Bahraini universities are packed with students who have the drive and the potential, waiting for the right opportunity to apply that into. Students, especially those who are about to graduate, need an encouraging platform that invites them to put all that knowledge and ambition to use.
Startup Bahrain is the overarching community initiative and platform in Bahrain that aims to bring together entrepreneurs, corporate entities, investors, incubators, educational institutions, and government institutions to grow the startup ecosystem on the island.
Startups can get started and receive the guidance for their next big thing in a flexible, open, environment that can enable good ideas to flourish. Different parties need to put their hands together to get that to happen, the educational sector is one, and it needs to make sure that it does the right things at the right time to better prepare the students for the startup life.
We think there are five things universities in Bahrain can do immediately to help grow and develop the startup ecosystem in Bahrain through Startup Bahrain.
- Encourage higher participation in the fields of information technology and the computer sciences (especially females). The University of Bahrain graduates about 2,000 people every year according to our research. Out of those, 93.4% (might not be the latest numbers) graduate in the fields of business, engineering, law, physical health, and teaching. Only 6.6% graduate in the information technology and computer science fields. That’s really low! A strong startup ecosystem needs both good investors and, well, nerds, it can’t exist without one or the other. Technology startups feed on the great talents holding computer science degrees. Without them, it’s terribly difficult finding talent in a small talent pool everyone is eyeing. Programming is no longer the boring, mundane, robotic task it once was thought as it’s as cool as the fact that the top five companies in the world today are technology companies. Push Bahrainis, especially females into the computer science fields.
- Offer new and better electives that cater to startups or the broader entrepreneurship community. Courses that focus on the innovative and practical management of startups is vital. Topics can include the managing and starting of small businesses, startup finance, growth hacking, and how to build a product. In fact two of the bestseller courses on Udemy under the business category is The Essential Guide to Entrepreneurship and Business Development Masterclass: Learn To Build Businesses. Why not have these courses or similar ones in local schools? Supplementing these courses with a final project would further push the students to be prepared for the realities of the market. This will give them a head start as experienced entrepreneurs to start and manage their own businesses.
- Increase participation of students and educational institutions in startup conferences and programs. There are dozens of startup events, programs, and conferences happening around the world, let alone the region. Universities need to play a bigger role in their participation in those initiatives. Those conferences showcase and house the best minds in the region, from investors to startups to the next big idea. Students need to rub shoulders with and be exposed to talented, skilled, and ambitious people such as themselves. The right place at the right time could mark a changing point of a student’s life. Examples include Arabnet, which has a wide variety of competitions, conferences, and events for young entrepreneurs in Kuwait, Riyadh, and Beirut. Closer to home, there’s the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, which hosted their big final ceremony in Bahrain this year.
- Adopt capstone projects to advance the skills and abilities of graduate students. Here’s a fact, students also live outside the campus too. They’re exposed to everything the outside world has to offer them, from the latest technology to the latest trends in any field imaginable. Technology has completely changed the way our brains consume and comprehend content and information. University students in Bahrain complain about is the traditional teaching methods, one that depends largely on memorization and testing. Instead, adopt a practical approach that helps to translate skills, talents, and passions to practical application. The answer is projects, students need more projects and fewer tests. For instance, one of the top schools like Stanford University and Princeton University require capstone projects for their graduating students. A good project delivered well can sometimes teach more than a dreadful test. Courses need to connect projects with real-life applications in the outside world, allowing students to put their drive and passion into solving real problems. Don’t forget, Facebook started when Mark Zuckerberg was still in university. That list also includes Snapchat, Reddit, WordPress, Dropbox, and the list goes on.
Bahraini universities like the University of Bahrain and Bahrain Polytechnic and Ahlia University among others are sitting on a sleeping goldmine of potential waiting be unleashed. What do you think can be done to better prepare students for the startup ecosystem?