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Larry Cox Describes "The Start of the Start" of Entrepreneurial Endeavors

June 21, 2022  | 2 min read

Dr. Larry Cox, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School and leads faculty for Graziadio’s entrepreneurship programs. Here is his first post in collaboration with the newly launched Pepperdine Graziadio Business School’s new website for the entrepreneurship program.

Since this is the first in a series of articles highlighting our #7 ranked entrepreneurship program, I think it’s appropriate to use this beginning issue to write about “beginnings.” The beginnings of my time at Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, the beginnings of our existent entrepreneurship curriculum, and, more importantly, the true beginnings of every entrepreneurial endeavor. Interestingly enough, the three are deeply connected.

 For most of the years prior to my joining the faculty here, I (like many other educators) taught that the “beginning” of entrepreneurship was the point at which a person began a written plan. This was primarily a practical, not a theoretical consideration. Plans, after all, are tangible, and therefore fairly straightforward to teach and evaluate. “Ideas,” on the other hand, are abstract, frequently “impractical” and easily dismissed as “a dime a dozen.”

In response to my exclusive focus on planning, students in my entrepreneurship classes dutifully wrote 24-page documents filled with excellent prose, professional graphics and compelling hockey-stick graphs. Their analysis was detailed and perfectly shaped to fit the outline in my syllabus, but the end product was neither inspirational nor aspirational. Only a handful actually resulted in a business. Clearly, I needed to change my methods.

I was hired in 2008 to teach in the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and revamp its MBA entrepreneurship curriculum. This was the perfect opportunity for me to rethink my methods and implement a new approach for entrepreneurship education. I shifted my focus to the true beginning of the entrepreneurial process – the identification of a personally compelling problem. 

The result is a program that mirrors the startup process used by real entrepreneurs, and dramatically increases the number of new ventures that are launched. It has also propelled the Graziadio Business School to #7 in the US according to the 2021-22 Bloomberg Businessweek Best B-School Rankings. 

The curriculum accomplishes this by:

  1. Reframing entrepreneurship as “creative problem solving,” a process that involves discovering a compelling problem, imagining and testing a novel solution, building a business model, marshalling resources, and finally, launching the venture.
  2. Incorporating the tenets of “effectual reasoning”[1] and “lean startup,”[2] the approaches utilized by serial entrepreneurs to validate the viability of business concepts prior to assuming significant personal risk.
  3. Offering entrepreneurship in a sequential series of courses that allow students to discover, validate, plan and execute their own idea from beginning to end during the course of their MBA program.

The Entrepreneurship curriculum at the Graziadio Business School is truly “second to none.” It has produced amazing results – not just national and international rankings, but changed lives for many of our alumni around the world. It is our intention to attract students worldwide to the Graziadio MBA who are not only interested in becoming entrepreneurs, but who are also committed to SEER (Socially, Environmentally and Ethically Responsible) values and using entrepreneurship to stimulate global economic development. We hope that you will discover your “beginnings” with us!

About the Author: Larry Cox, PhD, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, Graziadio Business School


[1]   2008. Sarasvathy, S. Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, UK.

[2]   2011. Ries, E. The Lean Startup. Crown Business: New York.