What are Boston College graduates doing in the world of startups? Bill Clerico, MCAS ’07, raised over $75 million in investor funding for his payment processing company WePay. Tom Coburn and Jonathan Lacoste co-founded Jebbit, an online advertising platform and were named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of marketing innovators. Current student Riley Soward, CSOM ’18, co-founded Campus Insights, a college-focused marketing research startup. BostInno recently named him one of Boston’s top-25 young entrepreneurs.
With its recent successes in entrepreneurship, BC is trying to entice more students to get involved in entrepreneurial opportunities. With an eye toward increasing student participation in the startup community, BC’s Shea Center for Entrepreneurship will hold its dedication ceremony and inaugural symposium, Thursday, Nov. 5 to Saturday, Nov. 7.
The Shea Center was endowed this year after the University received a gift from the family of the late Edmund H. Shea Jr., a prominent San Francisco Bay Area venture capitalist and entrepreneur. Three of Mr. Shea’s granddaughters have attended BC.
“The Shea Center is the coming together of three things: the entrepreneurial activity going on on-campus in the past decade, the activity going on in the world, and now this incredibly generous family,” said Jere Doyle, executive director of the Shea Center and BC ’87.
The Shea Center seeks to help students and alumni who have started their own companies, but its larger goal is to prepare students to enter careers in small businesses or startups.
“We have very well-rounded students here, but I think they, in general, have tended to be a little bit risk-averse—they’ve tended to go right to big companies,” Doyle said.
The Shea Center’s plan involves encouragement and academic opportunity. The BC Venture Competition, which annually awards a $20,000 grand prize to the best BC student-led venture, recently merged with the Shea Center. The Shea Center also sponsors the Elevator Pitch Competition, where students have one minute to pitch their company or product idea to a panel of judges, with the winner receiving $500.
In addition, students can now concentrate in entrepreneurship in the Carroll School of Management. Courses include entrepreneurial management, venture capital and private equity, and the elective technology and economic development. As part of that course, students spend a week in Ghana to meet with business leaders. Students who are not in CSOM can take up to eight business classes and can choose from classes in the entrepreneurship concentration.
Next week’s events are another key part of the Shea Center’s plan to reach the broader BC community.
“The symposium is a big celebration of entrepreneurship at BC,” said Kelsey Kinton, assistant director of the Shea Center and BC ’12. “Now we have the resources to continue to do what we’ve been doing, but on a larger scale and including more students.”
The symposium starts next Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Robsham Theater. Phil Schiller, the senior vice president of global marketing at Apple and BC ’82, will deliver a keynote address.
“He’s been part of building Apple into one of the leading technology companies in the world,” Doyle said. Schiller started working at Apple in 1997, when Steve Jobs returned as CEO.
After the talk, Doyle will moderate “Innovation Meets Entrepreneurship,” a panel featuring Schiller, Bijan Sabet, BC ’91, who co-founded venture capital firm Spark Capital, and Niraj Shah, CEO and co-founder of Boston-based e-commerce giant Wayfair.
“On Thursday, we have the founder, the funder, and this incredible marketing guru,” Doyle said.
On Friday, the Shea Center will host two panels. The first is focused on funding businesses, and the second is the young entrepreneurs panel, which will focus on starting a business. Together, the events planned for Thursday and Friday are designed to cover the broadest scope of material possible—from starting a business to growing it into something like Apple or Wayfair, and the steps in between.
Robbie Li, CSOM ’16, chairs Start @ Shea, the student organization that works with the Shea Center to connect students’ entrepreneurial projects with the resources of the center. He has noticed significant growth in BC’s interest in startups and entrepreneurship, and sees the Shea Center’s role in nurturing that growth as key.
“I think the most important thing Shea does is that it connects entrepreneurs on campus to form that community that we lack at BC,” Li said. “We’re working on redefining what entrepreneurship means at BC so that it is relevant for all students across the different schools.”
That is the ultimate goal of the symposium, too.
“It’s an opportunity to bring people on campus who want to share their experiences with the student body, and it gives students the opportunity to meet them,” Doyle said. “There’s no better way to learn about entrepreneurship than to listen to entrepreneurs tell their stories.”
Featured Image courtesy of Huffington Post