U-M’s Faley on Entrepreneurial Programs’ Explosive Growth, and Ending the Midwestern Shame Game

“Entrepreneurialism is a virus that must be spread.” So said Samuel Zell 12 years ago as he and Anne Lurie (on behalf of her deceased husband Robert) gave the University of Michigan Ross School of Business $10 million to establish the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Since then, the Institute has extended its reach beyond U-M, playing an active role in the management of several statewide initiatives, and supporting regional entrepreneurial organizations that serve as a catalyst for economic development. Just last week, the Princeton Review named U-M as having the fifth best graduate entrepreneurship program in the country.

“What we’ve done in 12 years is codify what entrepreneurs really do,” says Tim Faley, managing director of the Institute and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship. “We have broken it into logical and learnable steps that span from ideation to success and that involve both classes and action-based learning.”

Faley says he collaborated with an unnamed serial entrepreneur in Ann Arbor to vet the steps he had in mind to teach his students. He said at first, his friend scoffed at him, saying entrepreneurialism was all instinct and couldn’t be learned. But as Faley explained his theory, the serial entrepreneur looked down at the notes pertaining to his latest project scattered all over the table and realized Faley’s methodology matched the way he was going about turning his “problem” into a fully realized business.

“We knew we got it right when the steps applied to both the family business entrepreneurial model and the technology entrepreneurial model, and all other entrepreneurial models in between,” Falhey says.

Faley says now is the perfect time for students to delay their entrance into the workforce for a few years while they work on bringing an idea hatched and honed in college to business fruition. To that end, in 2008 the Institute “blew up” the way they did their annual business-plan competition, doing away with the typical format where students form teams, make pitches, and are … Next Page »

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