June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
23.71.1 - 23.71.18
A Multi-pronged Approach to Nurturing IT EntrepreneursIntroduction: The number of freshmen interested in entrepreneurship has grown dramaticallyin the last few years. In response, many universities have created entrepreneurship programs,including ones focused on engineering entrepreneurship. In this paper, we report on an innovativeprogram at the authors’ institution, designed to nurture students to become IT entrepreneurs. Whilethe program builds on the experiences of other programs, it includes a number of novel componentsthat are integrated together in an unusual manner to interlock and complement each other.Philosophy: Students at our institution have available a minor program in entrepreneurship con-sisting of ﬁve courses, the topics ranging from innovation and entrepreneurship and new venturecreation to entrepreneurial marketing, ﬁnancing, and leading high-performance ventures. Whilethe program is popular, a number of engineering and business faculty felt that it was inadequate inpreparing students to be successful IT entrepreneurs. Hence, following extensive discussions withlocal IT entrepreneurs and others interested in IT entrepreneurship, we designed our program withthe mission of helping nurture budding IT entrepreneurs. A central underlying idea is that it is anopportunity program that enables motivated students to pursue their interests in IT entrepreneur-ship with other like-minded students, not a new major or minor at the completion of which thestudent receives a diploma. This idea is key to the design/organization of many of its components.Curriculum: In addition to their computing-related major, students in the program are expected tocomplete the entrepreneurship minor (see above). In the senior year, students take the e-practicum,a six-month long team activity designed to develop students’ ability to ﬁnd, evaluate, and developraw technical IT ideas into commercially viable product concepts, and build them into businesspropositions. The focus is on real world opportunities; if it becomes clear that an idea cannotdevelop into a real opportunity, it is abandoned and alternatives pursued. Each team typicallyconsists of one or two students from our program, two MBA students in entrepreneurship, andoften another advanced student with a technical background. The team works with 2-3 industrymentors, usually experienced entrepreneurs, business executives, and venture capitalists.Internships and networking: We work with local IT startups to identify internships for studentsin the program. Since startups are often on a tight budget, if necessary, we pay part of the intern’ssalary. Working in such businesses not only gives our students useful technical experience, stu-dents also gain ﬁrsthand knowledge of challenges that small entrepreneurs face. Students are alsoencouraged and ﬁnancially supported to participate in events such as the Startup Weekend. Thepurpose is to get students interacting with both newbies and serial entrepreneurs, with technicaland non-technical people, their common bond being their passion for entrepreneurship.Integrative seminar: To tie together the various components of the program and to have studentslearn from each other and help each other grow as IT entrepreneurs, we have a weekly meeting ofstudents and faculty in the program. The meetings are coordinated by a senior student, one with astrong entrepreneurial drive. A meeting may be a presentation by a local IT entrepreneur describingher (team’s) experiences in conceiving the business, in acquiring funding, in ﬁnding and hiring thebest employees, and other challenges. Another may be by an experienced entrepreneur discussingstrategies for approaching VCs. But the most interesting are those in which one or two studentsexplain a new/recent technology, their idea for how it can be used to solve an interesting problem,and how it can be basis for a new enterprise. The extent to which students help each other honetheir understanding of the technology as well as in critiquing business aspects of the enterprise isremarkable. The paper will detail all of these components, the assessments, and results.
Soundarajan, N., & Ramnath, R., & Weide, B. W. (2013, June), A multi-pronged approach to nurturing IT entrepreneurs Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19085
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