Success at Entrepreneur Contests Shows Market Value of STEM

Entrepreneur competitions are being increasingly dominated by STEM students.

By + More

William Broman is a biomedical engineering major at George Washington University. He can be reached on Twitter @bromanw. 

For several decades, the formula remained unchanged: Go to class, get an internship, use said internship to secure an entry level job at the same company, use entry level job as the springboard from which to launch your career. This formula is stale, and becoming useless.

A new formula is emerging for launching your dream career, and STEM graduates are able to capitalize more than any other students. Entrepreneurship has become the answer for many graduates to the dilemma of "I need experience to get a job, but I need a job to get experience."

At George Washington University's annual business plan competition, it was quite evident that there is a need for engineers, scientists, and mathematicians in the age of the startup. The competition began with 144 teams, a quarter of whose team members were studying STEM. Jim Chung, director of the Office of Entrepreneurship at GWU, wrote in an E-mail: "If you look at the 8 finalists from our competition, although not all were science or technology based, all but one appear to have had at least one founder with some kind of STEM background."

The ability for a company to survive and succeed often depends on how many competitors exist, and how difficult it is for competitors to replicate the product or service. Venture capitalists are drawn to startups that can differentiate themselves from the competition. One key way of doing this is filing for patents. Patent holders tend to have STEM backgrounds. Chung confirmed this in our E-mail exchange, saying, "VC's and other investors tend to be attracted to startups with technical talent on board."

Business students and STEM students need to continue partnering with each other during college, while they still have access to university funding and business plan competitions around the country open to only college students. Colleges and universities need to pay particular attention to helping STEM students take their research from the classroom and lab to the free market. STEM grads have a rare opportunity to license their innovations or sell the rights to their products, and make a lot of money following their debt-shackled years in school.

STEM grads often have little trouble finding appealing jobs following graduation. The ability to think critically, and their research, gives them a leg up in the startup world. The idea that two years of really hard work following graduation can lead to big paydays, and the possibility to have some fun during the process, can be quite appealing.