The goal of UMass Boston’s Entrepreneurship Center is simple: to get students out and working in the city’s startup community. Since opening four years ago, the Center has grown to offer 99 paid — yes, paid — internships with nearly 45 Massachusetts-based companies, including Buzzient, peerTransfer, Acquia and MassChallenge.
The added bonus? About 70 percent of those students are getting hired full-time when they graduate, according to the Center’s Founder and Director Dan Phillips, the former CEO of SilverBack Technologies and COO of Concord Communications.
Because the Center only opened four years ago, Phillips says it’s “a startup to begin with” and that they’ve “been growing this incrementally.” At the core of the program rests a hands-on approach to learning, which is reflected in both the internship program and the Center’s two cornerstone courses.
The first is the Entrepreneurship Practicum, and the only way students are able to enroll is if they have a startup of their own. Although the companies can all come in at different stages, Phillips says what students need “is a business idea they are maniacally passionate about.” Throughout the course of the semester, students are tasked with speaking to customers, defining their competition, laying out a legal structure and iterating their business model.
“We don’t expect anyone to launch a full business in one semester,” Phillips says. He later admits, however, that 50 percent of the initiatives that have been introduced in the classroom have later launched and are currently in operation and generating some sort of revenue.
After finishing the practicum, students are then able to take a course Phillips created this semester called “Entrepreneurship Sales & Marketing.” The class is designed to prepare students either for an entry level startup sales and marketing position or to launch their own sales and marketing initiative. Students are able to interact with seasoned entrepreneurs and be exposed to the tools that drive their organization.
“We want to start doing the training upfront to prepare students for these internship opportunities,” Phillips says. “It gets back to the whole theme of practical and hands-on, live experience.”
And it’s that experience Phillips claims sets UMass Boston apart from other schools in the Greater Boston area. Outside of classes, Phillips says they’ve also continued hosting workshops and events in hopes of giving students every piece of the puzzle they need, featuring a rather impressive list of partners and mentors, including Jeff McCarthy, partner at North Bridge Venture Partners; Larry Begley, managing director of .406 Ventures; Kevin Harron, CEO of Burtons Grill; Mark Macenka, partner at Goodwin Procter; and Jonathan Wolf, marketing director at Dell.
When asked what sets students from UMass Boston apart from students at surrounding schools, Phillips claims many of them are the first generation in their family to attend college and are working full-time to pay themselves through. He says:
They handle adversity extremely well. They don’t get flustered if they don’t see the end in site — they just keep going. That’s a startup. That’s the definition of someone who can be successful in a startup. They can go figure out something that’s never been figured out before. They just do whatever they have to do, and they’re willing to do whatever they have to do. They’re the kind of people I’d like to hire for my company.
Are they the kind of people you’d like to hire at yours?
Photo Courtesy of UMass Boston’s Venture Development Center