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Friday October 20, 2000

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Going 20 down the information superhighway

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By Nick Zeckets

E-commerce, business-2-business, dot-coms; these increasingly dominant trends are shaping the modern global economy and the University of Arizona may be falling behind. This week, Dr. Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business' class on the B2B phenomena will learn something staggering. All the while, the UA is sitting idly by, possibly misdirecting new initiatives and missing the point. The Eller College needs to beef up funding for classes on electronic entrepreneurship.

Professor Kaplan's brainchild, the entrepreneurship program at UC, began just four years ago and has already produced 13 affluent dot-comers. Some have sold their companies for as much as $100 million to Internet savvy venture capitalists. This week his class will learn that former UC student Jeffrey Parker's proposal they are studying has made him a multi-millionaire - $30 million to be precise in a buyout that brought his investors a 4,500% return.

Eller College programs are solid and have driven the school's MBA program to 31st in the nation, the entrepreneurship specialty to 21st and the Management Information Systems degree all the way to 5th nationally. However, new ideas and investors are flooding the Internet and to look that over could be quite costly to UA students.

Kaplan's greatest gift to his students may very well have nothing to do with the classroom. In a world where getting the right investors is critical to success, a hook-up could be worth more than a thousand hours under the tutelage of a master. The professor commonly sets up dinners for his ex-students and affluent investors looking to find the next Yahoo.

Eller school students are lucky if their respective fraternal organization yields a client. In the archaic business structure of Series-7 exams and cut throat brokerage houses, Internet moguls are emerging victorious - and younger.

While the UA is making technology improvements and boosting computer access for Eller students with a new $1 million computer lab, the idea just hasn't quite arrived.

As improvements to the tech side of UA's business school are focused around distance learning, other schools are investing in real futures, real programs and real money.

On the possibility of creating a program to specifically deal with dot-com business, MBA Admissions Counselor Dale Lin said that, "In the MBA program, we have classes that you can take to focus on dot-com business, but we don't have a specific program for it. That type of program is too specific."

Sherry Hoskinson of the entrepreneurship program at UA would have been able to give a more precise indication of where the UA is going, but was unavailable for comment.

At press time, First Analysis Venture Capital of Chicago was entrenched in an investment decision and unable to answer questions. They have been tied to Dr. Kaplan at UC as their managing director, Mark Koulogeorge, found that, "He's not just sitting in an ivory tower pontificating on issues he thinks may be relevant. He's on the front lines."

It is questionable as to who is on the front lines for UA, but one thing is certain. The Eller school's current direction is off track at best, and, at worst, giving students soon-to-be-antiquated educations. For certain, finance and accounting will always be a fixture of American economic services. However, the big bucks are finding their way into's.

Current business students need not fret just yet. There is a handful of good classes aimed at preparing your malleable minds for possible futures in internet venture capitalism. In the same breath, though, one must question whether what direction is offered here is enough to create the next Bill Gates or Steve Case.

In a recent survey of college students by the Chronicle for Higher Education, 51% indicated that they would be millionaires by the time they reached their 40s and 75% believed that they would reach the platinum mark sometime in their lifetime. These are lofty goals and it would be difficult to find how all such believers could make it so big. What will separate the rich from the almost-rich will be connections, support networks, and solid direction. Dot-com futures greatly depend on such instruments.

The Eller school needs to supply this school and its students with lucrative futures. Investing in B2B education is central to that future. Money doesn't grow on trees, but the Internet sure is green.