More Funding Going to Student Founders | @JFiance @TheHouseVC

News from UC Berkeley and Georgetown University highlight what my research suggests: students are building some of the most innovative, impactful and valuable firms in the world and their experiences on campus matter (see Campus as Frontier)

From Gtown in DC: Ted Leonsis, billionaire owner of the Washington Capitals and active venture investor, made a $1 million donation to the Georgetown Entrepreneurial Initiative earlier this month with the funds dedicated to seed funding for student ventures that are working to “address problems in the world.” The fund will likely give out $100,000 per year according to the Washington Business Journal.

Out West: University of Cal Berkeley has become thehousefund_logo_backgroundthe target of a small, niche venture investing fund being run by 24 year old Jeremy Fiance, a Berkeley grad. You can read more about the fund directly from Jeremy on his post to

Our story is part of a much bigger movement happening on campus right now as student entrepreneurship has evolved into a growing and integral part of the Berkeley experience. To cite just a few Berkeley initiatives, there are eight accelerator programs focused on specific stages and vertical industries, over 40 clubs across engineering, design, and entrepreneurship, two entrepreneurship centers, a design institute, a maker space, the world’s largest ever collegiate hackathon, and much more.

The House Fund is built by and for Berkeley founders. We’re doubling down on our belief in Berkeley by contributing a significant portion of our returns and resources back into the ecosystem. Stay tuned for another big announcement on that front in the coming months.

One more piece on the House Fund and Jeremy from the Business Insider.


Cupid’s Cup 2016 | @UofMaryland @UnderArmour #KevinPlank

In completing my research on high growth ventures created by students the case of Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and the University of Maryland was part of my data collection and highlights many of the ideas uncovered. Cupid’s Cup, the annual business competition sponsored by Plank and Under Armour, completed its final round Thursday April 7 on the campus of the University of Maryland. (At the time of this post you could watch the event here)

As usual, the finals featured a passionate speech by Plank and an awesome, psyche up video by Under Armour. Plank’s message about Under Armour and his vision for Baltimore are big (backed by investment on the Baltimore waterfront — see the plans for Port Covington). I would not doubt this guy and his team. Btw, I must confess I bought Under Armour stock ($UA) a number of years ago and have been pleased with their performance.

The judges for the final round included Plank, Arianna Huffington, Dan Gilbert and Wes Moore — truly an accomplished group across a variety of fields/industries.

The 6 presenting finalists were – Javazen, Plova Chewing Gum, Wolf & Shepherd, MyBestBox, SixFoods and Headbands of Hope. The winner was Javazen – the hybrid green tea and coffee drink developed by students at the University of Maryland.

Headbands of Hope creates headbands for kids undergoing cancer treatment; mybestbox is a monthly subscription box promoting healthier lifestyles, Plova gum cleans your teeth between brushings, Six Foods makes bug chips that kids seem to like, and Wolf & Shepherd make dress shoes that perform like athletic shoes.

Nice diversity of ventures, all generating revenue and entering vibrant markets and making impact. Look for more from these teams. Coverage of the Kevin Plank’s Cupid Cup in the Balitmore Business Journal. For the official Cupid’s Cup website.

Some @PeterThiel Content | Videos and Articles

Like many, I’ve been fascinated by Peter Thiel for a few years, really hitting my radar with his Thiel Fellowship a few years back when he asked innovators to leave the campus and pursue their innovations (here are all the fellowship winners). I was fortunate enough to Peter-thiel-paypal-historysee him in Conversations with Tyler at George Mason University in 2015.

His background, from founding PayPal (PYPL | NASDAQ) and funding Facebook (FB | NASDAQ) to his fellows and Zero to One (his book), its clear this guy is one of the most intelligent and insightful people out there (at least among those sharing their thoughts publicly) so it’s no surprise that he has been so successful. Here is some Thiel content.

I share the The Competition Myth by Peter Thiel with all of my students.

Excellent long video interview with Bill Kristol. Really covers a diverse set of topics from Facebook to the major problems with higher education – really going after the ‘racket’ of higher ed with some incredible truths (last 25 minutes or so). Really great long interview (I watched it over 5 sessions)

Video of Peter Thiel discussing Mark Zuckerberg’s impact in specifics. Good short video (6:30).

Well? Pretty thoughtful, insightful guy huh? Feel free to send any great Thiel content you come across.

BTW, interested on my views of higher education, founders and innovation? Check out Campus Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities.




Books for Innovators and Entrepreneurs | #Sprintbook #CleanDisruption

I started reading Tony Seba‘s Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation — I decided to read more books in 2016, now that the Phd on student entrepreneurs is done.

A few weeks ago while in Tokyo I heard Tony speak and spent some time with him after his talk. While I’ve followed solar, Tesla, and the like from a distance, the deep dive with Tony and his book has converted me.

With detailed statistics and crucial discussions of new disruptive business models, Tony presents a vivid potential picture of the near future. Speed and scale of change will rival anything we’ve seen in recent years. The ramifications of this change are massive — could keep you up for days on end thinking about the end of oil and all that will entail — just let your mind go for a moment. Check out Clean Disruption — at least download the first chapter or watch some of Tony’s videos.

The other book I am quickly reading is Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just 5 Days. Its comes from key team members at Google Ventures —  Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz. While I’ve just started it, its clear it fits in the lean startup, sprint_coverstartup weekend, hackathon, design thinking, maker revolution that we are witnessing. And to be honest, how could anyone interested in innovation and problem solving, not want to learn some of the frameworks, techniques etc employed by Google / Alphabet (GOOG | Nasdaq)

The notion/ethos that action, experimentation, questions, and speed truly matter in effective problem solving, innovation and entrepreneurship is where we are. (As a side note — this is going to cause increasingly dramatic problems for higher education in the coming years)

Sprint, from the get go, includes nice graphics and appears to be a clear, detailed map for mere mortals to follow. The challenge for most of us will likely be brain power, commitment, courage, resources, and collaborators. But I look forward to experimenting with this roadmap with our innovators at Mason and others. Will update more when I get deeper into this one, but it looks like it could be a nice starting point to play with and explore in the coming months.

Here are some reviews of Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz:

Goodreads  and Upstart and Financial Times (what never read it — then please do acquaint yourself with the FT)

Forbes Billionaires and Student Entrepreneurs

Each year Forbes The World’s Billionaire list is released and its as clear as a punch in the nose that student founders build some of the most important, impactful and wealth creating ventures in the world. Here are a few from the 2016 World’s Billionaires list.

Bill Gates (1), Mark Zuckerberg (6), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (12 & 13), Phil Knight (24), Michael Dell (35), Elizabeth Holmes (435), and Kevin Plank (527) are some of the student founders on the list. Facebook and Microsoft appear to have the ability to field basketball squads from members of the list.

The basic Forbe’s  billionaire story provides an overview of the shrinking and churn of the list… number of billionaires is down as more moved out than in and total wealth and average wealth are down from 2015.




Szaky of @TerraCycle Profiled in @CSMonitor

There are many student entrepreneurs — Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell — that the masses Official_TerraCycle_Logoknow about. Tom Szaky of TerraCycle is probably one of the most innovative and few are aware of his vision and actions. The story of his rise out of Princeton is legendary in my mind and his concept of creating everything out of waste is in many ways revolutionary for industrial and post-industrial societies.

David Karas of the Christian Science Monitor has a very good profile of Tom and TerraCycle in their People Making a Difference feature. From the piece…

Mr. Szaky founded TerraCycle in 2001 while a freshman at Princeton University. He and another student fed dining hall leftovers to worms and liquefied the worm compost, creating an organic and highly effective fertilizer. Lacking the money to package their product, the duo used soda bottles they retrieved from recycling bins as containers to peddle the worm poop.

and later…

Szaky grew up in Budapest, Hungary, prior to the fall of communism and has been intrigued by entrepreneurship ever since he arrived in North America. He sees the world of business as a vehicle for positive social change.

“I think business is more powerful than war, and more powerful than politics,” he says. “It transcends borders very easily, and it is much more lasting.”

He rejects the paradigm that businesses are intended only to generate profits, and that only charities can do good. His goal is to find a way to overlap those missions.

Tom has always been one of my favorites and I think I will see if I can make a trip up to Trenton to meet him and see what he has been building all these years. (Looks like Trenton is about 3 hours from DC… fill ‘er up….)

#trenton #recycling #waste #innovator #princeton #studententrepreneur




Campus as Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities | #highered #entrepreneurship #startups #ecdev #TTO

Yes, I defended by dissertation in mid July, all the paperwork has been processed and the degree conferred. My dissertation, Campus as Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities is now available via the Mason Archival Repository Service.

Here is a bit of the abstract:

This dissertation explores the complex social phenomena of students at US colleges and universities creating high growth firms and investigates the role, if any, played by the campus during the firm formation process. This dissertation employs mixed methods to better understand student entrepreneurs, their firms and the institutions where opportunity identification and firm formation processes began. Given the gap in the literature surrounding high growth firms created by students, no hypothesis is proposed or tested.

Feel free to email any thoughts, ideas, or questions.