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Tuning in to entrepreneurial thought

(M.J MA/The Stanford Daily)

A study conducted by the University of Virginia showed that the average American spends about five hours a day with his mind idle. This includes time spent commuting, exercising and getting ready in the morning — valuable time that could be spent learning. And what better way for students aspiring to create start-ups than to learn through a podcast by some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs? Named by Forbes as one of the best podcasts, the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series is a podcast that promotes innovative thinking.

Evolving from the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders’ Seminar (MS&E 472), the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL) podcast first started in 2001 as short video clips of guest speakers uploaded to the Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner website. In 2005, the full-length lecture recordings became available, and the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcasts series was born.

The ETL is now a weekly seminar series on entrepreneurship, co-sponsored by venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, BASES and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP). While mainly targeted at students interested in entrepreneurship, the podcast also aims to encourage faculty to think about how entrepreneurship should be taught, to prepare educational resources from the high-technology industry for access by the general public and to develop an archive of digital recordings to provide a network of resources for entrepreneurship educators. The series features over 2,000 free online videos and podcasts of leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation thought.

Speakers for the podcasts are nominated each quarter and then voted upon by faculty and students within STVP and BASES. The speakers come from a variety of backgrounds, all interested in the technology sector. They are usually founders or executives in technology companies, venture capitalists who have invested in a high-technology startup or authors and philanthropists whose efforts are focused on high-technology entrepreneurship.

“One of the successes of this podcast is the diversity of speakers we have had so far,” said Matt Harvey, ETL communications director. “We try to vary the speakers from background, perspective and topics.”

The podcasts emphasize that speakers are not only entrepreneurs in their respective fields, but also role models to students in the engineering community.

Past podcast topics have included start-ups, inspiration for entrepreneurship, venture capital success and building an entrepreneurial career. They focus on sharing knowledge that students feel is critical to impart to new entrepreneurs.

“The most successful lectures blend lessons learned about entrepreneurship and leadership with engaging stories from the speaker’s career journey to illuminate these insights,” Harvey said.

Past speakers include: the founders of Google, Jet Blue and Yahoo!, venture capitalist John Doerr, executives from market leaders such as Cisco and social entrepreneurs from The Global Fund for Women and Craigslist

The podcast format of these lectures has allowed ETL to reach out to a diverse international audience not only in higher education, but also reaching listeners who tune in purely out of interest in entrepreneurship.

“We frequently receive letters from listeners from around the globe who thank us for providing them with a front row seat to the speaker series,” said Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. “They tell us that the content of these talks has had a profound influence on their lives.”

With 98 percent of the previous class recommending the course to other students, it is considered a gateway course into entrepreneurship. Currently, the ETL is the top iTunes podcast in higher education with 11 million downloads since its inception. Each lecture is broadcast live on SITN channel E2 and all presentations during the quarter are archived and made available through iTunes, SoundCloud and STVP’s Entrepreneurship Corner.

These podcasts show the audience that entrepreneurship is more than just starting companies. The speakers talk about life lessons and insights they have learned along their entrepreneurial journeys that can apply to anyone who is curious and willing to learn.

“The students love the candid nature of the talks from the speakers,” Harvey said. “Even though the class is being recorded, they feel a sense of honesty and authenticity from the speakers. It’s a very intimate opportunity to hear from these people in that format.”