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The Apprentice, Teen-Style

A small private middle school in Silicon Valley has a program to show teens how to start up their own companies.

While The Donald has gotten all the press about his show to pick a young entrepreneur, a small private middle school in the heart of Silicon Valley has been doing him better and far longer with a program to show teens how to start up their own companies. (And with no $250k salary at the end of the rainbow either!) Here is a report from one kid's father Rich Mironov, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Rich is currently VP of Marketing at AirMagnet, a wireless network management tools vendor. His site (www.mironov.com) includes a column about start-ups called Product Bytes.

Most founders of venture capital-backed start-ups tend toward technical degrees, MBAs and 40-something gray hair -- with a strong male bias. Here in the heart of Silicon Valley, though, there's a group of seventh-grade girls who are doing it all: writing business plans, raising venture capital, manufacturing products, and running their own profitable companies. Ten years from now, you may be working for one of them.

The Girls' Middle School (www.girlsms.org) has a required full-year course in entrepreneurship where all of the girls form companies, design products, and build defensible business plans. The highlight of the first half-year was a pitch night for actual Sand Hill VCs to get their start-up capital, complete with PowerPoint slides and an audience of 300. That started a frenzied six-month selling season for companies that made jewelry, snack foods, fleece clothing, and handbags sewn from recycled juice pouches.

[Full disclosure: While I'm related to one of these Young Turks, they still let me watch from the sidelines while they did competitive analysis, computed contribution margins, and sold to sometimes-indifferent buyers. My big challenge was to not help.]

WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN SCHOOL TODAY? Coming to the end of the year, I asked some of these proto-entrepreneurs what they've learned. See if these sound familiar.

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