Published: March 28, 2019

Entrepreneurial EcosystemOver the last decade, there has been an explosion of interest across business schools in entrepreneurial courses and experiences to help students who aspire to start their own ventures and prepare the next generation of business leaders with a toolkit that enables them to solve the challenges of tomorrow.

To that end, business schools are creating mechanisms to provide seed funding for student ventures, pairing up students with mentors in the entrepreneurship community, creating experiences that promote a “bias towards action,” and greater comfort with failing and redirection in the relatively safe environment of the campus experience, and launching venture planning competitions to give students hands-on experience.

When you mine your entrepreneurial community, you open the door to myriad opportunities for creative programming.

Here are five ways to leverage your entrepreneurial ecosystem:

  1. Create an accelerator.  Many business schools across the country have launched their own accelerator programs for students with strong ideas who make it through their venture planning competition. Stanford Graduate School of Business offers the Stanford Venture Studio, which provides a co-working space and tools for ideation, prototyping and experimentation. Most valuable is its connection to Stanford’s entrepreneurial community of alumni, investors and industry partners, who guide MBA students through each stage of their venture. Others such as University of Colorado’s Catalyze CU program and University of Utah’s Foundry at Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute provide other models that help students with the process of launch by connecting them to expertise across campus and in the entrepreneurial community.
  2. Leverage entrepreneurial expertise. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania taps its ecosystem with the Entrepreneur in Residence Program, in which MBA students can meet one-on-one with successful alumni entrepreneurs for advice on their startup idea.  Another take on this idea is Global Entrepreneurs in Residence at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, which brings in high-powered entrepreneurs from around the world to give students a global mindset and give the local entrepreneurial community an opportunity to create long-lasting relationships with global entrepreneurs turning ideas into action.
  3. Integrate dedicated coaching. At Leeds, MBA students manage the Deming Center Venture Fund, where they source, analyze and invest in local ventures under the guidance of venture capitalists and angel investors. Likewise, Leeds MBAs compete in the Venture Capital Investment Competition, where students assess startups as potential investments. The key to the success of this event is the direct coaching student teams receive from local venture capitalists.
  4. Develop a win-win opportunity. Haas School of Business manages the Haas Venture Fellows program, in which participating venture capital firms receive help with research and due diligence from Haas students, and students get hands-on venture capital experience.
  5. Groom MBA talent to scale up influential firms of the future. Leeds recently launched a High Growth Venture Fellowship, which provides paid internships at local high-growth companies, curated coursework, project work with local accelerators, and unlimited and unfettered access to mentors at high-growth startups for invaluable guidance on the industry—not to mention access to a powerful network of entrepreneurs.

To meet student demand for cutting-edge training in entrepreneurship, business schools are finding innovative ways to think beyond the classroom. We can elevate students’ educational and professional experience when we leverage game-changing business innovation and talent that live in our own backyard. Also, the opportunities to leverage assets in the community means that universities do not need to do everything for themselves. Building bridges allows the campus to take advantage of all that is going on in their surrounding entrepreneurial ecosystem and elevates both the school and the community.