Category Archives: Campus Eco-System

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.

Venture Fund Targets Campus Startups | @PejmanMar Partners w @BerkelyHaas

Further evidence that the campus is the frontier — early stage venture fund Pejman Mar Ventures, which has history in investing in and supporting student startups from Stanford, has taken its show around the bay area to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

The firm has announced a new challenge — The Pejman Mar Ventures $250K Berkeley Startup Challenge. It follows on their The Garage program that offers space for Stanford entrepreneurs to ‘hang’ out in Pejman Mar offices in Palo Alto.

I am defending my dissertation next Monday July 13th and am glad to see that the value of the campus for entrepreneurs is continually being recognized and people and firms are supporting on student entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Nuggets | Adirondack Jack | Wave Extinguisher at Ripley’s | Cheap Lego Drones | Warby Parker Makes Public School Hip

Alibaba founder Jack Ma bought 28,000 acres of forestland in the Adirondacks for conservation purposes… While billionaire founders and CEOs conserving land in NY is not new, the fact that a Chinese innovators is there too is interesting. Read the story about Jack and his $23 million dollar buy.

Warby Parker, the hip, social impact oriented eye glass firm founded by Wharton

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

students has partnered with New York City Public Schools and will provide up to 20,000 pairs of glasses to kids in need.

GMU’s Seth Robertson and Viet Tran were feature in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon of the Day for their Wave Extinguisher — it puts out fire with sound waves!

We love Parrot drones at Mason — they are fun for students to learn on. The company announced 13 new drones this week for less than $189! One with a Lego attachment!

Commonbond, an innovative student loan company started at Wharton in 2012, sold its first bonds to Wall Street investors. By targeting specific students and graduates (originally Wharton grads), the firm offers lower rates to lender and loan products with specific attributes to investors.

Do College Drop Outs Thrive?

The WSJ ran the headline, College Dropouts Thrive in Tech, a couple of weeks ago (sub required). The article highlights well known dropouts (Jobs, Zuckerberg) and Thiel Fellowship winners, even referring to one as a wunderkind (a concept I reference in my forthcoming research on student entrepreneurs at US colleges and universities).

From the piece ,

Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer live at Mission Control with 10 others, including two women; half are under 21 years old. Three, including Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer, are Thiel Fellows. The house was originally leased by fellowship organizers for grant winners; other young entrepreneurs moved in as some initial residents left.

More dormitory than frat house, there is more working than partying at Mission Control. Residents come from varied backgrounds with diverse interests, but share some common traits: a brush with early success, disillusionment with the education system, an irreverent world view and healthy self-confidence.

The housemates share their schedules through a Google calendar and conduct group chats on Facebook Messenger, alerting each other to events like Wine-and-Cheese Wednesdays, Freestyle Fridays, and house dinners. There are impromptu all-night sessions of role-playing games such as Werewolf, but the most popular activity is tinkering with technology

I pulled the above quote because my research investigates whether the campus offers frontier like attributes that support innovation and entrepreneurship. The picture painted above provides some insight, but the data set — 2 Thiel fellows — is too small and not sure how representative these folks are of ‘dropouts.’

My data, which includes many students in the information industries — ranging from software and saas to e-commerce and search engines, includes notable dropouts, but most of the students that created high growth ventures while in school do in fact graduate.

Interesting commentary on the article over at Y Combinator Hacker News.

More to come. I will be defending my PhD in mid-July.

Competition Myth @PeterThiel @ISI | #Conformity Kills | #students #highered

Was fortunate to have one of our GMU School of Business supporters send us a really strong piece by Peter Thiel at The Intercollegiate Review on being true to oneself and your own vision of truth/value rather than that of those around you.

The article is a strong indictment of conformity and mediocrity across a whole host of areas — both micro and societal — and the dangers it presents. Good read for students and others trying recharge and find a truer, self-defined path. (Hint of Earl Nightingale in the article — wonder if Thiel is familiar with The Strangest Secret)

A few strong excerpts,

This is, I think, the big problem with competition: it focuses us on the people around us, and while we get better at the things we’re competing on, we lose sight of anything that’s important, or transcendent, or truly meaningful in our world.


The problem is not one of brainpower: we are talking about fiercely intelligent people with degrees from the nation’s most prestigious institutions. No, the real problem is conformity, a fear of stepping outside the bounds. This is the issue I had to confront in myself when, after years of competing, I achieved my goal of working at a major law firm—and realized it was the last thing I wanted.

This problem of conformity runs deep. Already in the time of Shakespeare the word ape meant both a primate and to imitate. The Aristotelian concept of biology held that man differed from the other animals in his greater aptitude for imitation. This is how we learn language as children: we imitate. This is how culture gets transmitted. But imitation can also go badly wrong. It leads to crazed peer pressure; it leads to the various insane bubbles our society has experienced. If there’s going to be progress, if there’s going to be new thinking in any direction, it requires something very different.