It all started with a Google Doc. With HBS students’ interest and activity in entrepreneurship at an all-time high, what seemed lacking was a way to obtain and allocate funding that students could use to test out their ideas for startups.
Enter Dan Rumennik, a Columbia University-trained engineer and former McKinsey consultant, who during his first year at HBS created an online document seeking input from students, faculty, and alumni about establishing a fund to support Minimum Viable Products (MVP), a concept developed by Eric Ries (also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the School) as part of his Lean Startup methodology. The idea is to bring a new product to market as quickly as possible (rather than wait for perfection), see how it fares with actual customers, and then continue to refine and improve it.
With the help of classmates Jess Bloomgarden and Andrew Rosenthal, Rumennik won the support of the HBS Dean’s Office and faculty leaders at the School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship. The result was the creation of an MVP Fund totaling $50,000 and a process for judging and rewarding student teams each semester with cash awards of $5,000. “At the judging sessions that Dan developed,” explained one classmate who nominated Rumennik for the Dean’s Award, “three students sit alongside three faculty, judging entries. What’s so special about this from the student point of view is that faculty and students have equal voices and equal votes when it comes to approving the awards.” Under Rumennik’s leadership, the winning teams met every four weeks with a mentor, attended a monthly gathering with other teams, and discussed ‘lessons learned’ at the end of each semester.
Rumennik also played a major role in co-founding the HBS Startup Tribe – a virtual and physical community of HBS students interested in entrepreneurship. As co-president of the TechMedia Club, he helped lead a student organization dedicated to making HBS a global leader in the high tech and new media industries, building a community with a passion for these sectors, providing networking opportunities with professionals as well as students from other schools, facilitating recruiting efforts, and presenting a highly-regarded annual conference called the Cyberposium. In addition, Rumennik launched the Harvard Tech Meetup last fall, an event that attracted hundreds of people from the Greater Boston area to HBS to learn about and discuss all things high tech and entrepreneurial.
No wonder, therefore, that one nominator praised Rumennik for “his leadership in a number of roles, his vision, and his ability to motivate, involve, and enthuse those around him. Dan has succeeded in establishing traditions that will remain a part of the HBS experience well beyond his time here.”
After graduation, Rumennik will devote his time to his role as founder of a new lifestyle brand– the first natural wellness drink for stress relief called “bcalm.” “HBS has truly been a transformative experience for me,” he said. “I came here from consulting with no real idea of what I was going to end up doing. Thanks to the education, people, and resources at HBS, I was able to take an inspiration and turn it into a tangible product.”