The way Daniella Reichstetter sees it, there are two types of entrepreneurs. Starters and joiners. Reichstetter is a joiner. And as the newly appointed co-director of the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, she wants to know the doors are open for her fellow joiners.
So what’s a joiner? “Those are people who do really well at early-stage companies,” Reichstetter tells Poets&Quants. “They can provide a balance to the starters in a variety of ways. Frankly, I am a joiner. I’ve started companies but I thrive when I’m a joiner. And I think that Tuck tends to have a lot of really great joiners.”
She would know. Reichstetter has spent 15 years working for or with early-stage ventures. She was an early hire at Method, Jetboil, and Belcampo. And now the 2007 Tuck graduate is taking that experience into a school with a plethora of entrepreneurship options for MBAs. Tuck offers 17 entrepreneurship-focused courses, and Reichstetter says at least 50% of MBAs take at least one. About a quarter of the MBA population partakes in at least one co-curricular entrepreneurial offering.
BUILDING ON A SOLID ENTREPRENEURIAL FOUNDATION
Indeed, the entrepreneurial foundation has been in place at Tuck for some time. An established and thriving entrepreneurship club exists. So do multiple student-run venture capital funds focused on Dartmouth startups. Students may take advantage of business plan competitions offered by Tuck and the broader Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN). Founded in 2001, the DEN has gone through a few uplifts, most recently an impressive Innovation Center in 2014. Over the past 15 years, more than 4,000 Dartmouth ventures have been funded. Alumni networks exist in more than 14 entrepreneurial hubs across the globe.
But for Reichstetter, who describes her new role as a “perfect confluence” of her nearly career-long dedication to entrepreneurship and her love for her MBA alma mater, there is more to do, including getting more joiners through the doors. “One of the things that attracted me to this role is to help people understand that entrepreneurship isn’t just starters — it’s starters and joiners,” she says. “That can be intrapreneurship. That can be the first managerial hire at a company that just got funding. There are many ways people can be in an entrepreneurial environment that are not simply just starting the company themselves.”
One of the biggest challenges for that is job placement, Reichstetter points out. Early-stage startups certainly are not on the same hiring schedule as traditional companies that gobble up fresh crops of MBAs every summer. They also can be difficult to find for career services offices. So Reichstetter believes it falls to her and her office to make those matches happen.
In a wide-ranging interview with Poets&Quants, Reichstetter delves into detail about her initial goals for the program, what Tuck can improve on in entrepreneurship, and her plan to increase Tuck’s West Coast presence. See the full transcript, edited for readability, below.
It’s been almost 10 years since you graduated from Tuck with your MBA and now you’re back in a very prominent role within the entrepreneurship department. How does it feel?
I did entrepreneurship before Tuck, during Tuck, and after Tuck. And after graduating from Tuck, I stayed involved as an alumni volunteer on a bunch of levels — judging business plan competitions and sitting on panels and involvement in development. For me, coming into this role is a perfect confluence of my worlds. My allegiance to Tuck and involvement in entrepreneurship made this a perfect storm for me, and I’m delighted to be here. It’s fun to be around all of the student energy with respect to entrepreneurship. I remember being that student.
What initially attracted you to this role and what were the conversations like with Tuck when you were thinking through the decision to leave practice for academia?
I would say that the courting was probably in both directions. But as far as my desire to be in this role in particular, I’ve spent the majority of the last four years actually advising or as a consultant to early stage companies. That’s sort of a direct bridge to what I’m doing here with the student teams.
More broadly, the way I think about entrepreneurship as it applies to business school and people in general is there are starters and joiners. There are people who are the idea people and they are constantly tinkering and are dead-set that their ideas are going to be successful and needed in the market. There is a lot of talk about the nature versus nurture of entrepreneurs and I tend to think for the starters, it’s very much nature. Then there are joiners and those are people who do really well at early stage companies. They can provide a balance to the starters in a variety of ways. Frankly, I am a joiner. I’ve started companies but I thrive when I’m a joiner. And I think that Tuck tends to have a lot of really great joiners. We have many great starters, but we do also have a lot of great joiners. That’s by virtue of having the most collegial business school program in the country. You’re doing all of your work in study groups. You’re getting feedback from the members in your study groups. There is a very big component of being able to work together that is intrinsic in the education people get at Tuck. And that creates excellent joiners.
So one of the things that attracted me to this role is to help people understand that entrepreneurship isn’t just starters — it’s starters and joiners. That can be intrapreneurship. That can be the first managerial hire at a company that just got funding. There are many ways people can be in an entrepreneurial environment that are not simply just starting the company themselves. To me, it’s a very exciting opportunity to foster here at Tuck.