Tepper’s AI Entrepreneurs: Achieving The Intelligent Future Through Collaboration & Innovation

Carnegie Mellon Tepper Class of 2018 MBA JJ Xu launched her company, TalkMeUp, right after graduating. Courtesy photo

JJ Xu had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her MBA journey at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business powered that dream to reality.

It was during her studies at the Tepper School that Xu came up with the idea for TalkMeUp — an AI-powered platform designed to elevate workforce communication effectiveness training with no training sessions required. She eventually incorporated TalkMeUp after graduating in 2018.

It never could have happened without the guidance and resources she received at Tepper.

“Tepper gave me many resources and inspired me to think out of the box,” Xu says. “The business school helps you develop the mindset of how to utilize all of your resources.”


Xu studied under the Tepper MBA program’s Entrepreneurship track, one of five the school offers. The others are Business Analytics, Energy & Sustainability, Management of Innovation & Product Development, and Technology Strategy & Product Management.

“Within the Entrepreneurship track, there are courses to teach students how to grow as entrepreneurs in different stages, and gain all of the knowledge you need to run a business,” Xu says.

Her professors brought lessons from their time working in their fields and were always happy to connect her with their networks. One of the many valuable lessons that she still practices today, she says, is to keep growing her network, and to keep learning by requesting additional referrals in her conversations.

She is still very much a part of the CMU community.

“I find I can still reach out to alumni I don’t know. They almost always get back to me and generously provide me with support and information” she says.

Tepper professor Jim Jen, far right, and students. Courtesy photo


The boom in AI has put Tepper MBAs to work front and center with actual companies to solve problems they’re currently facing, says Jim Jen, professor of entrepreneurship and director of its Corporate Startup Lab (CSL). They take those lessons into their plans for their own companies.

“AI is shaking things up, and companies are all rethinking their strategies, looking at what are new opportunities and what are threats,” Jen says. “That’s top of mind for our corporate partners right now, and we have student teams exploring how to reshape their strategies with them.”

At the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, students work with corporate partners to create solutions for real life problems they are facing. “Students get a firsthand experience working on innovation with corporate partners, and they really have to think outside of the box,” says Jen.


Entrepreneurs by nature — and often by necessity — are collaborative, and Tepper is well known for its highly collaborative community, Jen says. “At the core of Tepper and CMU in general,” he says, “there are a bunch of principles. One is interdisciplinary collaboration.”

That principle served Xu well. While she was building TalkMeUp, she says, she spent much of her time at the Gates and Hillman Centers, where the School of Computer Science is housed, networking with professors and students there and pushing her idea for a company closer and closer to reality.

Many tech-based companies can credit the Swartz Center, where CSL is based, for the support that made them work. The Lab — focused on advancing corporate innovation/entrepreneurship by bringing together students from different disciplines — was integral to that journey.

“Students work with teammates from other disciplines, which is essential for success post-graduation,” says Jen. “That, by definition, is going to be collaborative.”

Tepper photo


Jen says Tepper is preparing its students for the Intelligent Future, creating human-driven solutions backed by data to benefit humanity. First-year MBA candidate Nate Patterson is a perfect example.

“I came to Tepper because of the culture of innovation at CMU,” Patterson says. “If you choose, you can surround yourself with some of the brightest minds in CS, AI, and robotics.”

While self-teaching software engineering, Patterson developed a passion for agile solutions — continuous collaboration over a project’s lifecycle — and AI-based problem-solving. He transitioned into the startup world, and recently founded a legaltech startup called Compos Mentis.

Patterson says the Swartz Center at the Tepper School played a crucial role in supporting him, as it did for many others.

“From the outset, the Center has provided us with invaluable assets,” he says, naming a few: free cloud credits to support students’ technological needs, dedicated workspace conducive to collaboration and creativity, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, and warm introductions to industry leaders and potential investors. “These resources have been pivotal in accelerating our venture’s growth trajectory.”


Tepper grad Bob Dimicco, co-founder and CEO of Revealai, is also working toward the Intelligent Future with his company, an AI-powered interview platform that helps customers turn data into decisions.

Dimicco was initially inspired to become an entrepreneur by Don Jones, whose gift to the Tepper School established the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship. “Being an early-stage startup, we all worked together, and I often was in meetings with Don, our customers and team members,” Dimicco says. “His leadership, passion for our mission, energy, enthusiasm, and confidence in taking risks were infectious.”

Dimicco thought Tepper’s entrepreneurship courses were perfect for learning everything about startups. “I just loved the feeling of growth in creating something out of nothing more than an idea, so to speak,” he says.

Like Xu, multidisciplinary collaboration was key for Dimicco. He was also closely connected with the Computer Science School, and he was greatly supported by the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship.

“For any tech-oriented entrepreneur, Tepper, Swartz, and CMU are the perfect combination of programs and community,” Dimicco says.


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