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Dan Gillmor on Teaching Entrepreneurship and the Startup Culture

Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor

An interview with Arizona State University’s Dan Gillmor by JA’s Tram Whitehurst

Dan Gillmor is the director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Founded in 2006, the digital media entrepreneurship program at the Cronkite School is built around two courses devoted to the development of new media entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative digital media products.

“It’s still a pretty experimental program,” Gillmor said. “The goal is to help students gain an appreciation of startup culture, of what goes into being an entrepreneur, and to provide lots of hands-on experience with technology and developing ideas.”

The introductory course, “Digital Media Entrepreneurship,” is part lecture and part lab. Students are given a “virtual sandbox” in which to experiment with things like podcasting, video, mapping, tagging, mashups, data-as-journalism and social media. “Off-the-shelf technology will get them 90 percent of the way,” Gillmor said. They also begin to develop and prototype a potential digital media product.

In the second course, “Advanced Projects in Digital Media Entrepreneurship”, student teams must see a project through from conception to launch.

“It’s important that they think through how it might be sustainable,” Gillmor said. One of his teams this semester is working on a project involving the Xbox Kinect.

Ultimately, Gillmor doesn’t think he can teach his students how to have an entrepreneurial mindset, but he does think he can help them to appreciate what startup culture is all about.

“We want them to understand what’s involved in entrepreneurship – it’s about owning a process, deeply ambiguous conditions that will remain that way, rapid development and iteration, and building things that will scale,” he said.

Gillmor also sees plenty of opportunity in the industry’s challenges.

“I think students in general need to understand that the clear path is largely gone,” he said. “But I tell students I’m jealous of them. They’re starting at a time of almost unlimited opportunity.”