Start-Ups “R” Us
As we wrapped up our writing assignments for this issue, I was struck by how many stories dealt with the same topic: entrepreneurship. The articles themselves aren’t big, but what they say about HBS is. The heady dream of starting and running a business is alive and well among HBS students and a way of life for many alumni. Consider that roughly half of all alumni start a business at some point in their careers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to this issue.
The takeaway from one story is that students get fired up about start-ups, as evidenced by the 110 teams that entered this year’s HBS Business Plan Contest. As outgoing Dean Jay Light said at the April awards ceremony, “The Business Plan Contest has become an important part of the HBS curriculum,” and its participants have created an impressive record of achievement.
Among the enterprises they have launched are CloudFlare, which enables Web sites to protect themselves from online attacks; Diagnostics For All, a nonprofit that develops low-cost disease diagnostics for the developing world; and Finale, a Boston-area chain of upscale restaurants specializing in fine desserts.
Four more stories highlight the entrepreneurial aspirations of the School’s graduates. The inaugural year for the Alumni New Venture Contest attracted more than seventy teams representing HBS Clubs in the United States and abroad. The seven finalists made their start-up pitches to a panel of HBS faculty and alumni judges on campus in late April.
In early July, the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative named two Social Entrepreneurship Fellows, a new program designed to support recent MBA graduates who are launching enterprises focused on creating social value.
Senior Associate Editor Garry Emmons’s interview with RadioChick Leslie Goldbloom (MBA ’85), aka Leslie Gold, traces her entrepreneurial ventures in manufacturing, talk radio, and, most recently, talk-back TV.
Finally, we review HBS Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jeffrey Bussgang’s (MBA ’95) book, Mastering the VC Game, which describes the inner workings of an industry that fuels entrepreneurial dreams.
The sum of these stories is larger than the individual parts: HBS students and alumni are busy dreaming dreams and building companies that will help shape the future. The forty faculty members in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit in-spire and support these aspirations through research, cases, and a variety of courses, beginning with The Entrepreneurial Manager, taught to all first-year students. The unit’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship has named the HBS entrepreneurship program as the best in the country.
The results, on display in this issue, make for interesting reading.
— Roger Thompson