Incubating Entrepreneurship at Wharton, Babson and Columbia

Entrepreneurship programs at schools like Babson, Wharton and Columbia are giving future MBAs a chance to try out their big ideas before the training wheels come off — but in the real world of business.

The Babson Hatcheries at the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College provide rent-free space and resources to current students in order to support their efforts to launch successful businesses. Student entrepreneurs like those who created MindScout, a hand-held device targeting early-stage Alzheimer’s patients and their care partners by replacing the care partner for routine tasks and repetitive questions, have access to professional and semiprivate workspace to grow their businesses.

Participation in the Babson Hatcheries is free but the school encourages student businesses to contribute a percentage of their equity position to Babson’s Founder’s Fund, created by alumni as a “venture capital fund” used to support Babson’s mission of providing entrepreneurial education.

Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program (VIP), managed by Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, helps U Penn students shepherd their business concept from idea to implementation. Current VIP company Greenlightenment offers home delivery of environmentally friendly products such as recycled stationery and paper products, reusable water containers and filters, reusable coffee containers, energy efficient personal appliances, smart electricity strips, rechargeable batteries and personal consumable items for less green than traditional green retailers.

Under the program’s guidance, students develop their ideas through the real-world experience of executing the initial stages of their ventures. While in VIP students become part of an entrepreneurial community that provides office space and administrative tools as well as a support system of fellow VIP members and professional advising. Students rave that participating in VIP has awakened their entrepreneurial spirit and boosted the value of their MBA.

Over at Columbia Business School, the Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund fosters an entrepreneurial environment by providing early stage investing opportunities to qualifying student business initiatives. The Lang Fund considers proposals for all types of enterprises: small- or large-scale, high- or low-tech, start-ups or acquisitions and service, manufacturing or retail operations. Among this year’s lucky nine startups: EduStor, an automatic online data backup for student laptops and schools, and Avenida, an apparel brand targeting Hispanics.

These programs offer more than the ubiquitous case study. They help students explore opportunities, launch their ventures and make the successful transition to becoming their own boss.

(Image by Trahvis via Flickr, CC 2.0)

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