The greater Boston and Cambridge area is no stranger to student entrepreneurship. This region has historically been a hotbed for innovation. Many famous student startups were born in the Boston community before achieving iconic status, including Facebook and Microsoft as well as ZipCar, Akamai and Napster. More recently, student-founded startups such as Rent The Runway, Uncharted Play and Plated have vaulted to prominence. The student community of Hult Boston is quickly becoming part of the mix and recently hosted an event to celebrate and explorestudent entrepreneurship.
The event was organized and facilitated by Hult Professor Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Management & Marketing, Mike Grandinetti, in his role as Faculty Advisor to both the Hult Startup Platform and Business in Science student clubs. As a serial entrepreneur, mentor, angel investor and educator in the Boston area for over 20 years, and currently Managing Director of StartupNext Boston and a Community Impact Fellow with OpenIDEO, Professor Grandinetti tapped into his network to bring in a range of special guests with varied experiences for Hult’s students to benefit from.
Professor Grandinetti kicked off the event in Hult’s aptly named Fenway Bleachers auditorium, with its inspiring view of the Zakim Bridge, with a fireside chat with each speaker. He then tested students’ knowledge of well-known Boston student-founded startups as well as their familiarity with recent a Kickstarter project. Professor Grandinetti also provided an overview of the current state of student entrepreneurship on a global basis, including enabling factors including the consumerization of IT, short-term coding academies, affordable subscription cloud-based apps, pre-accelerators, university accelerators and seed capital funds, VC funding and crowd-funding.
The event also included two student entrepreneurship–focused venture capitalists, Bruno Faviero, Managing Director of Dorm Room Fund, whose areas of expertise include managing investments for the 12 major research universities in the Boston area;and Kate Murdock, who focuses specifically on funding Northeastern University bred start-ups. In addition, Murdock serves as an analyst at Northeastern’s IDEA accelerator, where over 200 startups have been launched and incubated, including a few that were recently VC funded. Faviero is also the Founder of Hacking MIT and other MIT startup events. Both discussed the extraordinary range of businesses being launched around the greater Boston area by students, with a focus on the 23 companies that Dorm Room Fund has invested in directly.
Michael Gaiss, former Senior Vice President of Highland Capital Partners and current founder and CEO of BigThink!, which focuses on connecting students interested in entrepreneurial careers with startups, spoke about the stark difference in hiring requirements between large corporation and startups. Unlike corporates, startups focus less on GPA and more on hands-on experience that indicates a passion by the student for the role and the market space. He also discussed his observations as Entrepreneur in Residence at UMASS Boston, where the school recently expanded its Venture Development Center.
Professor Vinit Nijiwhan, who runs Boston University’s Office of Technology Development, spoke of the challenges and successes of commercializing university based research. During his tenure, he changed BU’s model from licensing to startups, with great success. With this new startup-driven approach, BU has achieved more success in commercializing its science and technology in the past five years than in the previous 30 years.
At the conclusion of the event, Professor Grandinetti, along with Kate Murkdock and Bruno Faviero served as mentors for a pitch session. Many Hult students stepped up to pitch their ideas to a crowded room of more than 100 guests where they received constructive feedback from the mentors and real-time input from their fellow students on the desirability of their ideas.
“As an entrepreneur, I learned of ways to get funding for my business ventures and received advice on how to pitch the ideas I want to sell. I also learned that failure is an option and any idea not shared with others is likely doomed to fail,” said Eric Blasco Flores, President of the Business in Science Club and Masters of International Business candidate from Mexico. “In addition, I was reassured that my decision to become an entrepreneur at an early age was the correct one.”
This article written for Hult International Busienss School by Mike Grandinetti, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Management & Marketing. For more information visit hult.edu.