The interview with both alums takes place in 1871, a 50,000-square-foot tech hub that spans an entire floor of Chicago’s historic Merchandise Mart and hosts startups, incubators, and venture capitalists. Kellogg holds a dedicated office and up to 18 memberships so students can use the space. It’s a symbolic and literal expression of the B-school’s push for territory in Chicago’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene.
Lutz may have been an unusual case by setting her sights on Kellogg for an entrepreneurial experience, but more and more students with the startup bug are eying the B-school. Priya Mathew, a rising second year in the MMM Program, which awards dual degrees from Kellogg and the McCormick School of Engineering, worked at Google and enrolled with the intention of starting a company. “I was blown away by the options,” she says. As the co-president of the Entrepreneurship Club for 2014-2015, she’s certainly made the most of them: She’s pursued her goal to create a company and is working on a weight training app for bodybuilders with engineering and journalism students through an NUvention course. She’ll also intern with Narrative Science through the Kellogg Entrepreneurship Internship Program, which awards $5,000 grants to students working at startups over the summer.
Jason Sandler, a ’15 JD/MBA, has also benefited firsthand from Kellogg’s programs. Sandler and his team claimed the top prize at the Super Bowl of business plan contests, the University of Texas’ Global Venture Labs Investment Competition. Their pitch for Innoblative Designs, a breast cancer treatment startup, wowed the judges and landed them a $75,000 prize package that included a chance to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York City. For him, the real benefit was the access to students across the campus – his teammates represent Northwestern’s law, medical, and engineering schools. Interestingly, the company’s lead inventor is the chief of surgical oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The fact that you can reach outside the walls of the Jacobs Center and go to the Ford Design Center or the tech building, that really made the difference for me,” he says.
However, students like Mathew and Sandler are still in the minority. Only 4% of graduating business school students worldwide in 2013 planned to be self-employed upon completing their degree, according to a report by the Graduate Management Admission Council. But Blount says that’s beside the point. “Most people aren’t ready to come out [of business school] and build a startup, but for the ones who are, we should be ready,” she says. Moreover, the number of self-employed MBAs jumps up to 11% among alumni from the classes of 1959 to 2013, suggesting that graduates are more inclined to start their businesses a few years after earning their diploma.
At the end of the interview, I ask Darragh if she’s seen the HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley.” She hadn’t. I explain the show’s premise about entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who take themselves too seriously. She looks at me blankly. For Kellogg, one thing is clear: entrepreneurship is a serious subject.