So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?

The student-led Haverford Innovation Platform brought four experienced entrepreneur alumni to campus to launch their Innovation Platform series.

The new student-led Haverford Innovation Platform (HIP) officially kicked off its inaugural event on Saturday, Oct. 1, with an alumni-mentoring panel focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. HIP is a Students Council-sponsored initiative that encourages students to engage in innovation and entrepreneurship through a series of events.

“Defining Haverfordian Entrepreneurship” brought four Haverford alumni—Wendy Hamilton ’90, Brad Aronson ’94, Ed Zimmerman ’89 ,and Ellie Power ’92—to campus to talk to aspiring Haverford entrepreneurs about their rich experiences, from running startups to tech training and digital publishing. A wealth of experience was represented on the panel: Hamilton is CEO of TechSmith; Aronson is an author, blogger about random acts of kindness, investor, and advisor to startups; Zimmerman is chair of the tech group at Lowenstein Sandler and co-founded and runs VentureCrush; and Power is a serial entrepreneur who is now the senior vice president of client services at Phase2 Technology.

The panel was introduced by three faculty speakers, Associate Professor of Chemistry Joshua Schrier, Associate Professor of English Laura McGrane, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics Shannon Mudd. After elaborating on their own academic and professional backgrounds, the panelists then opened the floor to questions.

Participants, most of whom were current Haverford students, sought advice on a wide array of topics, including how to meet future investors, what it means to grow a company organically, and what type of entrepreneur is likely to find support from investors. While the alumni agreed that every investor looks for a slightly different set of skills, they all stressed the importance of communication skills, integrity, and risk-taking. Those risks become part of every entrepreneur’s life, they all agreed, and so starting early, before feeling the burden of financial liabilities, can be an advantage.

“Find yourself a problem to solve,” said Aronson, “and go and try to do something about it instead of just thinking about it.”

The panel was followed by an informal dinner that allowed participants to connect with the alum entrepreneurs (and potential future investors) in a more personal, one-on-one way.

Saturday’s event was organized by Students Council, as a precursor to the formal Innovations Program outlined in the strategic plan Haverford 2020. The College is poised to launch that program with the hire of a new Innovations Program manager in the spring and the opening of a facility for Visual Culture Arts and Media (VCAM) in the renovated Old Gym in fall 2017.

Up next for HIP is a collaboration with the Microfinance and Impact Investing Initiative (Mi3) and Swarthmore’s Lang Center for a four-session workshop series, “Design Thinking – Philadelphia.” Students on Haverford and Swarthmore campuses will have a chance to learn design-thinking methods from social entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia area. The first workshop is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20.

-Katya Konradova ’19

Photos by Rae Yuan ’19