Just because it is easy to type does not mean it should appear as if it were written lazily. That said, there is a difference between someone who can write a very formal email, and someone who can write something which appears effortless. The key is to learn how to drop the barrier between that in-person communication you’re used to, and the “impersonal” online communication. You must learn how to type the way you talk, both effortlessly and eloquently. You are not seen as an effective spoken communicator if you stutter, pause, lose focus, insert unnecessary words, or insert emotion where it is inappropriate.

Conclusions

So for now, here is the general concept of writing the best possible email. Imagine how you would interact face-to-face with the person you’re emailing. Consider the context – how formal should our conversation be? How precise? Attempt to write a letter which conveys all the information you want to convey and is professional, just as your real-life out-loud conversation would be, but just like that conversation, is also friendly, personable, and real. This is the only way to become more than a faceless bunch of words on a computer screen. Speak to the person you’re emailing – use the keyboard as a tool to express yourself, not a wall against effective communication.

Future Posts in this Series will include Legal Concerns about Email, Examples of good and bad Emails, effective Social Media communications and much more. If you would like to be notified when we post more in this series, you can either sign up for our Newsletter at PathfinderConsulting.com or follow us on Twitter @CharlieLevin. If your company is interested in training or our Effective Online Communication seminars, please contact info@outofchaos.com. Of course, we’d appreciate your ‘Likes’ and feedback below.


Yahoo debuts ‘future of search’

March 25, 2011

(WIRED) — Yahoo is looking to one-up Google and its own search partner Bing, offering a new search experience it describes as the “fastest thing you have ever seen.”

The new product called Search Direct combines instant search — showing results as you type — with instant answers, so that typing in “amzn” instantly shows a full box with stock quotes about Amazon.com. For searches it has no answer to, it shows search links immediately in an easy-to-navigate box above a typical search-results page.

Yahoo, which looked to have abandoned the search game when it outsourced its search backend to Microsoft, says Search Direct — and its emphasis on user experience — is the future of search.

“I want you to remember three words: ‘answers, not links,'” Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s vice president for search told a room of tech reporters in San Francisco as he demo’d the product.

Search Direct is live on search.yahoo.com and other U.S. Yahoo search properties, but not the homepage yet. The same experience will soon come to all search boxes on Yahoo, Seth said, and it will find its way to non-Yahoo properties as well.

The product has “answers” for 15 categories of entities, including movies, professional athletes, music, celebrities, weather info, news, shopping, local and stocks.

The new search builds on Yahoo’s attempt to stay relevant in the lucrative search market by focusing on user experience, now that it has farmed out the expensive infrastructure to Microsoft, in exchange for ad-revenue sharing.

“People still come to Yahoo and search on Yahoo,” said Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving.

Yahoo compared the new experience favorably to Google’s own Instant Search, saying that Google’s feature merely shows search-result pages faster, while this brings people answers incredibly quickly.

WIRED: Yahoo and Microsoft join search forces

Search Direct doesn’t require a fast net connection, the company said, and the system is built using infrastructure that Yahoo owns. That could put the feature in conflict with its search partner Bing.

For instance, Yahoo says it can come up with new ad formats that fit in the Search Direct box, but it hasn’t yet figured out how or if it would share that revenue with Microsoft, as it currently does with search ads.

Yahoo emphasized that it had built instant search first (though it never released it) and that it owns patents on both that technology and the new technology.

Neither Irving or Seth would say what Yahoo would do with those patents.

Irving tried to be diplomatic.

“Licensing is something we have done in the past and continue to do in the future,” Irving said.

Yahoo expects to license the service to others around the web and seems confident it’s built the future of search — even as the tech world has written the firm off as a third-place player destined to keep falling behind.

It’s not clear if Yahoo’s figured out search’s future, but Direct Search is incredibly fast and could prove to be so useful that we’ll all soon forget when we had to type a full word and hit Enter to figure something out.

And combined with Yahoo’s promising new tablet-publishing platform Livestand, we may just be seeing a revitalized Yahoo that is actually a tech company once again, despite its recent financial woes and layoffs.

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!

Copyright 2010 Wired.com.


5 Predictions for 2011

February 10, 2011

Here are 5 Technology predictions for 2011, but first how did we do with the 10 predictions we made a year ago for 2010. I’ll highlight a few here and you can read more at https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/?s=predictions

1. Increased shift towards online sales. Online sales increased 30% plus for most retailers over this last holiday season. Amazon’s sales hit a record $10 billion in the last quarter – a 33% increase from same quarter last year. Whereas Brick & Mortar stores were lucky to eeck out 2%. With the rough Winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest, expect more folks to do their shopping from home as 2011 gets underway.

3. Search engines will interface with social media. Where is most of the online content coming from these days? Social media, of course. So it only makes sense that the Search Engines, to keep up, have to produce Social Media results and they did as predicted last year. You’ll even see realtime Twitter feeds appear scrolling on some of your Google searches.

5. Increase in people trying to find and save money online. Well this is no surprise, but the trend picked up speed with the use of smartphones last year. You could actually take pictures of products in the store and then get the best prices online. This was a real factor this past holiday shopping season for the first time. Shopping for my wife’s favorite perfume at the mall, I found myself shopping prices by Android and it was much cheaper online!

8. Proliferation of social gaming. Social gaming took off last year. Games like Farmville, Angry Birds, and even Poker took off in Facebook and on other Social platforms.  Expect to see even more robust games this year.

10. Further development of 3D technology and further penetration of 3d into traditional media. We predicted it but underestimated the traction it would have. Besides the huge success of 3D Movies. 3D TV and Games are invading the scene. 3D TV  will go past the early adopters this year to the mainstream as expensive clunky 3D glasses are replaced by either light inexpensive ones or no glasses at all!

Predictions for 2011

1>     Digital eBooks Replace Paper Books. Book publishing is changing so fast that blood is flowing in the street. Amazon sold more eBooks than paper books for the first time. More and more authors are bypassing traditional publishers to to go direct to eBook. This isn’t just no-name vanity publishing. Authors like Stephen King have already done this. The fact that eBook versions of Bestsellers are 60% to 80% cheaper than their paper siblings provides a strong financial incentive for this change. Throw in saving the trees and reading in the dark and why wouldn’t you switch?

Kindle

Kindle

Personally, I have been reading eBooks for years but I have always enjoyed the tactile experience of reading a real book and I’m a big reader! However, this year, I downloaded the free Kindle software onto my Android and I find the reading experience and the convenience just beats the traditional paper experience. I’ve gone 100% eBook and am starting to unload, sell and clear the clutter of my paper library out of the house. I believe you will all ultimately do the same.

2>     Social Applications dominate the Web. By now you’ve either played or heard of Farmville and Angry Birds. Since these programs cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to create and are yielding $ million(s) per month, you can bet you will see many, many more. These fall into a new category called ‘Casual gaming’ and it is attracting a much broader demographic ,including women and older people, than the hard-core Xbox and Playstation gamers.
And it’s not just games. You will see multi-media rich and business applications popping up inside Facebook in abundance this year.

3>     Apple becomes the most valuable Company in the World: for a company that was on life-support only a few years ago, this is an amazing statement. Apple’s Market cap is already more than Microsoft and when it hits $422 per share(now $353), it will pass Exxon to be #1. With the iPad rapidly becoming the fastest  selling higher end product of all time; Apple iPhones for sale on Verizon’s network for the first time; and a seemingly endless stream of market-savvy innovations, I believe this will happen this year.

4>     A New Online Paradigm will arrive. Amazon, eBay, Google, and facebook – what do they all have in common? They leveraged the special advantages of the Internet to create brand new concepts of human interaction, communication and commerce. We used to call this the ‘Digital Advantage.’ Let me give you an example. The first step that traditional retailers take when they go from selling in the store to selling online, is take their store products, catalog pictures and descriptions and put them online to sell. This is all well and good and can work for some. The big breakthroughs come, when someone creates something online that can’t be done offline in the ‘real’ world. For example, eBay can only exist with the digital connection it can make globally to run an auction with millions of participants not just 100 people in a barn. Facebook uses the digital connection to keep us in touch in ways that we never could before.
So what’s next? I believe we are still in early adolescence with the World Wide Web and great new paradigms seem to come along every 2 years. We’re due. What will it be? I don’t know yet – do you?

5>     Electronic Fashion Takes Off. When we were kids, did anybody carry their school books in a backpack? Of course not. Now, where did that fad come from and do you know any kids without a backpack? Well all these devices we carry around need to go somewhere. Guys, in particular, don’t want to start carrying handbags and women don’t have much room left in theirs.

So expect more companies like Scottevest, with its line of iPad and iPod compatible clothing to spread like backpacks across the landscape. See

Now the first round will be utilitarian like Scotte, but expect color and fashion to enter soon after.  In fact, if you’d like a diamond iPad case, for $20,000, you can but it now!

diamond-ipad-case

Diamond iPad Case

http://www.ipadaccessories.com/ipad-cases/world%E2%80%99s-most-expensive-and-ridiculous-diamond-ipad-case

If you have some other predictions of your own, please share them here. If you can imagine it . . . .


Peter Thiel announces $100K grants for teens

October 1, 2010

Awarding Teens Grants to Dropout?

Financial trends and news by Faith Merino
September 28, 2010 | Comments (0)

thiel

For some, entrepreneurship proved to be a better route to financial success than sitting in class.

Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard before finishing his degree in computer science. He’s one of the better known Ivy-league dropouts next to Bill Gates, who coincidentally spoke to Zuckerberg’s Harvard class many years ago, encouraging Mark and his classmates to take time off because Harvard could always be a fallback. Gates certainly turned that notion on its head.

Similarly, two of the four NYU students who have been working on Facebook-rival social network Diaspora are planning to leave school to work fulltime on the project.  And now Facebook-backer and PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, is offering teens $100,000 to put school on hold to focus on developing innovative tech ideas.

Thiel (who will also be a keynote speaker at Thursday’s Vator Splash event) announced Tuesday his new “20 Under 20” program, which will award grants of $100,000 to 20 entrepreneurs under the age of 20 for developing interesting new tech business ideas. 

The two-year program, which was announced at a TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco, will begin accepting applications early in the third quarter. The Thiel Foundation website says the program is open to anyone under the age of 20 who wants to pursue an entrepreneurial interest in any tech field, although Thiel is partial to artificial intelligence, space exploration technologies, biotech, and aerospace engineering.

But the under-20 mandate essentially requires applicants to forego college, if not dropout altogether.  Thiel refers to it as “stopping out of college,” but let’s face it—if some 18-year-old suddenly hits it big with the next Facebook or iTunes, he or she probably isn’t going to care too much about that nebulous degree in philosophy (sorry liberal arts majors, but you’re the easiest to pick on). 

In his on-stage interview at TechCrunch Disrupt, Thiel explained that while in college, students “do learn a lot, but the don’t really learn much about entrepreneurship.”

Personally, I find this a little disconcerting.  Why does a teenager have to choose between college and entrepreneurship? Why not establish the same grant for college seniors under the age of 25 under the condition that they must finish school first?

Either/Or?

Thiel clarified via email: “The big problem with colleges and startups is that the amount of debt people are taking on in college is becoming  prohibitively large and is preventing students from doing anything risky (or not well-paying) after college.  I’d like a world in which people could do both, but I think this is increasingly difficult because of the out-of-control college costs.”

While I agree that the skyrocketing cost of college poses a very real problem for young entrepreneurs who may be too saddled with debt after school to want to take anymore financial risks, I don’t agree that encouraging them (with lots of money) to choose starting a business over school is the solution.

Success Stories

Of course, there is the argument that it is possible for someone without a college degree to be a successful entrepreneur. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg.  Now the 35th wealthiest person in America (Steve Jobs comes in at number 36) and one of the youngest billionaires on the same Forbes list, Zuckerberg is hailed as a dropout success story.

Or look at Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard in 1975 to focus fulltime on Microsoft (in 2007 he was awarded an honorary law degree from Harvard).  He has consistently made number one on Forbes’ list of America’s wealthiest people (although for all of his money, he still doesn’t appear to be willing to spring for a snazzier haircut).

So is college really necessary to be a successful entrepreneur?  Based on Zuckerberg’s and Gates’ stories: no.  But that’s a pretty oversimplified approach to the issue.

Point/Counterpoint

Entrepreneur-turned-academic, Vivek Wadhwa, who teaches at Harvard, Duke, and UC Berkeley, argues that not everyone can be a Zuckerberg or a Gates, and that if you look at the people that Facebook employs, Zuckerberg is the only college dropout.  In fact, all of Facebook’s top employees have undergraduate degrees from fairly prestigious schools, and most have advanced degrees as well.

Of course, this is the very point that Thiel makes regarding to the “20 Under 20” program.  Young people should be encouraged to take risks and endeavor to become the next Zuckerberg or Gates.  The burden of student debt in addition to what Thiel sees as traditional education’s habit of preparing students for safe, stable jobs as employees is ultimately preventing those same students from trying out something new and dangerous.  Maybe they won’t become the next Zuckerberg, but they might come close and come up with a pretty good idea nonetheless.

What is the value of a college education?

But the problem that I have with this idea isn’t that young applicants might fail miserably or even that students need a college education to develop the skills and experience needed to ultimately run a successful business (which is also true—Zuckerberg isn’t running the Facebook show on his own.  His highly-educated comrades are bringing in the business sense), but the fact that it pits a college education directly against entrepreneurship.

Comparing college to entrepreneurship in terms of long-term payoff doesn’t take into account the fact that a college education offers so much more than skill-development and number-crunching experience.  It offers students a comprehensive understanding of social and cultural issues, as well as civic responsibility and what it truly means to be an engaged and informed citizen.

I can think of classes that I took up until my last day of college that changed the way I viewed the world.  Even something as simple as a college-level Algebra class made me realize that I can do math and that there is no such thing as a brain that simply can’t do something (I still probably shouldn’t be the one calculating up the tip at the end of a group meal at a restaurant, but I digress…). 

What if one of those students who drops out of college (or “stops out” and chooses not to go back) ends up missing out on that Ethnic Studies course that would have changed the way he or she views the current situation for Mexican migrant farm workers?  Or never takes the Gender Studies class that would have made him or her realize that there is an unhealthy dearth of women in the fields of science and technology?

True—those students might never have taken those classes in the first place, but they never will if they are told that college is incompatible with entrepreneurship, and they must choose before the age of 20.


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