Category Archives: Entrepreneur Profiles

Engineers or MBAs: B Schools Losing According to Facebook Study |

Inc on an interesting study pointing to Engineers over MBA’s.

You’ve finished your undergraduate degree and you’re peering into the haze of your future. Would it be better to continue on to an MBA or do an advanced degree in a nerdy pursuit like engineering or mathematics? Sure, tech skills are hugely in demand and there are a few high-profile nerd success stories, but how often do pencil-necked geeks really succeed in business? Aren’t polished, suited and suave MBA-types more common at the top?

Not according to a recent white paper from Identified, tellingly entitled “Revenge of the Nerds.” The company, which analyzes Facebook profiles, combed through its database, culling information on the profiles of CEOs and founders to see what path they took to entrepreneurial success. The result: Three times as many had advanced degrees in engineering than had an MBA. When it came to company leaders with only an undergrad education, the number with degrees in business and engineering was about evenly split.

The company also found that the age of founders is falling. In 2008 the average was 36. This year is was 33. And while 90 percent of the profiles analyzed were for U.S.-based entrepreneurs, that doesn’t mean the founders and CEOs were originally from the U.S. The Institute of Technology Bombay, Canada’s University of Waterloo and China’s Tsinghua University joined perennial American favorites Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, CalTech, and Carnegie Mellon among the most common training grounds of top engineers.

So why are nerds triumphing these days? Identified speculates that the boy king of Facebook may deserve some credit:

Perhaps the widely chronicled nerd-inspiring story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg–the fact is that more engineers are striking out on their own to launch new endeavors, particularly in the IT, social and mobile industries. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2011 saw “an across-the-board increase in the rate of entrepreneurial activity has not been seen in the U.S. in the last ten years,” and “the majority of entrepreneurs were motivated by improvement-driven opportunities to start new ventures.”

via Engineers or MBAs: Who Triumphs as Entrepreneurs? |

Inspiring #SOCENT Story from ASU | Forbes College Social Innovator Award

Inspiring story of Nicollette Lewis, a social entrepreneur out of ASU that made her own personal loss a starting point to solve a difficult social issue — that of kids ‘aging’ out of foster care at 18 and being unprepared for independence and adulthood. From ASU:

The idea for the program grew out of an assignment from a leadership action course at the W. P Carey School of Business, in which Lewis and Nathan were asked to present their ideas on how to take action in the community. After solidifying their ideas and coming up with a business plan, Nathan and Lewis went on to enter and win the spring 2011 Innovation Challenge.

For Lewis, the cause holds special meaning, as she became an orphan after losing both her parents by age 15. Although fortunate enough to live with family members, Lewis says was still forced to grow up quickly at a young age.

“I didn’t know how to navigate the legal system to receive social security benefits and how that fits into paying for college,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of other kids who are in that same situation where their needs get ignored because they don’t have the state looking out for them to help with the things that parents would normally do.”

After visiting ASU while in high school, Lewis said she immediately gravitated to the business management degree from the W. P. Carey School of Business. After four years of hard work, she received her bachelor’s degree in December.

For now, Lewis is enjoying dedicating all of her energy to Partnered for Success and the youth in her program. In the future, however, she dreams of traveling to India to study religion and spirituality, while simultaneously donating her time working in a boarding school in the Himalaya Mountains.

And although she misses her family, Lewis says their words of wisdom will always stay with her.

“My parents instilled a lot of great values in me while I had them. I know they wouldn’t want me to mope and let the negative aspects of everything overcome my life,” said Lewis. “I may as well turn this tragedy into something that I can use to benefit other kids facing similar situations.”

Pretty amazing and another really interesting entrepreneurial story coming out of ASU — the New American University.

via ASU alum wins Forbes College Social Innovator Award | ASU News.

Why We Love Student Entrepreneurs: X-Men References that Old Reporters Don’t Get!

Inc story on Groupon Founder Andrew Mason’s interview with 60 Minutes highlights why we love student entrepreneurs and don’t watch 60 Minutes.

He said of getting rapped by regulators: “I’m not going to pretend like its been fun to have something that we poured our hearts into over the last three years, and see it criticized while we have our mouths taped shut.”

Then he added, sounding more like Groupon’s wacky deals copy than the CEO of a company that employs 10,000 people in 46 countries, “We’ve now been hazed, we’re like Wolverine and our skin has been melted off. We’ve had adamantium fused onto our bones. And it’s made us stronger as a result.”

(Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” failed to get the X-Men reference, saying “I’m not sure what that means.” Wolverine, for the record, is a near-indestructible mutant. He has a metal alloy, also nearly indestructible, called Admantium bonded to his skeleton.)

Later Mason, who came up with the core idea for Groupon while studying Public Policy at the University of Chicago, stated, “It was just this rocket ship ride that you couldn’t let go. But you didn’t want to let go either,” he said.

via Groupon CEO Andrew Mason: We Made a “Bush-League Mistake” |

Research Sample: Case Study Campus, University of Chicago | Bump’s David Lieb On 60 Million Downloads | Video

One of the cases that I am completing is of the University of Chicago. Perhaps the most prominent venture out of the University of Chicago in recent years is Groupon. Another great success out of the Booth School of Business is Bump Technologies.

Two of the founders, David Lieb and Jake Mintz, conceived of the initial idea while in a first year accounting class and eventually won the school’s 2009 New Venture Challenge. Below is an interview with Lieb via Tech Crunch.

(Founder Stories) Bump’s David Lieb On Getting To 60 Million Downloads | TechCrunch.

Research Sample: Student Entrepreneur Database | Plaxo Founder Todd Masonis

One element of my research is the construction of a database of high impact firms that were created by students. I am currently going through the database to fill in gaps and validate that various firms fit the definition of high impact. One of the firms is Plaxo. I came across this interview with Plaxo Co-Founder Todd Masonis. Mr. Masonis and Cameron Ring are described as Stanford Engineers in early Plaxo press releases and media. The interview with Todd Masonis:

2) I understand that Plaxo is the third company you have founded. Can I ask, what motivated you to get into business, to become an Entrepreneur and how old were you when you founded your first business?

I had always been interested in starting a company — and going to Stanford in the late nineties accelerated that idea. At that time (during the bubble), everyone was trying to start a company or dream up start-up ideas. So for my first company, some friends and I started it over one summer between Freshman and Sophomore year of college. I was about 18 years old then. We built a product, launched, it got users, got some press, and got some great experience. Eventually we decided to kill it and go back to school, but the experience was incredibly valuable for when we started Plaxo.

7) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?

I think the hardest part is just starting. There are a million reasons why an idea won’t work or insurmountable obstacles you could imagine. However, I think you just need to jump in and start. In the worst case, you will fail and learn from that and try again.  So if you have an idea or passion, you should just do it.

via Todd Masonis Interview.

ASU Student Startup Wins College Entrepreneur of the Year | #Socent #Socinn

Entrepreneur Magazine has named ASU student Garbrielle Palermo  its College Entrepreneur of the Year based on the work she and 3 engineering classmates did in launching G3Box. I will definitely stop by the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative at Skysong when I am in Scottsdale in March. From ASU News:

Members of the G3Box team were challenged in one of their courses to determine a way to repurpose the numerous shipping containers that have been discarded at ports around the world. They immediately began to think of ways to turn the containers into something that would help people. The ASU team came up with the idea of turning the containers into portable maternity clinics that could be shipped to countries that had extremely high maternal mortality rates.

The team which includes Palermo, a junior studying biomedical engineering; Billy Walters, a senior mechanical engineering major; and Susanna Young and Clay Tyler, both graduate students pursuing master’s degrees in mechanical engineering began plans to refurbish the containers, adding ventilation, insulation, power, and potable water. From these plans, G3Box, a more-than-profit company aimed at generating global good, was formed.

“We knew that we had the ability to change the world when we started this project,” said Young. “G3Box started from a desire to reduce drastically high maternal death rates in the developing world. It is about the medicine and the clinics, yes, but it is also about creating jobs, developing economies, and improving the lives of people all over the world.”G3Box is currently a part of ASU’s Edson student accelerator based in ASU SkySong, Scottsdale’s Innovation Center. The Edson accelerator provides funding, mentoring, and office space that enables students to advance their ventures.

From the Entrepreneur Magazine piece:

For Palermo, what started as a student project has the potential to turn into a dream job. “When I started college I didn’t really think I was going to be growing a business,” she says. “Doing G3Box for my future career or starting up other companies that focus on social good is my passion now.”

via ASU student startup named College Entrepreneur of the Year | ASU News.

Great Entrepreneurship Interview with Kevin Plank on ESPN with Scott Van Pelt | $UA

Really solid radio interview with University of Maryland student entrepreneur Kevin Plank (CEO and founder of Under Armour). Some funny stuff because its ESPN, including “We really hate the guys out West.” But, Plank  talks a lot competition and has some important messages about focus in the early days of a company’s existence. He stresses the focus in the original niche and not expanding too quickly.  This is a very crucial point we make in working with young entrepreneurs who often think about mass markets before really achieving strong product market fit. I refer to this as the Amazon principle — early amazon made their name and earned customers through book sales and proved their platform for e-commerce. This early work and focus laid a strong base and value proposition that the complex corporation we see today exploits.  Plank speaks about spending 5 years working on a shirt (the first five years of Under Armour’s existence) as crucial to the companies long term strength (well before women’s, shoes, uniforms, hunting, etc). Again, great interview for consumers and entrepreneurs alike.

Kevin Plank, Under Armour – ESPN.

Interview with Eric Ries | Lean Startup | Student Entrepreneurs

Great interview with Eric Ries (Lean Startup) by Ned Smith of BusinessNewsDaily:

“You have to really want to know the truth more than you want to be right,” Ries said.

“But if you have a little bit of humility and some discipline, you can break the idea down and systematically test each element and figure out what’s true and what’s not,” Ries said. “The scientific method is at the heart of the lean startup world view.”

Another common denominator for lean startups is the need for speed, Ries said.

“You would see an obsessive focus on speed,” he said. “There is a sense of urgency to get to the information we’re looking for.”
In this mode, Ries said, all decisions — infrastructure, personnel, platform — are evaluated with an eye on picking the platform that will allow the business to run experiments quickly to create a build-measure-learn feedback loop.


That build-measure-learn feedback loop helps an entrepreneur steer a lean startup and know when to pivot by making a sharp turn or persevere on the current path.

“Pivoting is fundamental to the process,” Ries said. “If you look at successful startups, most of them started out without the exact right business model, idea or strategy. Most of the time, the idea is downright crazy. But there’s just a kernel of truth buried inside it.”

That’s where the pivot comes in to play.

“A pivot is a change of strategy without a change of vision,” Ries said.

We have begun integrating Lean Startup and Customer Development methodology into our teaching at George Mason University. Our new peer-2-peer group StartUp Mason will rely of Ries and Steve Blank.

via So You Want to Run a Lean, Mean Startup Machine? | The Lean Startup Book | Starting a Business | Business News Daily.

Under Armour CEO Plank to shed up to 600,000 Shares | $UA

College football special teams captain Kevin Plank launched Under Armour  ($UA) from the University of Maryland in 1996. He is one of the most successful student entrepreneurs of all time. From a recent Baltimore Business Journal:

Plank is selling the shares, a fraction of his stock in the Baltimore sportswear maker, for asset diversification, tax and estate planning and charitable giving purposes, the filing said.

Plank currently owns 11.25 million shares of the company’s Class B Common Stock, representing around 21.8 percent of the total shares of Class A and Class B Common Stock outstanding as of October 31.

The Class B shares gives Plank more voting shares in the company.

The 600,000 Under Armour (NYSE: UA) shares are worth $48.8 million as of Wednesday’s closing price of $81.33.

A year ago, Plank entered into a deal to divest of up to 1.1 million shares over a 10-month period. Since then, he has shed nearly a million shares.

via Under Armour CEO Plank to shed up to 600,000 shares – Baltimore Business Journal.

Student Startup Offers Microfinance for Local Economy | UW Madison | #socent

Selby Rodriguez offers an interesting story in the Badger Herald on a student startup entering the domestic micro finance market with the Madison Fund. As always, Madtown has some really innovative folks — including an early example of a functioning, diverse food truck industry).

Rosenthal said he was inspired by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and his microcredit-providing Grameen Bank when he began to look into similar institutions in the United States.

After discovering many of these organizations were student-run, Rosenthal then decided to create his own, embarking on a journey spanning the better part of eight months.

Additionally, Rosenthal said his research revealed a large percentage of the Wisconsin population is underbanked and face obstacles when seeking to borrow funds.

“People are finding it extremely hard to get credit in this economy and oftentimes they are simply denied by banks for loans without any other place to go,” he said. “We found this huge demand for very small amounts of capital to start businesses and keep them running.”

Rosenthal said a main motivation of the Madison Fund is to help those seeking small loans in the Madison community and its neighboring towns.

Tapper said the business’ target clients are low-income entrepreneurs and business owners who are unable to meet traditional bank lending criteria.

Both Tapper and Rosenthal said there were no requirements outside of motivation, hard work and commitment for the Fund’s prospective clients.

I’m pretty excited to see how this student built and run micro finance fund works out. More from the article:

He added because the Madison Fund was student-run, volunteers have the unique opportunity to run their own projects within the business.

Students interested in volunteering for the business can get in touch with Rosenthal and Tapper by using the Fund’s website, Tapper said.

“It is a phenomenal chance to make your own changes in the Madison community,” Tapper said. “Meeting with community members and helping them fulfill their dreams is the most rewarding experience I have ever had.”

via The Badger Herald: Student startup aims to bolster local economy.