Written by Lisa Getzler for the Philadelphia Business Journal Nov 18, 2016
It was, indeed, love at first sight. When we brought our students from Lehigh University to Silicon Valley – a weeklong program of interaction with CEOs, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – to San Francisco’s Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, we thought we were going to hold a brief session there and take a quick tour of this new facility.
Boy, were we wrong. When the Center’s energetic and engaging Executive Director, Nicola Corzine, took the time to participate in our event that brisk day last January, we began to realize how much we had in common: namely, a shared ethos for educating entrepreneurs and innovators, and empowering them with the tools they will need to succeed in the highly competitive world of startups.
Nicola was impressed by how engaged and insightful our students were; we were equally impressed by her energy, enthusiasm and deep roots within the Silicon Valley startup community and culture. But we had no idea of the possibilities – of how the Center’s resources might dovetail with our own
efforts and benefit our students on an ongoing basis. That day was the beginning of not only a fulfilling friendship, but it also planted the seed for a groundbreaking, exclusive partnership between the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and Lehigh University that has now come to fruition. We’re calling our joint venture Lehigh@NasdaqCenter.
Spearheaded by Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation, our students, faculty and alumni will now have a home base in the heart of San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley in which to explore their own disciplines through the lens of innovation.
One common bond between our two institutions is our mutual belief that entrepreneurship is best taught by engaging in creative problem solving that addresses genuine challenges faced by real world businesses. In conjunction with the Nasdaq Center’s Milestone Makers program, we’ll be linking up teams of Lehigh students with 12 Silicon Valley-based startups – so that the students can help the companies solve clear-cut problems in order to achieve specific milestones to scale and mature their companies.
The Nasdaq Center defines an entrepreneur as “someone who’s willing to sacrifice sleep, sanity and savings to grow an idea because that’s just how they’re wired ... a dreamer, problem-solver, doer and risk taker. See also: Decision-maker, coffee-maker and multi-tasker.”
We couldn’t agree more. At Baker, our entrepreneurship students often become student entrepreneurs – building viable, real world companies while still enrolled in school.
In the course of an average year, our immersive and rigorous programming reaches about 5,000 students and alumni. And we pride ourselves on our diversity: our students come from more than a dozen countries and from a variety of backgrounds. In the words of Dean Stephen DeWeerth of Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, we are “a melting pot of innovators, encouraging cross-pollination of ideas, knowledge and thinking.”
Our flagship program, LehighSiliconValley, takes our students far beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom. Our highly interactive format allows Lehigh students to earn three credits for participating in the program. From culture to content, students engage with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, designers and Lehigh faculty. This year’s cohort included students from the full gamut of academic majors – sophomores through graduate students.
Lehigh and Nasdaq share a belief in the oft-cited metaphor that students and their projects are like seeds. Now Baker and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center will become the water, the sunshine and the oxygen that nurtures those seeds and helps them flourish. And when student entrepreneurs grow, their businesses often grow, too. Some will succeed, and some will fail. We believe, however, that students learn from both outcomes. But when our students and their projects progress and in some cases even prosper, they often make the world a better place – a critically important aspect that infuses every aspect of their entrepreneurship education.
The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center shares that belief. They partner with today’s business leaders “to educate and empower founders, enabling them to give back as they grow into tomorrow’s trailblazers.”
We couldn’t agree more – and that’s why we try to teach our students to leave this world a better place than they found it, and to strive for social good in all of their entrepreneurial endeavors. That’s also why we’re so excited about this marriage of our respective institutions.
We believe Lehigh@NasdaqCenter will set a new benchmark for entrepreneurial education. Just like we believe in love at first sight.
Lisa Getzler is Executive Director of Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation.