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.


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)

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.

Local CEO Questions UC San Diego’s Approach to Entrepreneurship Education #highered #bizschool

Today’s WSJ features a blistering critique of the recently shuttered Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship at UC San Diego’s School of Engineering. The tagline for the center was dream, design, develop and Ken Kuang’s WSJ piece, Teaching Entrepreneurs to Dream, mocks the center, its results, and higher education’s approach to entrepreneurship.

While Kuang presents his personal experiences and opinions on entrepreneurship education at “prestigious universities,” his anger appears misdirected as he seems to be more upset that UCSD spent all of the money in 2.5 years (money donated by private philanthropists not out of tuition or state funds). Kuang does not explain what the arrangement/agreement was between the school and its supporter and therefore is in murky water when trying to determine success or failure of the last experience.

Moreover, from my 3 minute visit to the Moxie Center page, its clear the center was part of the engineering school. Nowhere in Kuang’s piece does he mention this.

He does however use anecdotal examples of MBA students to suggest that business schools are failing when it comes to entrepreneurship education. You can see how this plays out in the comments section on the bottom of the article (eg — “A civilization in decline? You be the judge. A ‘business school’ that doesn’t teach about profits and losses is a dead loss.”). He offers his own solutions (a Chinese model of new venture creation) in the article.

I am not familiar with the Moxie Center, its funding, goals, activities, etc, nor do I know much about UCSD, so I will refrain from commenting on the particular case that Kuang presents, but I do know that many colleges and universities have seen incredible success with student entrepreneurs, many of which emerged through classes, entrepreneurship programs and events, and interactions with faculty, alumni and regional economies. We do have actual data on this.

Moreover, centers, programs, degrees, sports teams, hotels, and many other institutions come and go in modern research universities — at least responsive ones. The closing of a center is in many ways business as usual. Its possible that the center was replicating (not a 3D printing joke!) other work on campus (there are multiple entrepreneurship centers/classes/programs around UCSD — see here) and the decision was made to work within those offerings. Who knows?

What we do know is that many schools educate and support students interested in creating firms and many of those firms will fail, especially if they are truly attempting to innovate — this is after all entrepreneurship.

We also know that its great when entrepreneurship programs are integrated with regional ecosystems and engage innovators locally and am happy to see that Mr. Kuang and his colleagues in San Diego are looking for ways to support students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its also nice to see that Mr. Kuang has a book. I had not heard of it before, but here is the Amazon page for From Start-up to Start: 20 Secrets to Start-Up Success. If anyone’s read it, let us know what you think.

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.