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USF’s New Ticket To Bay Area Startup Scene

USF expects to get 20 to 25 students for its new Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, which launches this fall. Courtesy photo

Program Name: Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

School: University of San Francisco School of Management

Length of Program: 12 months

Cost: $45,900 ($1,275 per credit, 36 credits)

For a number of years now, Mark Cannice has proposed that the University of San Francisco School of Management — situated in the heart of the Bay Area, at the nexus of the startup world — launch a master’s program in entrepreneurship. For various reasons, it never happened.

Now, it’s happening. The USF Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will welcome its first cohort in the fall of 2017, thanks to the perseverance of Cannice, who proposed the program again in 2014 to then-new Dean Elizabeth Davis, “and she said I should go for it.”

Cannice, chair of the Department for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Strategy, designed the program with input from his department’s 10 full-time faculty, bringing together viewpoints from various disciplines, with a special focus on the intersection of tech and entrepreneurship, because after all, the school is only a few miles north of Silicon Valley and at the center of San Francisco’s booming startup culture.

But despite the name and a format that emphasizes starting one’s own business — one-third of the program is dedicated explicitly to launching a venture — Cannice says the new master’s is not aimed exclusively at those wishing to start a company.

“The program is really positioned as a professionalizing experience for very early-career people who would like to launch an entrepreneurial career in Silicon Valley,” Cannice tells Poets&Quants. “We believe the highest value proposition is for very recent graduates coming with undergrad degrees from various disciplines whether it be the arts, humanities, sciences, technology. Tthey may have a passion in their discipline, but perhaps they’re attracted to the notion of being part of Silicon Valley and the startup culture ecosystem.”

Mark Cannice, department chair and professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of San Francisco School of Management. Courtesy photo

Why is USF launching this program? “The idea is that, students come to San Francisco, they come to Silicon Valley, and we make sure that they develop the business, analytical and technical skills but also garner the experiences,” Cannice says. USF will pair the classroom academics with internships at companies that are “relative to their interest,” including several major players in the Bay Area. “And also we advise them as they launch a startup as part of the curriculum, and they get mentoring right away, as well.

“It’s a very targeted curriculum that focuses on, again, the business and technical skills, but also the mentorship, the company experience, the developing a new venture experience, we really think think they’re going to be much better equipped to either join an enterprise or start their own.”

Among the partners who have been working with USF as the program prepares for launch, whether as potential mentors or destinations for interns, are Salesforce, Morgan Stanley, and MightyHive, says Gleb Nikitenko, assistant professor and director of the MSEI. “They have not ‘officially’ signed on,” Nikitenko tells Poets&Quants of the roster of companies that includes Verlocal, Spendgo, Parisoma, and SOMAStreatFoodPark, “but their representatives have been working with us for a while as mentors, internship organizers, etc. They continue working with us on our entrepreneurial programming, including the MSEI.”

How is this program different from what else is on the market? Location, location, location. USF is right in the middle of startup and innovation culture in the most dynamic economy in the world, Cannice points out. “If somebody wants to come and start a career in Silicon Valley, this will help them really get the tools and experience to certainly heighten their chance of doing that successfully,” he says.

Who is the ideal applicant and student? “We’re thinking of students who are really just graduating with an undergraduate degree, or maybe have worked for no more than two or three years, and then they join us and really get immersed in the local business environment, but also we make sure they get the skills so they can become very valuable to quickly contribute to an enterprise.”

So far, Cannice says, interest has been high, and some applicants have already been accepted into what he expects to be a cohort of between 20 and 25 students. “We think we’ll get a broad range of folks from across the U.S. and internationally, and really introduce them to this ecosystem and prepare them to be a vital part of it.”

What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? Applicants must complete an essay and also provide a resume, letters of recommendation, and unofficial transcripts. Neither the GMAT nor GRE are required, Cannice says, because “we are looking for folks who have completed a degree, but the GMAT is typically targeted toward an MBA, and that’s not what this is. In the essay, we are asking them to articulate what it is about this place and this program that is really going to help them achieve their professional objectives. And so we’re really focused on looking at each individual and not whether they can score very highly on a particular test.”

What are the application deadlines? Two rounds of applications remain. The round 4 deadline to apply for admission to the fall 2017 cohort is May 15; the final-round deadline is June 15.

What can a student do to best prepare for the program in advance of its start? Books to read? Podcasts to listen to? TED talks to watch? “Even when students apply and are accepted, the program in a way really starts then, because we’re asking them in their essay, ‘What’s the ideal company you want to work for?'” Cannice says. “And then before they even get here, we want them to start to do some research and groundwork on learning about the opportunities that they can start to work with us on right away in the mentoring, which will help us place them in an internship in their second semester.”

What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? The program will be taught in three modules. The first, Academic Foundations (months one to four), is comprised of six courses worth two credits each and will cover fundamentals; courses include Philosophy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting, and Internet Business Applications. “The first semester is focused primarily on acquiring some business and technical skill sets, but also getting some early mentoring,” Cannice says. “The idea is, we will really try to unearth students’ professional objectives: what they hope to achieve, what’s most meaningful to them.”

The end of the first module segues into the beginning of the second, Cannice says, because by the end of the first students will have developed a professional development plan “that will help them try to identify the best possible internship for them in their second semester.” The second module, Customized Practicum/Internship (months five to eight), is comprised of four courses worth two credits each, as well as that internship, which is worth four credits — about a third of the module. The courses are Entrepreneurial Leadership, Organizations and Ethics; Organizational Entrepreneurship and Innovation Methods; Emerging Business Technology Tools; and an elective. As for the internship, “We’ll work with each student to place them in a startup company or social enterprise, or maybe a family business, where they can begin to utilize their skills with a very well-managed project that serves the company or the organization but also has some academic content,” Cannice says.

The third and final module, Launch New Venture (months nine to 12), includes four two-credit courses — Entrepreneurial Marketing, Analytics, and Sales; Entrepreneurial Strategy and Planning; Entrepreneurial Law; and an elective — as well as the four-credit New Venture Launch, which is just what it sounds like: Each student or student team plans and launches a new venture in a commercial, nonprofit, social, international, or some other space. ‘There will be milestones for them to achieve, as far as incorporation, product prototyping, initiating some level of sales, and presenting their enterprise to a panel,” Cannice says.

“Everything that they learn is very focused on this idea of generating and helping grow a very vibrant, entrepreneurial organization,” he adds.

What do you expect student outcomes to be? “One outcome might be that they join a venture-backed startup. I think that would be a good risk-return profile,” Cannice says. “Another outcome might be, if they have a social inclination, maybe they join a funded social enterprise. Perhaps they learn some skill sets to help build out their family business. Maybe they want to take on a product development role or a sales role in, say, a larger enterprise, like a well-established or public firm. And a smaller fraction will launch their own businesses. But we don’t expect that is going to be the top outcome. We don’t think that’s to the benefit of our students, especially if they come to us with limited experience.”

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