Entrepreneurship Activities for Engineering Students and Faculty

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Entrepreneurship Activities for Engineering Students and Faculty

  • David Barbe
  • Professor, ECE
  • University of Maryland

New Directions for Engineers

  • The old days – The choices for engineers were to work for big companies or governmental agencies
  • New option – starting their own companies or working for startups
  • Students are demanding entrepreneurship education
  • Engineering Schools can “educate” students about technology startups

What about the down economy?

  • The economy is cyclical
  • Down times are a actually a good time to start ventures
    • prepare for upswings

The Radar Screen

  • Dean, Provost, President support?
    • If yes, very helpful
    • If not sure, just do it “under the radar”

Capitalizing On Innovations

  • Research &
  • Knowledge
  • Self-Use
  • Resources
  • Hands-On
  • Assistance
  • Seed-Stage
  • Monies
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Culture

Classifications of Activities

  • Education and culture building
    • Encourage faculty and students to examine their research for “commercially viable” concepts
    • I can start a venture!
  • Widely available resources
    • Help “entrepreneurs” to help themselves
  • Hands-on assistance and guidance; money

Education and Culture Building

  • Students need to believe in the feasibility of starting companies and commercializing technologies:
    • People available to help
    • Diverse monetary resources
    • Case studies
  • Students need to understand accepted “tactics” for creating a technical venture
    • How do “I” proceed with my concept?

Education and Culture Building Activities

  • Education and culture building activities designed to encourage students to take the critical step – learn about venture creation:
  • Boot Camps
  • Technology Ventures Clubs
  • Entrepreneurship Courses
  • Business Plan Competitions
  • Residency Programs
  • Promotion of Success Stories

Technology Startup Boot Camp

  • Kicks off the academic year
  • Large audience of students (and faculty)
  • Regional sponsors
  • Basic startup processes
    • Evaluating tech ideas
    • IP basics and licensing
    • Legal fundamentals
    • Building a team
    • Obtaining financing
    • Entrepreneur experiences
  • Presented by experienced VCs, service providers, and tech executives
  • Networking

Technology Ventures Club

  • Dynamic forum for technical graduate students to network and explore commercializing an idea and forming a venture
  • 25 to 100 active members
  • Monthly meetings include start-up workshops, speakers, and social mixers
  • Members have opportunity to network with local VCs, service providers, business students and entrepreneurs
  • Started by faculty/staff
  • Student president and VP
  • Migrate to student-run with faculty advisors
    • NCIIA guide available

Fundamentals of Technology Startups Course

  • < 30 technical graduate students
  • Boardroom setting best
  • Study basic processes of tech company formation and operation
  • Form into teams
  • Teams develop business plans during semester
  • Teams present plans to “judges”
  • Course is best co-taught by technical and business faculty/staff
    • Adjuncts ok

Business Plan Competition

  • Culmination of academic year
  • Prize money and/or contributed services raised from external sponsors
  • Scale the competition to the supply of entrants
  • Start advertising early in the Fall Semester
  • First level of down-select based on executive summaries submitted near the end of the Fall semester
  • Use a Judging panel to select top ~ six for full plans and presentations
  • Give two or three awards
  • Conduct Networking and mentoring sessions between finalists and judges/sponsors during the Spring semester

Entrepreneurial Residency Programs

  • Provide one location for students to reside
    • Adds significantly to relationship building
  • Select Undergraduate Students having strong Entrepreneurial Spirit
    • GPA
    • Essay
  • Example: UMD’s Hinman CEOs Program

The Hinman CEOs Program

Program Goals

  • Program Goals
    • Attract students with an entrepreneurial spirit
    • Create a sense of community and cooperation
    • among like-minded students
    • Impact the way they think about their
    • careers and destinies
    • Help prepare them to start businesses
  • Clark School of Engineering
  • Smith School of Business
  • Jointly Founded
  • David Barbe – Faculty Director
  • Karen Thornton - Program Director

Third cohort - 100 students

        • Third cohort - 100 students
  • 44% hard sciences, 39% business, 17% other
  • (30% are engineers)
  • Indian, African American, Asian, Hispanic – 54%
  • Caucasian - 46%
  • Female - 27%, male - 73%
  • Class GPA - 3.57
  • 12% have 3.8 or above with 4 perfect 4.0 GPAs
  • The CEOs

CEOs Program Components

  • Community
  • Technology
  • Team Building
  • Seminars and Workshops Mentoring
  • Product Development Projects
  • Technology Opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship Education
  • Partnerships

A Living-Learning Program

  • A Living-Learning Program
  • Facilitates sense of small community within larger university
    • Living Spaces
    • Working Spaces
    • Meeting Spaces
  • Community

Incubator-Like Setting

  • Incubator-Like Setting
  • State-of-the-Art Technology
    • Wireless technology
    • Videoconferencing
    • IP Phones in the rooms
    • Computer-based conferencing capabilities
    • Computer labs
    • Business software
    • Copiers, fax
  • Technology

Team building

  • Ropes Course
  • Facilitate Team Forming

Weekly seminars

  • Weekly seminars
    • Education
    • Experiences
    • Resources
  • Seminars and Workshops

Four-Course Entrepreneurship Citation Program

  • Four-Course Entrepreneurship Citation Program
  • Starting a New Venture
  • Financing a New Venture
  • Growing and Managing an Emerging Venture
  • Business Plan Development
  • Entrepreneurship Education


  • Level One Mentoring - Just-in-time
  • Program Director
  • and MBA Grad Assistant
  • Level Two Mentoring - Advanced
  • Faculty and Staff
  • Outside Experts

Product Development

  • NCIIA and Campus Sponsored
  • Funding for patent work and to help build Prototypes
  • Faculty Supervision including internships

Technology Opportunities

  • To Expose CEOs to Technology Commercialization Opportunities
  • Network CEOs with MBAs and Technical Grad Students to form Teams


  • Technology firms
  • Venture firms
  • Legal firms
  • Other service providers
  • Individuals
    • Retired executives

Promotion of Success Stories

  • Evidence that it can be done is a powerful incentive for others to try
  • Word about successes will spread among students
  • Legislators and Alums will like it
  • Successes stories should be promulgated
  • to expand the reach
    • Campus newspaper
    • Local publications

Self-Use Resources

  • Creat resources to support venture formation:
    • Build a mentor network: execs, VCs, marketing experts, legal, accounting…
    • Technology Startup Portal with comprehensive information in plenary stage

Mentor Network

  • Business plan reviews, questions about funding, advice about IP common inquiries to mentors
  • Available to all students or students involved in the other entrepreneurial activities
  • University staff involved in technical entrepreneurship provide “level one” mentoring
  • Extensive database of entrepreneurs, consultants, retired execs, VCs, and service providers offer “level two” mentoring

Entrepreneurial Resources Web Portal

  • Technical entrepreneurship web portal under development:
    • Forecasting template
    • Business plan preparation guidance
    • IP rules
    • Information on funding sources
    • Testimonials and case studies

Hands-On Assistance

  • Build programs to provide hands-on guidance and assistance to technical ventures started by students on campus
  • Many successful technical ventures follow a “dual-path” approach to launch – assistance needed!

Launching Technical Ventures

  • Technical development:
  • Final product development
  • Beta testing
  • Alpha testing
  • Laboratory testing
  • Begin developing prototype(s)
  • Concept is feasible
  • Business Planning:
  • Recruitment
  • Marketing materials
  • Customer segmentation
  • Solicit funding
  • Monetary needs
  • Business planning
  • Commercial viability
  • Many technical entrepreneurs lack experience in business planning.

Hands-On Programs

  • VentureAccelerator: Hands-On Assistance
  • Couple with local incubator(s)


  • Comprehensive consulting and “interim” management services for approximately five companies at one time
  • Selection process
  • Services coordinated by on-campus person provided by a network of key mentors and service providers


  • Services:
    • Strategic planning
    • Forecasting
    • Executive recruitment (database)
    • Fundraising (debt, equity, grants)
    • License negotiations
    • Legal/accounting issues
    • Marketing analysis
    • “Marshall” diverse business resources

Graduation from Accelerator

  • Demonstrate likelihood of “self-sustainability:”
    • Significant financing event (e.g. “A” round)
    • Significant initial customer(s)
    • Addition of key, full-time executive managers
  • Or…recognize business not worth pursuing

Identifying Accelerator Companies

  • Incubator
  • Faculty outreach
  • Residency program
  • Tech Ventures Club
  • Tech Ventures Class
  • Accelerator can feed other programs too

Seed Monies

  • The Current Climate
    • Investors returning to fundamentals
    • Fundamentals = great technology
    • Universities good places to find technology

Seed Monies

  • Actively build “seed investor” network
    • Couple with nearest “angels” and VC firms
  • Take max advantage of SBIRs and other programs (e.g. NIST ATP)
  • Encourage solicitation of strategic investments by startups
  • Other sources??

Program Information Sources

    • www.nciia.org/
  • N2TEC
    • www.n2tec.org/
  • Small Business Administration
    • www.sba.gov/gcbd/7j.html.


  • ASEE – Entrepreneruship Division - June
  • NCIIA - March

Funding for Starting a Program

    • www.nciia.org/
  • Kauffman Foundation
    • www.emkf.org/
  • Coleman Foundation
    • www.colemanfoundation.org/
  • Lemelson Foundation
    • http://www.lemelson.org/index.html


  • Your campus can become a nucleus of technical venture formation in your region
  • Engineering research and knowledge provide sources
  • Combining research with increasingly entrepreneurial culture as well as new resources, assistance programs, and sources of seed monies will yield even more successful startup ventures

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