Rice Alliance Taps Northwestern’s Hochberg to Boost Entrepreneurship

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whatever it may be. We’re going try to build an entrepreneurship minor. More generally, we want to be able to prepare both clinical and engineering students to be able to build companies of their own. There have been entrepreneurship-area coordinators, but academic director is a new position.

If you look at where Houston is going, look at sectors that are expanding and finding interesting new technologies, Rice is in a great position to capitalize on that.

X: What is your background in entrepreneurship? What were you doing at Northwestern?

YH: I’m an engineer by training. I have a degree in industrial engineering and management. I worked for a while as a programmer at Oracle, and then a startup spun out of it. I went to the Stanford business school, and then I left to go to a startup but it was shut down when we couldn’t raise another financing [during the financial crisis]. I went back to Stanford and wrote a dissertation on the venture capital industry.

I was an entrepreneurship professor at Cornell and went to Kellogg [Northwestern] in 2005, where I was a finance professor, creating new programs for them surrounding venture capital and entrepreneurial finance, how to evaluate early stage startup opportunities.

X: Tell me about working with Northwestern startups.

YH: [She laughs.] Well, the last two teams that won [the Rice business plan competition] were students of mine in the venture capital program. Many, many people are to be given credit for what’s going on at Northwestern, at the Farley Center [for Entrepreneurship and Innovation], and the engineering and business schools, to create programs that have experiential aspects and cross-pollination aspects.

Both teams have gone through what we called NUventions, a class in which we handed students technology at the university and we handed them some money and some mentors, and we spent a couple of quarters building an actual business. We’ve helped students understand what roles other types of functions bring to the table. Engineers understand the value-add for a person who has management skills. The business students value someone who speaks to the technology on the team. Those are the kinds of efforts that have paid off for Northwestern in many ways.

It’s a new way of approaching entrepreneurial education, co-taught by academics and people from the industry. Cross-pollination was something I picked up from Stanford. They were one of the few places doing it. MIT’s been doing the co-teaching for a couple of years. This is no longer a class where you learn about how to write a business plan.

X: Will you be starting a “NUventions” at Rice?

YH: It won’t be so much, … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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