How do you know if you’re a starter or a joiner?
I think starters tend to know that they’re starters. The characteristics that I see of people starting businesses — especially from the idea level — tends to be almost a maniacal drive that informs the path forward. They are able to seek the yes in a pool of no’s over and over and over again. There is an intrinsic motivation and drive they have around the idea or product. So the ability to seek out the yes in the sea of no’s, to me, is the quality I see that is the nature of starters.
What are some of the biggest changes from how entrepreneurship was approached when you were a student at Tuck to how it is approached now?
The major thing that has changed is it’s a much hotter topic now. There was a curiosity about it back in 2005, when I started at Tuck. But it’s become mainstream now in MBA programs, and our programs at Tuck are reflecting that. So at least 50% of our students take one of our entrepreneurship courses. Around 25% elect to do a class project with a startup. And roughly 25% are active in entrepreneurship in some other way, such as our entrepreneurship club, our pitch competition, which is in conjunction with the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, a global initiative across entities at Dartmouth, starting a business, doing a summer internship at a startup, or joining an early-stage venture post-Tuck. So the numbers reflect the increased interest in entrepreneurship. And the programming is reflective of that as well.
What are the first few big goals or accomplishments you are thinking about?
The big thing from the broader perspective is to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and exploring across the board. For me, that means entrepreneurship as a way of thinking about ideas and problem solving, regardless of your career path. Some of that is being done, if 50% of the students are taking an entrepreneurship class, then of course they are getting that exposure to entrepreneurial thinking. But I think continuing to build on the concept that entrepreneurial thinking is something we should all be aware of regardless of the topic or the industry. There are a number of ways in which we will continue to do that, but that’s the initial goal.
As far as more concrete things, we already have great offerings across campus. And there are so many things to do for students that are not entrepreneurship-related or entrepreneurship-related during their two years on campus. Part of my job is really to help students cut through the noise of all of the activities on campus that may or may not have anything to do with entrepreneurship and really point them in the right direction. I want to make sure they know that the DEN Founders Forum has prize money associated with it and that they know how to apply to it and it’s not just for undergrads.
Building out on this idea of the starters and the joiners is really to make sure we offer career opportunities to the starters and the joiners. We have a robust internship program that subsidizes people who go into startups and fully-paid summers for people who are working on their own ideas for the summer and that’s great. I’d like to continue to build on that and make sure the joiners are very well supported in a career search for their full-time roles. Those are trickier roles for a career office to help with placement because they are less mobile and it’s tougher to find those roles — they don’t necessarily hire on an MBA graduation cycle. So helping students find those joiner roles is a critical part of keeping the entrepreneurship flowing through graduation time.
The other big goal for me is our presence on the west coast. I think there is a lot we at Tuck can do to understand the west coast better and play a bigger role out there — both generally and with entrepreneurship. That’s definitely something that’s high on my list and that I’m paying attention to, and frankly, one of the reasons I was highly interested in this role.
What are some things you think Tuck can be doing better in the entrepreneurship space?
I think continuing to engage the joiners. I’m not sure that a lot of students realize they can go to a “startup” and make low six-figures and have a lot of equity and they can in some ways have their cake and eat it, too, if they are willing to go to a later stage startup. So engaging the people for whom that is an interesting pathway is something that I think we can improve on.
We do a good job across campus, but I think there is always room to do it better. Some of that is making sure the appropriate programs across campus, no matter where they are, are relayed to the students as available for them. And obviously we talked about the west coast presence.
I think some of the bigger — probably not in the first year, but down the line types of things — we could certainly improve international entrepreneurship, whether that’s the developing world or the developed world. A lot of the focus of entrepreneurship at Tuck is domestic right now. I think there is a lot of room for social entrepreneurship. There are people that are interested — and we do have a Center for Business and Society — that we collaborate with. But I think working even more closely and being specific about nurturing social innovation and social entrepreneurship, we’ve got some room for improvement and some students who would be very interested in feeling more supported there.
The last thing I hope we will be doing really well in the future is we’ve talked about Tuck students being really strong joiners. One of the very typical career paths of Tuck alums into entrepreneurship is to go into another role after Tuck. They go into management consulting, for example. And then five years out go and join an early stage company. I hear from a lot of those alumni who are getting into entrepreneurship after Tuck. If we were able to support them better as they embark on their entrepreneurial journey, I think that would be really helpful for them. The person whose story immediately comes to mind is a woman named Audrey Kania, who is the co-founder and executive vice president of the World Poker Tour. But before that, she was a business development executive at Disney and her role there was to launch new business ventures. She was chief in expanding Winnie the Pooh to be a global consumer product. So she had this intrapreneurship job and then became co-founder of the World Poker Tour. Those sorts of stories are everywhere at Tuck. So supporting alumni who transition into entrepreneurship later on is something I’d like to focus on in the future as well.