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New initiative to unify entrepreneurial groups

Photo by Jake Nyquist | The Rice Thresher

WordPress Founder Matt Mellunweg and After School Co-Founder Cory Levy shared thoughts on making impact as internet entrepreneurs at a keynote fireside chat moderated by CNET Senior Associate Editor Ashlee Clark Thompson. The event was part of a full-day RECESS idea festival. 

By Meghana Pannala | Thresher Staff     10/28/15 5:05am

Rice University has launched a brand new entrepreneurship initiative, dubbed Entrepreneurship@Rice, led by associate professor of finance and entrepreneurship Yael Hochberg. The initiative’s kickoff event, RECESS, brought nationally renowned businesspeople, including WordPress founder Matt Mullenwag, to campus on Oct. 22.

The goal of this initiative, according to Hochberg, is to coordinate entrepreneurial groups on campus,  including the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Rice Launch, the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Club and the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, and serve as an umbrella organization. 

“[The initiative] means identifying what we were missing, plugging those holes, and enhancing what we have,” Hochberg said.

Senthil Natarajan, managing director of Rice Launch, an undergraduate organization that encourages and enables entrepreneurial ventures among Rice students, believes students are bombarded with conflicting information about entrepreneurship at Rice.

 “The organizations already fit together fairly well; we serve distinct functions and distinct audiences,” Natarajan, a Will Rice College junior, said. “The trouble has always been communicating that fit to the rest of campus. I’m hoping the initiative can serve to unify this messaging and branding.” 

Rice Launch is often the first point of contact for undergraduates and non-business graduate students who want to get involved with entrepreneurship, according to Natarajan. 

“We host events and serve as more of an around-the-year touch point,” he said. 

The Jones School Entrepreneurship Club, led by President Alexander Wesley, serves a purpose similar to Rice Launch except that it is geared towards MBA students.

Wesley said he is excited about the new initiative, believing it will promote a spirit of entrepreneurship on campus. 

“I think Yael Hochberg has a great vision for the program,” Wesley said.

Hochberg, who was brought on campus specifically to build a comprehensive entrepreneurship program, has also aided in building the entrepreneurship program at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and serves as a research affiliate to MIT’s Sloan School of Management. 

Entrepreneurship@Rice will add courses for both undergraduate and graduate students, including more courses like Foundations of Entrepreneurship (BUSI 462). Hochberg said many more courses will be added in the near future, with the goal of creating a comprehensive entrepreneurship program that includes both classroom and experiential learning. 

Natarajan said he would also like to see the initiative create a physical space for entrepreneurs. 

“Scientists have labs, engineers have the [Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen], but entrepreneurs don’t really have a place to go,” Natarajan said. 

Kerri Smith, associate managing director of Rice Alliance, said she wants to see the initiative encourage entrepreneurship among all students to enhance their education by providing them with more opportunities and exposure. 

“The initiative brings a new level of energy,” Smith said. “We are hoping to tap into any and all students who are interested in this area and make their experience better.

According to Hochberg, the initiative will not only prepare students who want to start their own companies, but also prepare all students for a more dynamic labor market.

“You have to understand how to find the opportunities that lead you to things that you want to do, what is meaningful to you,” Hochberg said.

Edit (11/6/2015): The article previously stated that Entrepreneurship@Rice also includes the creation of the new McNair Center. This is incorrect. The McNair Center was created with an $8 million gift from the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation to the Baker Institute. According to McNair Center Director Edward Egan, the McNair Center supports Entrepreneurship@Rice in the pursuit of their goal to unify the entrepreneurship offerings on campus.

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