My decision over the summer to accept a new academic position as the Sokoloff Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of the Virgin Islands caps my 10 years as managing director of the Zell Lurie Institute. I have enjoyed my work with the Institute’s students, faculty, staff and alumni during that time, and I look forward to forging new ties and building a new entrepreneurial-studies program at another institution.
My departure comes at a decisive inflection point for the Zell Lurie Institute, which has emerged as a recognized leader in its field and yet, ironically, has just scratched the surface of possibilities in the entrepreneurial realm. Over the past decade, we have redefined the content and scope of entrepreneurship education at the University of Michigan, and across the nation. Initially, our efforts focused on identifying and teaching our students the pre-business-plan skillsets ─ including opportunity identification, business design and business assessment ─ that had been missing from traditional entrepreneurial-studies programs until that time. These critical skillsets are used to lay the foundation for planning and resourcing an entrepreneurial business and managing its growth. At the Institute, we have coined the name Entrepreneurial Arch to describe this stochastic, iterative process, which starts with an individual’s own unique capabilities and ends in a successful business.
To complement the Entrepreneurial Arch, we have created the Student Skill Building Impact Framework, a grid that has allowed us to develop a portfolio of programs across a wide spectrum of student impact and skill development. These offerings range from our marquee programs, such as the student-led venture-investment funds and TechArb, which provide a high degree of skill development for relatively few students, to our big crowd-drawing events, such as Entrepalooza and 1000Pitches, which generate great enthusiasm among many students but impart few entrepreneurial skills. Together, the arch and the grid have provided a comprehensive roadmap for the Institute’s continuing evolution.
Another area where we have led our peers is in scaling the teaching of entrepreneurship. We have pioneered innovative “learn-do” programs at the Institute that combine workshops with one-on-one coaching to expand the reach and effectiveness of entrepreneurship education. By incorporating these programs into our curriculum, we have helped business and nonbusiness students learn and put into real-world practice the process for turning their disruptive ideas for products and services into new business ventures.
During the years while we were building out the Institute’s entrepreneurial-studies coursework and programs internally, we also were reaching across the University to support the creation of entrepreneurship centers at the College of Engineering and the Law School. This collaboration has fostered the expansion of the University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and unleashed a tidal wave of entrepreneurial synergy that has swept across campus.
Are we done? Is our vision fulfilled? Not yet. In fact, we’re just getting started on the newest iteration of entrepreneurship education. Now we’re beginning to think about entrepreneurship in terms of the professional entrepreneur ─ that individual who is performing entrepreneurial tasks out in the workplace, whether it’s at a major corporation, a small start-up or a nonprofit organization. This next phase requires broadening our definition of an entrepreneur to encompass nurses, artists, public-health managers and people in other occupations who want to apply an entrepreneurial mindset to their lives and use our entrepreneurial framework to take control of their economic future. It also entails revising the way we think about “cash flow businesses” ─ high-growth start-ups that are not equity investible and do not depend upon venture capitalists for funding or exits that turn equity into cash. Instead, these ventures are launched and managed by individuals who retain ownership and increase the value of their business by escalating cash flow. We need to develop new risk-capital investment models that are better aligned with the way these entrepreneurial companies make money. I don’t know what these models will look like, but this is a fascinating area that I hope the Institute will explore in coming years.
Managing Director Emeritus
Read more from the Zell Lurie Institute’s Fall Report.