A popular Waterloo professor, whose TEDxUW Talk - Why you will fail to have a great career – has 1.6 million hits, says you don’t have to start a company to be entrepreneurial.

The University of Waterloo has an “abnormally high” level of entrepreneurial activity, says Economics Professor Larry Smith, but only a minority of students actually start their own company. Smith is hoping his lecture on July 11 - What's your problem?  - will inspire all students to be entrepreneurial by identifying and solving big problems at work.

Killer problems

Larry SmithPhoto credit: Wayne Hsu, Imprint Publications

“If you wish to be very useful to your employer, then you find a problem that needs to be solved. An important one, not the fact that someone’s stealing the paper clips,” says Smith.  “Imagine this were 1950. Being useful was all you needed to do, especially if you had some education.  Therefore, you would shine.  That was then, this is now.

“It’s my job, this institution’s job, the entire faculty’s job to prepare (students) for the job market upon graduation, says Smith.  “We’re supposed to prepare students for a lifetime of accomplishment.”

Online materials

The July lecture, which is already at capacity, is just the first step in a larger initiative by the University of Waterloo to support entrepreneurial activity.  The 300-page report written by Smith, Wang and Stewart will guide various entrepreneurial initiatives on campus. The lecture is a result of a collaboration between the Co-operative Education and Career Action centre, Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre  and Velocity.

Smith is planning a series of lectures, workshops and online support materials for the thousands of students who can become “entrepreneurial employees.”   These “intrapreneurs” can make fundamental changes that will support their employers, the economy and their careers.

Smith says he wants students to “realize the highest expression of their talents. If you can identify important problems and then find solutions... you will lay the foundation for a great career.”

Watch Smith's TEDxUW talk: