Doug Villhard kept two sets of notebooks while he worked toward the WashU Olin MBA he earned in 2014—after he’d already established himself as a serial entrepreneur.
In one notebook, Villhard kept track of the course content so he’d be ready to apply the lessons to his businesses. In the other, he tracked his professors’ best teaching practices because one day, he hoped, he’d get to apply those lessons in his own classroom.
The day has arrived.
On July 1, Villhard began as Olin’s newest professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship for the business school. He replaces Clifford Holekamp, who originated the role 11 and a half years ago and retired last month.
“This wasn’t just happenstance for me,” Villhard said. “I’ve always loved teaching and working with students. This has always been my lifelong dream even before the success I’ve had in business.”
Success, indeed. Villhard is co-founder and president of Second Street, a St. Louis-based audience engagement platform that provides services to thousands of mostly media-related companies, including Gannett, CBS, Gatehouse Media and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
At the same time, he’s a partner with his brother in Villhard Growth Partners, a private equity firm that invests in, partners with and grows strong, tech-enabled business and healthcare services companies. All that after being involved in two other startups and serving as managing director for a technology consulting firm.
This fall, Villhard will start by teaching the CELect course with the Center for Experiential Learning—a hands-on course in which students consult with startups in the community. Though it’s not Villhard’s first foray into the classroom—he’s taught at Truman State and the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship—he’s looking forward to working with Olin professors he learned from as a student.
‘Keep doing the good’
“Mahendra Gupta taught cost accounting and he would ask students for feedback, and the next class session he would reveal whatever they said, unedited. Mahendra said, ‘I am going to keep doing the good and stop doing the bad and improve on the rest,'” Villhard recalled. “That’s also the way I run my businesses. It’s part of the process—to get iteratively better.”
He fondly recalls picking up tips from all the Olin faculty members including Todd Milbourn, Barton Hamilton, Ron King and Sam Chun. And he’s delighted Holekamp has agreed to continue as a mentor as well. “Even though Cliff wasn’t a professor of mine,” Villhard said, “he is so closely identified with the local entrepreneurship community and I’ve always admired his work championing entrepreneurship in St. Louis.”
Villhard sees his arrival on Olin’s faculty as an extension of what he absorbed while a student: learn, earn and then return. He’s been a WashU donor and an employer of students, and now he’s proud to have the opportunity to influence the incoming generations of startup gurus and entrepreneurs.
“I’ve employed the graduates of this school for more than a decade, and they’re brilliant and motivated and exceptional,” he said. “To me, entrepreneurship is simply about solving problems. Thus, I love being around the kind of thinkers that are attracted to WashU.”