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.





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.

UW-Madison Suspends 18 Year Old Business Plan Competition #entreed

In surprising news, the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition  at UW Madison has been called off for 2016.  From Judy Newman at the Wisconsin State Journal:

A highlight of the UW-Madison’s School of Business for the past 18 years, a notice on the contest’s website says “due to budgetary constraints,” the Burrill competition is being “suspended.”

“The impact of the Burrill Business Plan Competition on the local community is hard to understate,” said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of the gener8tor startup accelerator and a finalist judge for the Burrill the past two years.

“I was really surprised to hear they decided to cancel it,” said Chris Meyer, co-founder of the Sector67 maker space. “It was crucially important in terms of getting my business started.”

The Burrill contest has produced some noteworthy winners.

They include Virent Energy Systems, a Madison biofuel company collaborating on alternative fuels with Royal Dutch Shell and on recyclable, plant-based plastic bottles with The Coca-Cola Co., and EatStreet, formerly BadgerBites, a Madison company offering mobile restaurant food delivery.

“We are disappointed to learn there will not be more opportunities for companies like these to receive the resources and advantages made available to them through the Burrill (competition),” Kirgues said.

Little positive about this announcement: just not sure if this is about Wisconsin politics or the actual value of the competition? We will stayed tuned to see what happens next.

GE, Carnegie Mellon Announce Robotics Fund

News from last week highlights that more big innovators (and funders) know the value of the campus.  GE has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and announced a $20 million robotics venture accelerator fund for campus. robotFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an independent, early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.