Wired for success
Budding entrepreneurs plug into new funding opportunities

In just two years, the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative has augmented the school’s ability to prepare students to found, finance and operate their own businesses post- graduation. Through KIEI, new courses, faculty and alumni events have provided the support those newly minted graduates need to turn ideas into companies.

Now comes one more resource: money.

Series ‘K’ Funding

KIEI also is launching two new programs designed to help students get their new ventures off the ground.

The Zell Scholars Program provides a select group of Full-Time MBA students with special access to programming, mentorship and funding for business resources to help them build and grow their companies while they’re still at Kellogg. The program is endowed by Sam Zell, founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments.

“Our goal is to make students’ companies as fundable and market-ready as possible by the time they graduate,” said David Schonthal, director of the program and a clinical assistant professor of entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Combe Family Impact Scholars Program stems from a gift provided by NU alumnus Chris Combe and his wife, Courtney.

Part of the program includes the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award, a $70,000 prize granted annually to one student or student team to help them pursue their venture after graduation.

The gift will also provide “Project Impact” funding (ranging from approximately $500 to $5,000) to help students catalyze their social impact projects while they’re still at Kellogg.

“This is not just about entrepreneurship; it’s about entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Jamie Jones, clinical assistant professor of entrepreneurial practice and director of social entrepreneurship. “And it’s about helping students who have a desire to leverage [their] business acumen to have a positive impact on society in whatever way they choose.”

A partnership between KIEI, the dean’s office and a student group has created the Kellogg Education Technology Incubator. It provides the Kellogg community — from students to alumni — with a chance to build, test and implement tech-based products designed to enhance education both at Kellogg and throughout the MBA community.

The idea for the incubator came about during a pilot program created by Sam Sung ’13 to test the use of tablets to take
notes during class. Looking to have a broader impact on Kellogg, a few of the participants, among them Westin Hatch and Elizabeth Bernardi, both ’14,developed the idea for an incubator and — as Sung did with the tablet program — took it to the administration.

With the help of Associate Dean of Students and MBA Programs Betsy Ziegler and support from the Dean’s Innovation Fund, Hatch, Bernardi and the others launched the incubator as a partnership designed to develop new software and products. "It’s that collaboration between faculty, administration and students that makes Kellogg such a special place,"
says Hatch, an MMM student and the incubator’s president.

During the inaugural, month long pitch competition last fall, 22 student teams representing all Kellogg MBA programs submitted ideas for new products. Of these, eight teams were selected to pitch to a panel of experts that included Kim Vender Moffat ’06, principal at the private equity firm Sterling Partners, Steve Farsht ’98, lecturer and director of TechStars Chicago, and Sunil Chopra, the IBM Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems.

Four student teams were then selected to receive more than $50,000 in funding. Kellogg is also providing sponsorship through the dean’s office while Kellogg Information Systems will assist as a sounding board and thought partner. Products are scheduled for beta-testing this spring with launches planned for summer.

Winning pitches run the gamut in terms of scope. Some pitches like Konnect, a Siri-esque app that will link prospective students with current ones based on interests and goals, focus on smaller, Kellogg-specific enhancements.

"We hope that prospective students get a clear understanding of what Kellogg is about, what the Kellogg culture is, so that they’ll have all the information before they make their final decision," says Alex Popelard ’14, an MMM student and one of the product managers.

Other pitches like Tuplee take a macro approach. A file aggregator, Tuplee will sync files from multiple platforms, including Blackboard, Dropbox and Google Drive, to a Web- or mobile-accessible site.

Arbyl will tackle communication issues international students sometimes face by developing a webcam chat service where those students can practice conversational English with native-speaking tutors. KetchUp is intended to solve the long-standing problem of bugging classmates for notes by creating an app that allows students to record and upload lectures to a cloud-based server for a limited time.

"It’s really amazing what these teams were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time," says Linda Darragh, executive director of KIEI.

Learn more about the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative at: kell.gg/si-kiei