Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

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sociotard
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Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby sociotard » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:43 pm UTC

An Amusing blog entry with a rather hyperbolic title.

How Venture Capitalists plan to destroy the College Classroom

There's an experiment at Stanford (just an experiment) that may hint at a wild new model for universities. At the beginning of September, Stanford announced a fundamentally new type of financial arrangement, in which it would become a VC investor in companies run by students and alumni through the StartX start-up accelerator. Even before that, Stanford appeared to encourage more than a dozen students to drop out and partner with Stanford faculty members to launch a new tech start-up. So, what if Universities just had the 'learning' take place online and focused on Venture Capital?

I have no idea where University based research would take place in this model, or how it would change the current financial ecosystem of Grants and so forth. Maybe change it to look more like Kickstarter?

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:20 pm UTC

Interesting...but I suspect the failure rate will be high. Dropping out of college to form a start-up can work, but what happens when it doesn't? When all you have on your resume is briefly working for a company that cratered?

The current college system is pretty broken, for sure, but this seems like a fairly niche solution, for those comfortable with taking substantial risk.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Zcorp » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:08 pm UTC

Substantial risk for the students, but not a lot for Stanford unless their is social/political backlash from them doing so.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby duckshirt » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:13 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:When all you have on your resume is briefly working for a company that cratered?

That isn't a bad thing...
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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby ucim » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:02 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The current college system is pretty broken
It is? I will agree college is not for everyone (and nothing says it should be), but what (in your view) is the purpose of college, and how do you see "the college system" failing that purpose, especially in a way that this (potentially) fixes?

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:33 am UTC

duckshirt wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:When all you have on your resume is briefly working for a company that cratered?

That isn't a bad thing...


It certainly can be. Also, when you start up a company, typically a lot of liability is assumed. The failed entepreneur can easily end up with mounds of debt and probable bankruptcy.

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The current college system is pretty broken
It is? I will agree college is not for everyone (and nothing says it should be), but what (in your view) is the purpose of college, and how do you see "the college system" failing that purpose, especially in a way that this (potentially) fixes?

Jose


The purpose of college is to provide education to the students, at least in theory. And yet, all manner of elements are included in college that are of dubious educational value. For instance, grad students are frequently used as unpaid laborers due to essentially required unpaid internships. No guarantee that the work is particularly educational, either. Hell, the problems start long before then. Ever been to a class where the lecturer reads a powerpoint slide to you, yet gives points for attendance? Ever seen a professor require you buy a book he wrote(which, naturally, is ludicrously overpriced)?

Hell, colleges have special laws written to guarantee that student loans can not be shed via bankruptcy, etc...and yet, the colleges are endlessly raising tuition, usually well above inflation, and spending the money on endless administration, etc. They have fees of every sort...application fees, technology fees, god knows what else. And of course, just about every college limits the hell out of what credits you can transfer in, because to get a degree, you have to hand them a pile of money.

Yeah, it's broken as hell.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Nem » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:26 am UTC

duckshirt wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:When all you have on your resume is briefly working for a company that cratered?

That isn't a bad thing...


Depends, some cultures are a lot more forgiving of failure, especially on a résumé, than others.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby duckshirt » Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:52 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
duckshirt wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:When all you have on your resume is briefly working for a company that cratered?

That isn't a bad thing...


It certainly can be. Also, when you start up a company, typically a lot of liability is assumed. The failed entepreneur can easily end up with mounds of debt and probable bankruptcy.

If you know what you're doing, you should be able to avoid this (unless you do something REALLY malicious).

Nem wrote:Depends, some cultures are a lot more forgiving of failure, especially on a résumé, than others.
Eh... which cultures aren't forgiving of something like this?
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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Chen » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:42 am UTC

duckshirt wrote:
Nem wrote:Depends, some cultures are a lot more forgiving of failure, especially on a résumé, than others.
Eh... which cultures aren't forgiving of something like this?


If you created and company and ran it into the ground, that's not a great thing to have on your resume. People are going to ask why it failed or even look into it themselves. It doesn't inspire confidence in a person if they created a company and then failed miserably at keeping it in business.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Zamfir » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:52 pm UTC

The trouble is not so much the fact of failure, it's that failure doesn't tell you much. It might be a brilliant effort that failed because even brilliant efforts still fail, or you might have been eating pizzas and watching Dr Phil all day.

You need something else to make it work on a resume. In particular, investors and customers who saw potential. Then a failed business still implies that you did something worthwhile. Suppose Stanford puts serious money in these ventures, and if the former students get serious responsibilty. That shows trust, just as much as any degree they could give out.

On the other hand, the article talks about ventures together with Stanford faculty. That might imply that ventures get funded based on the reputation of those faculty people, with the former students as lower level employees. That's a different story. If such a company fails, you would have no job, no degree, and also not the cachet that Stanford invested in you.

I guess reality might be between those extremes.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby davidstarlingm » Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:30 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The purpose of college is to provide education to the students, at least in theory. And yet, all manner of elements are included in college that are of dubious educational value. For instance, grad students are frequently used as unpaid laborers due to essentially required unpaid internships. No guarantee that the work is particularly educational, either. Hell, the problems start long before then. Ever been to a class where the lecturer reads a powerpoint slide to you, yet gives points for attendance? Ever seen a professor require you buy a book he wrote(which, naturally, is ludicrously overpriced)?

Hell, colleges have special laws written to guarantee that student loans can not be shed via bankruptcy, etc...and yet, the colleges are endlessly raising tuition, usually well above inflation, and spending the money on endless administration, etc. They have fees of every sort...application fees, technology fees, god knows what else. And of course, just about every college limits the hell out of what credits you can transfer in, because to get a degree, you have to hand them a pile of money.

Yeah, it's broken as hell.

Arguably, the effective purpose of college is to certify (via a piece of paper that says "Bachelor of Science") that a potential employee is capable of showing up to class and completing assignments (at some minimum acceptable level) for nearly half a decade. Of course, there are a lot of specifics based on what field you're in. A history degree certifies that you have enough background knowledge to teach history, and enough follow-through to do it for a few years at least. A physics degree guarantees that you have basic research abilities, decent mathematical skills, and at least a cursory understanding of laboratory process. A nursing degree implies familiarity with the medical field, mostly because of the requirements for clinicals. A business degree indicates that the student is able to do lots of paperwork over a long period of time, which is often helpful in business.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:26 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:...The purpose of college is to provide education to the students, at least in theory...
I meant... "What is the purpose of (getting) a college education?" (Once that is answered, the purpose of college is to provide it). When somebody asks you "why should I go to college", what do you answer?

Tyndmyr wrote:And of course, just about every college limits the hell out of what credits you can transfer in, because to get a degree, you have to hand them a pile of money.
... and also because you are asking them to put their imprimateur on your education. They can't fairly do that if they didn't provide a good part of it.

Jose
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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:53 am UTC

ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:...The purpose of college is to provide education to the students, at least in theory...
I meant... "What is the purpose of (getting) a college education?" (Once that is answered, the purpose of college is to provide it). When somebody asks you "why should I go to college", what do you answer?


It really depends on the person for the specifics, but in general, the purpose is to prepare the student for life after college. Employment is a very large, though not the only part of that.

Consider the CS degree. Back when I was driving for my BS before I went mil, it was fairly common to require a math minor or more for CS. Certainly, I was at U of MN. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a math minor. Math is a fine, useful topic, and is a great choice. However, it is not the only choice, and that level of math is not at all required to excel in the field. Frankly, I don't think I've ever needed anything from even calc 1 in practice. In the real world, if you need to implement some heavy duty math thing, you just find the library it's in on google. Easy day, don't reinvent the wheel. Sure, computers do math, but they also do a helluva lot of parsing of language, and an English minor is not required. Therefore, I can't think of any practical reason why the CS degree needs to incorporate quite so much math as they often do.

Worse, college advising is often abysmal. Sure, unless you're at a particularly bad school, they can tell you what you need for the degree, what semesters those classes are in, and help you plan it out. Meh. All that info is generally online anyway. That's like paying someone to read a powerpoint slide. What about all those students who just register semester after semester with an undeclared major? Is the college actually interested in helping them find a goal, or is it just enjoying the money? Hell, I'd argue that financial incentives are such that maybe a college adviser can't really do a great job. Their incentives are not particularly well aligned with the students. In a college that is hurting for membership, they tend to encourage everyone to sign up, regardless of ability. Aptitude testing tends to be minimal, if it exists at all.

Tyndmyr wrote:And of course, just about every college limits the hell out of what credits you can transfer in, because to get a degree, you have to hand them a pile of money.
... and also because you are asking them to put their imprimateur on your education. They can't fairly do that if they didn't provide a good part of it.

Jose


Why not? Are not the other institutions accredited? Is that not what accreditation is for?

And a flat "must pay for x credits here" really is poor in terms of proof. Not all credits are created equal. If a credit is good enough to count towards your degree, that should always be the case, regardless of who got the money, or how credits were obtained in general.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:35 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:It really depends on the person for the specifics, but in general, the purpose is to prepare the student for life after college. Employment is a very large, though not the only part of that.
I'll go with that, though I would phrase it differently. I see it as helping a person get the most out of life - Shakespeare is more fun if you get the jokes, and learning enough about Shakespeare to get the jokes opens up another area of enjoyment in life. Employment is, in this sense, just a means towards enjoyment. At its best, it can be an actual source of enjoyment, but at least it would be nice if it were an efficient route towards enjoyment (be it by not sucking too much, or by paying enough so you can do the things you enjoy). But the more things you actually enjoy, the better off you are.

For some, college is not necessary, or even desirable. But for others it is a gold mine.

Tyndmyr wrote:...[for example]... I can't think of any practical reason why the CS degree needs to incorporate quite so much math as they often do... [timewarp] ...In the real world, if you need to implement some heavy duty math thing, you just find the library it's in on google....
The latter can be said of any element of learning. The former (I presume) is because you are not being prepared for your specific job, but for the wide range of jobs in the field, and it's their view (right or wrong) that a well rounded CS type should be able slide into jobs that do require that level of math, and that learning that level of math helps in your thinking about other CS issues. A similar argument can be made for learning geometry proofs in high school.

Different colleges have different requirements and different philosophies. Pick the one that suits you best. I don't see this as supporting the contention that "the college system is broken".

Tyndmyr wrote:
ucim wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:And of course, just about every college limits the hell out of what credits you can transfer in, because to get a degree, you have to hand them a pile of money.
... and also because you are asking them to put their imprimateur on your education. They can't fairly do that if they didn't provide a good part of it.
Why not? Are not the other institutions accredited? Is that not what accreditation is for?
No, that's not what accreditation is for. Accreditaton is a minimum standard. Some colleges have the reputation of being better than the minimum standard, and want to keep that reputation. They should.

Again this does not support (IMHO) the contention that the college system is broken.

There are some colleges whose teachers are not very good. This is not a problem in the system, it's a problem with those teachers. Tenure gets the blame in some cases, but I'd ask whether it's the system, or the granting of tenure to that particular teacher that is the problem. (is this a burnt-out that can't be ejected, or was the teacher never that good to begin with?)

There may be problems with any individual school, but with the system? I'm not convinced. What would you change, and to what? This venture capital thing is interesting, and is an interesting alternate track to a standard college credential. But it seems to me that in this case the financial incentives are even more deserving of scrutiny.

Jose
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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby johnie104 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:57 am UTC

I just read up a bit about Tenure on Wikipedia. Seeing as it doesn't have an article in Dutch I presume that Tenure is an USA only thing. I don't think academic freedom is any less in other (western) countries, so is the concept of tenure really still neccessary?
Looking at the criticism section it seems like there is a lot wrong with it. What is the chance that this system will be retired? Are there reasons (that are still relevant today) why tenure should remain as it is?

And to be on topic:
How long are college credits valid? If you joined a start-up that failed 5 years later, would it still be possible to pick up your education where you stopped it? If this is the case then it seems like a great opportunity for the students.

Another question: I live in the Netherlands and go to the Radboud University. My college tuition is €1800,- (~$2200). How does this compare to the tuitions of American universities?
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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby Zamfir » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:49 pm UTC

Tenure is not much different from what we call a vaste aanstelling. In case of universities, a position as universitair docent or higher. Dutch labour law is more strict than in most (probably all) of the US, so there is less need or demand for a special regime for academics.

From time to time people do suggest that Dutch universities should add extra protections related to academic censure, on top of normal job protections, but it doesn't raise much enthusiasm.

I guess another factor is limited number of formal universities (and the large institutional gap with HBOs). The universities can maintain a common approach to the prevention of academic censure, with less need for explicit terms on paper.

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Re: Stanford: A Venture Capital Firm with Dorms

Postby ivnja » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:38 pm UTC

johnie104 wrote:Another question: I live in the Netherlands and go to the Radboud University. My college tuition is €1800,- (~$2200). How does this compare to the tuitions of American universities?

Tack another zero on to the end of that dollar figure, and that was the approximate average for all 4-year universities in the US in 2010-11. Public universities were about $16,000, and private universities were $32,000.

http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

Edit: sorry about the mild thread necro. I didn't notice until I posted.
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