Tag: Entrepreneurship platform

This semester, I have had the incredible experience of serving on the Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect). The CELect program pairs graduate students with St. Louis based startups. Over the course of the semester, student teams complete consulting projects designed to help young companies achieve specific business outcomes.

T-Rex Lammert bldg

Coworking space at T-Rex. Photo courtesy of John Warren, Jones Lang LaSalle.

CELect classes are held at T-Rex, a technology incubator and coworking space located in downtown St. Louis. The modern workplace stations at T-Rex are complete with dinosaur-themed murals, glass-paneled conference rooms, and individual phone booths. The juxtaposition of the building’s historic architecture and its creative, fun-loving interior make T-Rex the ideal entrepreneurship classroom. Located close to a MetroLink train station, it is very convenient for students to travel back and forth from campus.

Our first CELect class was a full day of instruction, co-taught by Cliff Holekamp, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, and Bart Hamilton, Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship. Together, the professors gave an overview of the St. Louis entrepreneurial landscape and provided tips for how to be an effective startup consultant. Throughout the day, Olin alumni stopped by to share the personal reasons why they chose an entrepreneurial career over the traditional corporate path.

ProsperAfter our first class, we were divided into teams and set loose to get started on our projects! My team’s consulting project is for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator, a new player in the St. Louis venture capital scene. Founded in 2014, Prosper Accelerator makes twelve $50,000 equity investments each year in women-led technology, life sciences, and CPG startup companies. The businesses selected to receive capital participate in a three month program designed to help female entrepreneurs scale their companies and receive additional venture investment.

Throughout the semester, we have had the opportunity to meet with Prosper executives, interview the entrepreneurs running Prosper’s portfolio companies, and get an inside look at how the accelerator operates. It has been very rewarding to work with an organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs, especially since I have future entrepreneurial plans of my own. Our team is excited for what the rest of the project will bring, and believe that we can make a lasting impact on the future of the accelerator!

Pictured above, Prosper CELect team from left to right: Fabiola Paz, MBA’16; Elise Miller, MBA’16;  Alicia Harris JD’16; and John Hamlett, JD’16.

On Friday, October 3, Olin MBA students gathered for the Entrepreneurship Platform Summit. The summit was designed as an introduction for students interested in learning more about the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that has emerged in the St. Louis region.

Cliff Holekamp, Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform at the Olin Business School, commented that “the purpose of the Entrepreneurship Platform Summit is to showcase the various career paths for students who study entrepreneurship. Founding a startup is only one of the many possibilities.”

Throughout the day, students heard from representatives from business accelerators, founders of startups, venture capital investment professionals, and managers who employ an entrepreneurial mindset within larger companies. The keynote speaker was David Karandish, CEO of Answers.com, a St. Louis based company that began in a WashU dorm room.

The panelists, many of whom graduated from Washington University, shared their personal successes and struggles with an enthusiastic group of students. The energy in the room was palpable as entrepreneurship professionals offered advice for the many students hoping to follow in their footsteps.

The summit is one of many ways Olin MBA students engage in entrepreneurship activities. Students can take foundational Entrepreneurship courses, pursue either the Commercial Entrepreneurship or Social Entrepreneurship Platform, and gain experience consulting for young enterprises through the Olin Center for Experiential Learning’s Entrepreneurial Consulting Team. Students also have the opportunity to work closely with the Washington University Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, a cross-campus initiative which connects student entrepreneurs and innovators.

The next opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs is the Olin Entrepreneurship Trek on October 24. Students will spend the day in downtown St. Louis, visiting co-working spaces including Cortex, Cambridge Innovation Center, Nebula, and T-Rex. The day will culminate in a reception where students can connect with local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Photo: Jennifer Ehlan, Vice President at Thompson Street Capital Partners, speaks about founding Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, a business accelerator created to address the entrepreneur gender gap in St. Louis.

Jim McKelvey wanted to build electric cars, but his friend Jack Dorsey said he didn’t know anything about building cars. So, the two entrepreneurs decided to work on a software project….after many ideas, rejected or abandoned, they came up with what looks like a simple device called “Square.” It’s simply revolutionizing the way commerce works.

McKelvey shares the backstory on Square’s creation with MBA’14, Kasey Joyce in this segment of an interview recorded recently when Jim was on campus to talk to students in the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Platform.