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2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Yael Hochberg, Rice University Jones School

Yael V. Hochberg

Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
Associate Professor of Finance

Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University

 

Yael Hochberg

What’s a sign of a top professor? Enter Yael Hochberg. This 39-year-old has taught at four top business schools during the course of her career and seems to have the same remarkable impact on students no matter where she goes. Students she’s taught at Kellogg and Cornell credit her with making long-lasting impressions through her teaching and mentorship. “10 years removed from her class, I still find myself calling Yael for advice, and she continues to network me with her classes and efforts,” says one former student from Cornell. “I’m one of many MBA students that owe their successful career in VC to Professor Hochberg. Her dedication to her students goes far beyond the classroom,” says another from Kellogg. Hochberg is also making her presence felt in the venture capital and startup arenas. In addition to her widely published research on the venture capital industry, accelerators, networks and corporate governance and compensation policies, she serves as Academic Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, which publishes the annual ranking of accelerator programs in the U.S.

Age: 39

At current institution since: 2014

Education:

PhD, Finance, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, 2003; AM, Economics, Stanford University, 2000; BSc, Industrial Engineering and Management, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, 1997

Courses currently teaching:

Entrepreneurial Strategy (Foundations of Entrepreneurship I), Financing the Entrepreneurial Venture, Energy E-Lab

Professor you most admire: My dad. He inspired me to consider academia and has been supportive of my career every step of the way.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” The internet bubble imploded. I looked around the destruction in Silicon Valley—I was at Stanford at the time—and decided there was just so much we didn’t know about startups, entrepreneurship, and innovation. I wanted to be part of putting together that puzzle.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I’d probably be a venture capitalist. I love working with startups and helping entrepreneurs succeed. It’s been a driving force for my choice to be an entrepreneurship professor. I’ve been on the other side of the table as an entrepreneur as well, but have found I enjoy the board member/advisor side more.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: The first time a former student reached out to tell me that he had gotten his dream job at a brand-name VC firm, and that it had stemmed from knowledge and connections made through my course. Being thanked for his achievements made me realize I had real impact—that the things I said in the classroom could change the trajectories of people’s careers. To this day, the best moments I have as a professor are when my students come back to me years later and tell me that they are where they are today because I helped encourage them to pursue their dreams, gave them the tools, and made them realize they could be successful.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Managing the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. When we first started out, we had no idea how impactful the project would be. There is very little transparency and knowledge about the relative quality of accelerator programs and their startups’ outcomes outside of a few famous programs like YCombinator and Techstars. And there are hundreds of programs out there. We have heard from so many entrepreneurs who appreciate how our rankings project has helped them identify the high-quality programs and find the ones that are a good fit for their business and their goals. The rankings have allowed the best programs to showcase their outcomes, and they have also allowed us to give back to the community in the form of rigorous research on the impact of accelerators and their contribution to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? The impact I have on the students. As a professor, you touch so many lives and influence so many careers. You have the opportunity to inspire your students to greatness, guide them, and help them see the myriad opportunities they can pursue for success. I try to keep in touch with students after graduation, and am always happy to provide them with advice and mentorship.I still have mentorship relationships with students who took my classes over a decade ago, and it is amazing to see what they have accomplished.

What do you enjoy least? When students come to my classes just to tick off the “I took an entrepreneurship course” box. You have to have real passion to be an entrepreneur.

Fun fact about yourself: I served as a weapons and ballistics expert in the Israeli police force between high school and college. I’ve handled nearly every type of weapon you can think of. And some questionable home-made ones as well.

Favorite book: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Favorite movie: Fifth Element

Favorite type of music: Indie/Alternative

Favorite television show: Game of Thrones.

Favorite vacation spot:Playa Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

What are your hobbies? Rock climbing, running, biking.

Twitter handle: @yaelhochberg

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” A more integrated and experiential focus. We do a great job of delivering basic discipline fundamentals (finance, accounting, marketing, etc.) but often the students falter when it comes to understanding how the tools we teach apply or are implemented outside of the classroom. Also, management in today’s world is becoming increasingly inter-disciplinary, and our graduates should understand how the different pieces of a business fit together and interact. This is especially true for students who hope to lead entrepreneurial, innovation-driven or high-growth companies.

 Students say…

I was one of Yael Hochberg’s students while pursuing my MBA at Kellogg. While there, I participated in Yael’s Venture Lab program, an experiential learning class that placed students in start-up companies, accelerators and venture capital firms to help us get hands-on experience and exposure to what and how those groups do what they do. I found her classes and mentorship vital, and she and I remain close. Yael has gotten at least four of her MBA students placed in the Kauffman Fellows Program (including me!) after graduation. Together, she and I co-authored the Seed Accelerator rankings, the definitive ranking guide for seed accelerators, which were quoted in publications like The New York Times and BusinessWeek. They now have their own panel at SXSW. Her research is a highly regarded and used by venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, who have quoted her work directly to me on multiple occasions.

– student survey

Being a great professor requires balance between deep academic curiosity, being able to pull out of those depths and make that material accessible to students. Yael Hochberg stands out amongst the many professors I have had (and I have had many as an MD/MBA), which is why I am enthusiastically nominating her for this well deserved recognition. Her classes truly inspired me at Cornell, and became practical in my later career as I established not only a successful healthcare consulting business, but as I advise healthcare start-ups in San Francisco. Her class was made practical through applicable knowledge and fantastic seminars with entrepreneur and investors to cement the lessons.  And now, 10 years removed from her class, I still find myself calling Yael for advice, and she continues to network me with her classes and efforts at Rice. That’s a powerful combination for a professor.

– student survey

I was privileged to be one of Prof. Hochberg’s students at Kellogg. I am forever grateful for her mentorship and guidance, as well as her innovative Venture Lab course, which opened the opportunity for me to join Canaan Partners, a global $4.2B top tier venture capital fund. She has a tremendous impact on my career. Even after graduation, Prof. Hochberg continues to be a mentor to me. With her endorsement, I was admitted to the prestigious Kauffman Fellows Program. Prof. Hochberg was one of the contributors and advisors on my final project, challenging me to push the envelope and present new thought leadership on next generation investment models. I’m one of many MBA students that owe their successful career in VC to Prof. Hochberg. Her dedication to her students goes far beyond the classroom.

– student survey

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