Annenberg hosts strategy series speaker with David McCourt

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The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Media, Economics and Entrepreneurship (M{2E}) program hosted David C. McCourt as part of its “Strategy Session” series.

“These sessions are typically designed to have an outside senior leader from an outside agency come in and talk about a particular problem in a particular industry area,” said Chris Smith, co-director of M{2E}. McCourt’s list of achievements includes winning an Emmy for Reading Rainbow and receiving an award from the White House for his accomplishments in the private sector. Previously, he has served as the Resident Economist at Annenberg.

In this discussion, McCourt talked about what he learned during his career in telecommunications, working on everything from the development of the first economically viable cable company to a partnership with the Irish government. To begin the session, McCourt discussed the many disadvantages facing young entrepreneurs of this generation. “When I was doing a research program, you had to get a book. It allowed you to connect the dots and go about pattern recognition,” McCourt said. “You can Google something and the machine does it for you.

When you had to do that the old way you developed a pattern recognition yourself.” McCourt, however, praised USC for the work it does with entrepreneurship. “This media, economics and entrepreneurship [program] solves that, and you’re the only university that’s doing that,” McCourt said. McCourt recently set up a partnership with the Irish government to create enet, which they hope will be a model for providing Internet access to rural communities in the Middle East and Africa.

When asked why he selected Ireland for this startup, McCourt cited two major reasons. “Number one, Ireland is a small enough country that we can test things. It’s 12 percent of the population of Southern California, so we can do something and see the results,” McCourt said. “Number two, this company has to be based somewhere and we don’t want it to be an Americancentered company.” McCourt hopes that through enet, he will bring engineers from satellite, fiber optics and cellular backgrounds to tackle the issue of affordable access to the Internet, which McCourt sees as an ethical duty as Internet provides everything from media to healthcare.

“There’s three billion people who are screwed from getting ahead,” McCourt said. “We want to find a way to connect those people.” Despite the current resentment towards American communications companies because of strict government regulations, McCourt argued that regulatory bodies have little effect on business. “My general view on regulatory bodies is that they will almost never put a startup business, but they’ll almost never take a startup out of business,” McCourt said. “I think you almost have to ignore these regulatory bodies and do what’s right.”

Throughout the discussion, McCourt emphasized three things about his ideas on business. He said he valued an adherence to ethics, innovative thought and willingness to fail. Many students said the topic that resonated with them the most was McCourt’s emphasis on “quality failure.”

McCourt believes that the only way to be an entrepreneur is to embrace failure and then find a way to remedy it. He considers the fear of failure to be a great disadvantage inn. Denise Guerra, a second-year graduate student studying journalism, supported this idea. “My favorite part was his speech on failure and failing better and the idea that it’s continuing experimentation,” she said. Miles Winston, a senior majoring in public relations, echoed this opinion.

“[Failing harder] resonates with me as I’m thinking about what to do next,” Winston said. McCourt closed the discussion with an emphasis on collaboration. “[Partnership]’s been good for all aspects of my life,” McCourt said, citing everything from his businesses to his marriage

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