SUMMER BOOT CAMP
From the President
Photo: Patrick O’Connor
The recessionary economy of the spring of 2009 was a tough time for students looking for summer jobs. Even if aspiring entrepreneurs at Babson were lucky enough to find jobs, many were reluctant to be diverted from their real passion, pursuing a new business venture. So our students did what we prepare them to do—they took action. They approached The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship about using its facilities to work on their businesses. The Blank Center responded in a nimble, Babson-like way, bootstrapping a pilot program for the upcoming summer. Since that time, the program has been funded with a generous gift from then-trustee Anthony Chiasson ’95.
That was the genesis of our Summer Venture Program (SVP), now in its fourth year and one of our signature initiatives. The 10-week session is highly competitive: This summer 51 student teams applied and 14 were selected. The lead entrepreneur of each team must be a Babson, F.W. Olin College of Engineering, or Wellesley College student. The program is not for those seeking to research a business idea or product or hoping to write a plan. Participants need to have a minimally viable product or service, an up-and-running website, and a focus on earning revenues and receiving feedback from customers.
Steve Gold, senior partner for entrepreneurship at Olin College and the SVP’s faculty director, calls it a boot camp for entrepreneurs. Participants receive access to work space, mentors (faculty members and current or former entrepreneurs), speakers, shared resources, and networking opportunities. During the first half of the program, every business has a turn on “the hot seat,” during which the team receives candid constructive feedback from other participants and mentors; sometimes, these comments lead to dramatic changes in the business. The program culminates in a “demo day,” which gives teams the opportunity to pitch their businesses to professional investors and the Babson community with a goal of securing seed capital, team members, or valuable contacts for their ventures.
SVP is one more example of how we practice what we teach. Our students figure out their affordable loss, take small steps, learn, pivot as appropriate, and take more action. They become part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which participants are committed not only to the program but also to the community, sharing ideas even across different business lines.
A great example of community building, SVP is a terrific use of our resources during the summer and an important addition to a school that prides itself on living and learning entrepreneurially.
Leonard A. Schlesinger