A league of their own: New class begins for entrepreneurs, and alumni assist

Olin is offering a new, instantly popular class and business accelerator: “The League (of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs).”

More than 100 students hoped to sign up, but only 50 made the cut. Eight of those students have businesses in development, and they’ll lead teams dedicated to those businesses throughout the semester.

The League “is on its way to becoming a really big deal at WashU,” said Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship.  While Olin’s  long-standing and popular Hatchery course is about planning a business, “the League is about actually launching and scaling a startup.”

Villhard

Villhard, a successful entrepreneur himself, is teaching the class. Last January, he announced the $30 million sale of a startup he co-founded in 2007.

 “There continues to be a tremendous demand for entrepreneurial learning at WashU,” Villhard said. “The total students enrolled in our entrepreneurial classes has doubled in the last three years.”

The League runs for two hours on Monday afternoons and includes several student team meetings throughout the week. Most classes start with a guest lecture by a successful WashU alum who founded and leads a company.

Student teams

These are the student teams:

  • Benchmark: Benchmark Learning is a high-quality, low-cost online tutoring provider for K-12 students currently specializing in math, English, science and coding tutoring. Team lead: Paarvv Goel, MBA ’22
  • Lyfe Health: Lyfe Health is a cloud-based, A.I.-powered, universal-health-record platform where users can keep track of their health by aggregating all their health info into one, easy-to-use central location. Team lead: Tony Sims II, BS ’22
  • Momint: Momint is a play-to-earn fantasy esports game; think NBA Topshot meets Fantasy Football, but for esports players. Team lead: Will Hunter, MBA ’22
  • SecondHome: SecondHome is a service that makes the business of operating a home daycare simpler while also increasing access to quality and affordable childcare. Team lead: Jacob Wise, MBA ’22
  • Speak IT: Speak IT is like Siri for doctors: Our software increases efficiency of clinical workflow by enabling one’s voice to automate clicks in the electronic medical record. Team lead: Kai Skallerud, MBA ’22
  • StockSwap: StockSwap is a social finance and gaming platform that combines the ability to share trades and thoughts about the market with daily fantasy for the stock market. Team lead: Blake Berg, BBA ’23
  • Tylmen Tech: Tylmen, the size-verification platform, is on a mission to help customers shop for clothes online with confidence by utilizing sizing technology to show users exactly what clothes and brands fit them best. Team lead: Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22
  • Utter: Utter is a Twitter trivia guessing game that is bring the viral moments online into the real world. #gamenightjustgotpersonal Team lead: Justin Matthews, MBA ’23

“All of these student companies are capable of launching of scaling within the class timeframe,” Villhard said. “One is already generating over $65,000 in revenue. And another has already raised $200,000 in seed capital. WashU students never cease to amaze me.”

A constraint on the first version of this class is that student ideas need to be in the tech/digital space—as they are generally easier to launch and scale. In the future, Villhard hopes to offer versions of the class focused on healthcare, fashion, consumer goods, services, and other industry-specific constraints besides just tech/digital.

Villhard is also aware in this first version that no women are leading tech/digital teams this semester—however, there is great diversity among the student founders and there are many women in the class.

“We recruited an outstanding female student on campus with a tech/digital idea to lead a team,” he said, “but she is studying abroad instead and will take it next semester. This is a challenge in the real tech/digital industry as well. But we’re going to do better and fix it ASAP in future semesters of this course.”

Guest lecturers

The guest lecturers will visit the class in this order:

  • Andrew Rubin, BSBA ’98, CEO of Illumio, will talk about leadership.
  • David Eckstein, BSBA ’09, chief financial officer of Menlo Security Inc., will discuss the art of pitching.
  • JD Ross, BSBA ’12, cofounder of Opendoor and president of royal.io, will discuss product development.
  • Lori Coulter, MBA ’99, CEO of Summersalt, will talk about strategies for outsized growth.
  • Jesse Pujji, founder and CEO, Gateway X, on using digital marketing to amp up a business.
  • Jim McKelvey, BASc ’87, founder of Square and Invisibility (and many other companies), will talk about ideas from his book “The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time”
  • Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15, CEO of Balto, will discuss teambuilding.
  • Deborah Barta, BSBA ’99, former senior vice president of innovation at Mastercard and now chief operating officer of BlockFi, will discuss targeting ideas at significant scale.
  • Lee Fixel, BSBA ’02, an extremely successful investor, former partner at Tiger Global Management and now partner at Addition will talk about the mind of the investor.
  • Dedric Carter, vice chancellor for innovation and chief commercialization officer at Washington University in St. Louis, will discuss what St. Louis and WashU have to offer entrepreneurs. 

Pictured at top: Blake Berg, Paarvv Goel, Will Hunter, Justin Matthews, Tony Sims II, Kai Skallerud, Jacob Wise and Lloyd Yates.

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