I really can’t believe it. Just last year, I’m a student in the Star Entrepreneur Academy trying to win the business plan competition. An investor liked the idea so much, she gave me money to actually launch my class project as a business. I raised nearly a million creds to launch, and the business was a wild success. Heck, I was just named on a list of top entrepreneurs! The investors are paid off and we’re bringing out new products every quarter. Life. Is. Good.
For 10 years in the real world, I co-taught an Entrepreneur’s Workshop co-created with a business partner. We taught an undergrad class at a local university, running nearly 1,000 students through the program in that time. We strongly encouraged students to work on real business ideas and the focus of the class was to take them from business idea to business plan in the 10 weeks we had them.
There were 90 businesses launched from that class. According to our research, this makes what we developed the most successful undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the United States. And that bit of fiction at the top? Well, it’s pretty close to reality. One of our students was just named to Forbes magazine’s Top 30 Under 30. We were happy when her group won top honors at our end-of-class competition (attended by 350 people), and we’re very, very happy for her now.
If I’ve learned anything in a decade of helping students turn ideas into businesses, it’s the process is neither easy nor obvious. For the Star Citizen economy to be successful, CIG is going to have to devise an effective, ongoing program to help “Star Entrepreneurs” build successful businesses within the confines of the Star Citizen universe.
This program can be inside or outside the game fiction – or both. It needs to be more than just a few pages of text or a forum on the out-of-fiction RSI message board. Our program’s success showed lectures were important, but back-and-forth feedback and real-life examples were the key to helping entrepreneurs.
I propose a “Star Entrepreneur Academy” – a (preferably) in-fiction construct combining a short curriculum, interviews with successful entrepreneurs, and regular content updates about entrepreneurial activities inside the Star Citizen universe.
The initial curriculum would cover basic Star Citizen economic features – a listing of possible business types, guidance on contracts, a legal section, advertising tips, how to finance a start up, and a few sections on best business practices. This basic curriculum would be available on demand or as part of a discrete course. The format would be either text or video instruction. The “student” would be “tested” after each section, more to verify they at least opened them than to assign some sort of grade.
The next stage of the curriculum would be the successful example portion. From an in-fiction perspective, interviews with successful entrepreneurs – both human and NPC – would be created. Initial interviews would focus on how the successful entrepreneur used the tenets set out in the basic curriculum to get their business off the ground. Subsequent, more detailed interviews would focus on how the entrepreneur became successful in their specific area. As with the basic curriculum, short “tests” would be made after the videos to make sure the students are learning something and not just clicking on links.
The final stage of the curriculum covers feedback. Students who’ve progressed through the curriculum – and restricting this level to only students who did the tests is important from an efficiency standpoint – would get feedback from a group of entrepreneurial mentors. These mentors would be a combination of CIG staffers and volunteers. The most obvious construct is a message board restricted to students in the class. This message board could be part of the in-game fiction, even though it would operate largely as the existing RSI site forums do now.
If the Star Citizen Academy was organized into discrete courses instead of an on-demand format, the “graduation” component of the course would be a business plan competition. Think of this like Kickstarter, with votes instead of actual credits being pledged. Students outline their business idea and members of the Star Citizen universe vote on the best ideas. The winner gets some sort of prize, along with exposure for the business.
The task of supporting entrepreneurs does not end with graduation. One reason why our class was so successful is most of the students in the class became members of an extra-curricular “network” of class alumni. We hold regular events where entrepreneurs can make contacts and share ideas. This sort of networking could also take place in-fiction as regular meet-ups or streamed content within the game.
One important feature of the Star Citizen economy should be the concept of a Business Assistance Center (BAC). Located in most major systems, the BAC would provide a listing of all businesses located in the sector. A budding entrepreneur could look to see who his/her/its competitors are and where there might be holes in the services offered in the sector. The BAC would also list storefronts for “rent”, nearby sources of equipment necessary for common economic activities, and other items important to setting up shop in that system.
Creating a Star Entrepreneur Academy will help more businesses be successful inside the Star Citizen economy. Combining the Academy with in-game support structures like entrepreneurs’ networks and the BACs adds another layer of support. Doing all this inside the fiction of the Star Citizen universe makes the experience that much more immersive.
One central premise of this blog is a vibrant in-game economy is essential to the success of Star Citizen and a Cloud Imperium financially stable enough to deliver on its long-term vision. I believe a Star Entrepreneur Academy would be an integral part of creating a vibrant economy and a financially successful CIG.