Thayer students visit Bentley University Entrepreneurship Event
Ten Thayer students joined Head of School Chris Fortunato and veteran faculty member Kevin Cedrone in attending the inaugural Bentley Entrepreneurship Alumni Panel Event Jan. 31 at Bentley University. The Thayer group was recognized by Bentley University President Brent Chrite and Trustee Professor Sandeep Purao, both of whom had extended the invitation to Thayer community members and moderated the event.
This was the first of a number of upcoming opportunities for Thayer students to learn from and alongside Bentley students, faculty, and alums in furtherance of the development of a pilot program in entrepreneurship at Thayer. Cedrone, Upper School Math and Computer Science Department Head, is leading the launch of the pilot beginning this winter; it will include a 10-session evening seminar that not only exposes students to the mindset and vocabulary of entrepreneurship but also delves into aspects of product opportunity identification and ideation, prototyping, competition analysis, team building, and business model fundamentals. The pilot will culminate in a pitch competition in May with prizes awarded to further students’ learning and development in the entrepreneurship space.
At the Bentley event, students heard from a panel of Bentley alums on how to prepare and succeed as an entrepreneur. Panelists included Janak Joshi, currently Chief Technology Officer and Head of Strategy at Life Image, who is focused on building industry-leading products for researchers, engineers, and clinicians; Todd Forest, founder and Managing Partner of Garnet Kelly, LLC, a consulting firm in the private equity and venture capital space; and Todd Pavone, CEO and President of Virtustream, a strategic club services business within the Dell Technologies family of businesses.
Students reflecting on the experience noted:
“I was surprised and impressed by how much this panel was focused on entrepreneurship elements/qualities outside of academics, like the importance of mindset and not having a narrow definition for your success. A successful entrepreneur is not only someone who has good ideas but someone who can respond to criticism well, take risks, communicate, connect with people effectively, and build meaningful relationships. I also liked how members of the panel defined an entrepreneur: someone who finds a problem they are passionate about and does something about it.” - Addi St. Jean ‘23
“Although I had previously regarded entrepreneurship as something that was interesting but not necessarily something that I wanted to pursue myself, I realized that entrepreneurship goes beyond just developing a product and starting a business. The qualities of an entrepreneur that the panel listed are easily transferable across all disciplines of study, such as humility, confidence, and perseverance. The panel also put emphasis on another important quality of an entrepreneur: the ability to make and maintain eye contact while speaking. The fact that something so little can make a difference on whether you make a deal or gain investors made me realize that connecting with an audience is the easiest way to get them to listen to you.” - Alena Mulhern ‘23
“I thought that it was very interesting to listen to successful entrepreneurs who have had several ventures sharing their advice and experience. Entrepreneurship is such an abstract concept to me, but hearing them talk about their experiences and their roads to success made it much more concrete, and I've especially learned the importance of idea pitching and the importance of soft skills. Talking to Todd afterwards, he reiterated the importance of networking and pursuing passion, both important aspects to not only entrepreneurship but everything in general.” - Peter Chen ‘23
“Despite their diverse paths toward success, each panelist echoed the same impactful message that is ubiquitous in conversations at Thayer: there is no replacement for grit, hard work, and passion. I'm excited to see how Thayer continues to develop its programs that foster not only strategizing and networking but also confidence, humility, and collaboration.” Maddie Stearns ‘23
Fortunato echoed students’ appreciation of and enthusiasm for the event, noting that “Thayer will continue to take important and bold steps to amplify student engagement by connecting students to people, institutions, ideas, and opportunities that inspire and excite them to lean into their curiosities and passions. The enthusiasm around Thayer entering into the entrepreneurship space is palpable, and I’m grateful for Kevin Cedrone’s leadership as we incubate new ideas and programs like this one.”
The entrepreneurship pilot program is currently under development and will launch later this month with a small group of juniors/seniors who will not only benefit from the experience but help to co-create this new offering.