I was delighted to read that there’s an increasing focus on entrepreneurial activities at Oxford (Oxford Today, Michaelmas 2014, pp. 29–30). In a world in which, civil service aside, there are no ‘jobs for life’ it’s increasingly valuable for us all to think entrepreneurially even if we won't all create new companies as a result. Also helpful is the creation and development of quasi-incubators in which people can learn to work in teams and subject new ideas to critical exploration.
It’s a bit worrying, however, to note that the emphasis with regards to faculty is still abstract and academic. Where are the real-world entrepreneurs who have gone through the grueling and brutal experience of moving from idea through execution to market? There is an enormous gulf between theory and practice, and an equally enormous gulf between those who watch from the sidelines and those who must somehow overcome formidable odds in order to keep the show on the road — especially when all the ‘experts’ are saying it can’t or shouldn’t be done.
I've started four companies since moving to California at the start of the 1990s and each one has taught me that great ideas are far less important than relentless execution and insane determination in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles. Being an entrepreneur means (for those of us not fortunate enough to be a Brin or a Zuckerberg) endless worry, stress, sleepless nights, 120-hour weeks year in and year out, and absolutely no guarantee of success anywhere in sight. Perhaps having a real-life entrepreneur or two involved in the various Oxford initiatives would bring a valuable additional perspective to what otherwise could end up being a series of superficial feel-good activities for most participants.