John Goscha was living in Babson College’s “e-tower” with 20 other aspiring undergrad entrepreneurs in 2002. The students were constantly flinging out new business ideas and scribbling them on oversize pads of paper they’d hung from the walls. It was wasteful and messy, but whiteboards were expensive. Then it struck Goscha: Why couldn’t you make paint that also functioned as a dry erase board?
Ten years later Goscha’s creation, IdeaPaint, is distributed in 20 countries. The company has 35 employees and approximately $20 million in annual sales, but it might have been stillborn if it weren’t for Goscha’s alma mater. “IdeaPaint wouldn’t have been possible without Babson,” Goscha says, noting that the majority of his professors had been entrepreneurs themselves. Some even became early-stage investors in the company.
Babson, which was founded in 1919 and is situated in Wellesley, Massachusetts, costs $57,000 a year to attend, including tuition, fees and housing. It is small in size (2,000 undergraduates) but has an outsize reputation in the business world.
The college grants only two degrees, a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in the same subject. In 1979, the school reorganised itself from a general business school to one focused on entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
All incoming Babson freshmen are required to take Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship. The students are given $3,000 to start their own businesses. Profits—if any—are donated to charity, and at the end of the year the fledgling entrepreneurs are forced to liquidate their enterprises. “We want them to go through the whole cycle,” says Leonard Schlesinger, Babson’s president.
As is typical at Babson, Schlesinger combines academic credentials—20 years teaching at Harvard Business School—with real-world experience, as the former COO of Au Bon Pain and Limited Brands. Candida Brush, who chairs the school’s entrepreneurship division, ran real estate and aviation companies in an earlier life. “One hundred percent of my faculty have entrepreneurship experience. It’s a hiring requirement,” she says.
That practical bent pays off, especially for those enrolled in Babson’s more intensive programmes, like the Summer Venture Programme, a 10-week summer accelerator. Only students with viable products—as judged by the faculty—are accepted into the programme. They spend the summer on campus, making use of Babson’s experts, and once a week a student’s company is put through a “dream-killer routine” and roundly criticised. “When you are in an academic environment, no one is ever going to say anything negative,” says Steven Gold, the programme’s director. “We go to the opposite extreme.”
Outside mentors are also key, both during the school year and over the summer. On a recent Thursday, Marsh Carter, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, stopped by to speak to the kids in the accelerator programme. “Most of the young people of this generation think innovation is something that happens around 4 pm, while they’re drinking lattes,” he says. “I teach them about institutional innovation at places like General Electric and Boeing.”
Does it all work? In short, yes. Ten years out more than half of Babson alums label themselves as involved in entrepreneurial activity, and the school has produced a string of notable graduates, including Arthur Blank (’63), the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot; William Green (’76, MBA ’77), the former CEO of Accenture; and Lycos founder Bob Davis (M.B.A. ’85).
NYUs Startup Scholarships
Over the last dozen years, New York University has held a marathon competition that now includes students, faculty and alums for the best startup ideas. From an original pot of $50,000 conferred on a single winner in 2000, the so-called Entrepreneurs Challenge has grown into a three-legged race for new ventures, social ventures and technology ventures—with a total purse of $200,000. Past winners include Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Dodgeball and Foursquare, and Ben Silberman, co-founder of Pinterest. Put together by NYU’s Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the contest engages 175-plus teams that compete over a grueling eight months.
A panel of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs determines the final cut.
This year’s winners, five groups of students in all, were culled from 12 finalists. Noor Pharmaceuticals, which develops and sells halal vitamins and supplements, split $75,000 with SleepBot (a Web and mobile app that helps you manage your shut-eye) in the new venture category. The $50,000 social venture prize went to Nutraceutical Market Solutions, a startup that aims to treat anemia in India by means of iron-fortified biscuits. A $75,000 purse for technology ventures was divided between RF Test Labs, which measures heat given off by mobile devices (think potentially harmful radio frequency absorbed by the body), and SeeMore Technology, which uses eye-tracking software to let you devour text faster on your e-reader, smartphone or computer. —Tom PostMOST ENTREPRENEURIAL COLLEGESRanking by LINKEDIN. FACTS Compiled by MICHAEL R GARFINKELMining its database of 20 million college grads, LinkedIn identified alumni of these schools as founders of the most companies with 10-plus employees
1. Stanford University
Richard Fairbank (BA ’72, MBA ’81) is the founder and CEO of Capital One Financial Corp. (2011 revenue: $18.5 bln).2. Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
According to a 2011 report from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, as of 2006 there
were 25,600 active companies founded
by MIT alumni, employing approximately
3.3 million people.3. Harvard University
Harvard has produced 10 self-made billionaires, more than any other school on this list. Billionaire grads include Steve Ballmer (’77), Phil Falcone (’84) and Sumner Redstone (’44).4. California Institute of Technology
Charles Trimble (BS ’63, MBA ’64) co-founded Trimble Navigation (2011 revenue: $1.6 bln), which makes GPS products, including devices for delivery
trucks and military jets.5. University of California, Berkeley
This past spring, Weili Dai (’84), co-founder of the Marvell Technology Group (2011 net revenue: $3.4 bln), was the first woman to give the commencement speech at the college of engineering.6. University of Pennsylvania
Elon Musk (’97) founded SpaceX in 2002, which has approximately $4 billion in contracts, including a large one with NASA. Musk also co-founded Tesla Motors and PayPal.7. Dartmouth College
In 2004, Steve Hafner (’91) co-founded Kayak, a travel site (’11 revenues: $225 mln).8. University of California, Los Angeles
Allen Adham and his 1990 classmates Michael Morhaime and Frank Pearce co-founded Blizzard Entertainment in 1991, makers of the online videogame World of Warcraft, which in 2010 had over 12 million players worldwide.
9. Princeton University
Jeff Bezos, who launched Amazon.com when he was 31, was a member of the class of 1986. 10. Haverford College
Despite its tiny size (the average class has 294 students), nearly 300 alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs.11. Yale University
The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute has nurtured 52 companies that have raised a total of $45 million in funding since 2007.12. Babson College See story above. 13. Brown University
Steven Rattner, co-founder of the Quadrangle Group, graduated from Brown in 1974.14. Northwestern University
Sixty-three percent of Northwestern students claim they want to start their own businesses.15. Harvey Mudd College
The school is named for Harvey Seeley Mudd, who co-founded Cyprus Mines, a copper mining concern, in the early 1900s with his father.16. Swarthmore College
John Montgomery (’77), founder and partner of Bridgeway Capital Management, manages over $2 billion in assets.17. Claremont McKenna College
LBO king Henry Kravis (net worth: $4 bln) was a 1967 graduate of the college.18. Amherst College
John Abele (’59) co-founded medical device giant Boston Scientific in 1979 (2011 sales: $7.6 bln).19. Williams College
AOL co-founder Steve Case (net worth: $1.5 bln) graduated from Williams in 1980.20. Hampshire College
Yogurtmaker Stonyfield Farm (2011 sales: $360 mln) was founded by Gary Hirshberg (’72).
(This story appears in the 14 September, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)