Bahrain is on the path of becoming a powerful regional startup hub in the region for technology and FinTech startups through its StartUp Bahrain community initiative. Different players in the ecosystem need to get together to grow and develop this ecosystem, from government policy and regulation to investors to startups, and last but not least the education sector.
Since education is one of the most important factors in encouraging startup culture within the country, what can Bahraini universities do to ensure that their students are being taught the necessary skills required for startups?
Startups require a certain set of skills that are unique to the startup world. What a higher education provides is certainly valuable and priceless, but teaching the practical tools and their applications that could help students solve real-world problems the moment they walk out into the real world is vital for any startup ecosystem.
We’ve identified a few out of the many courses that we, at Startup MGZN feel universities could emphasize on to give their student body the tools they need.
- Students learn better with real life case studies. It’s not enough to teach students about the basics of startups and entrepreneurship, and the different marketing strategies, but they also need to learn how to incorporate those strategies. How can this be done? Yep, case studies, and not just some 10 year old case study – it should be current and relevant to what’s going on around Bahrain. Since Bahrain has been witnessing an influx of insightful conferences (GateWay Gulf, Women Power Summit, StartUp Bahrain Week), projects (Mondelez Factory, Tourism projects, Edamah), and newly launched startups, this is a good opportunity for students to go out there and connect with experts in the field to understand the impact and results of these initiatives on Bahrain’s startup ecosystem.
- Sell it like Steve Jobs. Universities sure do help students build their confidence, but is it enough? Confidence and being able to sell is not one and the same. Startups require getting buy-ins from several groups of people and confidence alone would not cut it. Startup founders need strong selling skills that are charismatic as well as persistent to persuade investors, customers, partners, and employees to buy into your idea. Universities should teach students the required skills to be able to present, and sell. Presenting before 40 something of your student peers can be daunting, but how about 3 or 4 shrewd investors who are about to tear your idea up? We also don’t want to sound too superficial here, but there is actually a lot of added value if people like you. So, be charismatic, sorry to break it to you but hard work alone is not enough.
- Support implementation and experimentation of ideas. Experimenting and developing multiple prototypes and failing before achieving the best model is essential for success. When students are taught how important market research is without giving them the tools to conduct it, their students become short handed when they are in need for such skills to develop and implement a startup idea. Success does not come by following the advised steps in a book; that is why universities should provide an opportunity for their students to create and refine business plans, teach them how to strongly validate their idea in the market and provide them with the tools and methods to turn an idea into a business. Universities can take it to the next level by following the example of universities like Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia who is the mother of innovation and research labs to startups like Tawseel app. Bahraini Universities are in need of changing their way of doing things the theoretical way to giving its students the tools and methods to make an idea into a reality. One great program that can help Bahrainis understand and experience what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur is Tamkeen’s Mashroo3i program. Another relevant program is Startup Weekend where participants have to pitch their ideas, form their teams and build a startup within 54 hours only!
- Success is not linear, and it’s not a destination. Let’s be honest here, Arab culture can be very brutal and discouraging, especially if you fall out the wagon. But students need to acknowledge the fact that failure is inevitable – sometimes it’s out of your hands to remain thriving for the rest of your life (take Kodak for example). University doesn’t exactly prepare you for failure – it’s all about making sure that you get good grades, submitting projects, and meeting deadlines. Our mindset towards failure needs to change and our upcoming generation need to be encouraged towards achieving their dream without the fear of failure stopping them. And even if they do fail – it’s not the end of the world. Humans are resilient beings and can bounce back with better ideas.
Bahraini Universities hold an amplitude of undiscovered ideas and potential, that is why universities in Bahrain need to better their game to compete with regional and national universities in innovation with their students as their strongest medium.
There are hundreds of courses revolving around startups and entrepreneurship, visit Coursera for more information on what we could possibly have in our universities.