What is entrepreneurship “the Princeton way”? Twelve months ago, Provost David Lee Ph.D. ’99 created the Princeton Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee (PEAC), a group of faculty, students, administrators and alumni with expertise in this area.
We were asked to develop a vision for how the University can best support our student, faculty and alumni entrepreneurs in a way that is rooted in Princeton’s strengths as a liberal arts institution and as a leading research university.
The committee thinks of entrepreneurship as activities that “initiate transformative changes and challenge conventions through risk-taking actions using a relatively small amount of resources.” The PEAC members view “entrepreneurship” not merely as an occupation, but instead as a mindset. We see the goals of entrepreneurial thinking taking place not only in founding startups, but also creating social entrepreneurship organizations, joining early-stage companies, or innovating within large corporations, governments or NGOs. The common thread is taking actions to make significant, positive changes by pushing, pivoting and persisting.Ôøº
Multiple organizations across campus have already initiated entrepreneurship programs in recent years. An example in the engineering school is the Keller Center, which recently created eLab, a summer accelerator for student startups. The Keller Center also offers many courses in entrepreneurship, all of which are heavily subscribed by hundreds of students in and outside of engineering, and is building a mentorship network to engage talents of innovation with our alumni and the local ecosystem.
Much more remains to be done in years to come. PEAC prepared recommendations along five dimensions: incubator spaces and programs to create dynamic hubs for entrepreneurs; multiple entrepreneurship funds for alumni, students and faculty; curricular and co-curricular programs for learning entrepreneurship by practicing it; policy updates and consistent branding; and effective mentorship through alumni and ecosystem connections.
Across the board, we believe that “Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way” will amplify what Princeton stands for: a broad-minded liberal arts education contributing to the common good and innovative research translating into societal impact. A common theme from the committee’s work is the idea that the University ought to focus not on just supporting the success of projects per se, but also on investing in the long-term entrepreneurial potential of our people. Providing outlets for entrepreneurial experiences can enhance our core mission – spurring creativity and innovation, while giving students opportunities to build the character and habits they need to take risks, follow their passion, and persist through the inevitable failures that are a necessary part of entrepreneurial activity.
Entrepreneurship is fundamentally about individuals who embrace uncertainty and bootstrap each step of the way. We realize the importance of building an ecosystem within our community of Princetonians, both on campus and beyond. We will draw upon the expertise of the experienced entrepreneurs among our famously loyal alumni to create an accessible network for our students, while they are here on campus and well after they leave.
The work of PEAC is itself entrepreneurial in nature. Creating an environment for entrepreneurship “the Princeton way” may have risks and will not be quick or easy. It is unlikely to go exactly as planned and will require experimentation and perseverance. But when properly executed, entrepreneurship at Princeton will expose our students to a different mode of thinking; enable those who choose to broaden their pathways toward serving the nation and all nations through entrepreneurship; and enhance Princeton’s ability to make a positive difference in the world through the creative energy of our faculty and students.
For more information on PEAC initiatives, visit the website at www.princeton.edu/entrepreneurship.