National Business Incubation Association; Your source for knowledge and networks in business incubation

NOTE: This column features NBIA members who have found creative ways to better manage their programs and serve clients. If your program has found a unique way to improve operations, let us know by sending an e-mail to news@nbia.org.

Entrepreneurs return to the campus classroom

December 2011

When Gregg Fairbrothers began teaching "Introduction to Entrepreneurship" at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in 2004, he wanted to do something a little different.

"Instead of having just a couple dozen upper-class business students, I wanted to open it to a lot more people because I thought they'd find it useful," he says. So, the college allowed others to audit the course: Dartmouth alumni, students from other disciplines, and when it opened two years later, clients of the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center in Lebanon, N.H., where Fairbrothers is founding chairman. The nonprofit incubation program operates a 32,500-square-foot, mixed-use facility weighted toward technology and tech transfer.

"That class grew pretty quickly," Fairbrothers says, "from the original couple dozen to more than 300 people last year." Normally, the college restricts class audits, which is part of why the course is exceptional. The class grew so large, it required a second room equipped with a video feed.

"The goal was to cast a broad net, to bring in those who just want to be more entrepreneurial where they are. Some of the incubator clients are the most serious students because they know why they're there."

Dartmouth's course catalog describes the class as an overview of technology commercialization, entrepreneurship and start-up business, covering topics such as concept development, market assessment, business plan development and investor presentations. The course accents entrepreneurial thinking, Fairbrothers notes. "The goal is to help them make wise decisions. That's useful to business students, to incubator clients, to alumni, to people who are not on a business track."

Sometimes, Fairbrothers says, good business decision making doesn't just involve furthering good ideas but also identifying and abandoning bad ones.

"We had one incubator client who had an Internet plan," he says. "He was working with another client, a Web developer, and the developer was asking me if the guy knew what he was doing – he could lose a lot of money." The client took the course and decided to proceed differently. "When he left, he was saying the right things, asking the right questions. We probably saved him the better part of $100,000 in programming."

Some students in the class have found work in incubator companies. "I've had two students end up in the incubator as clients," Fairbrothers says.

As word of the course spread, McGraw-Hill contacted Fairbrothers, resulting in the recently published book, From Idea to Success. And because the class overflow necessitated a video link, the course was videotaped, which offers an opportunity to NBIA members and their clients.

"We captured it, so it might as well be available," Fairbrothers says. Incubation programs or incubator clients interested in viewing the course videos can contact Sandy Rozyla (sandra.k.rozyla@dartmouth.edu) to obtain a password. There is no charge.

"I think that's a terrific use of the material," Fairbrothers says. "It's exactly written for incubators and their managers. The more who see it, the better."—DEP

Keywords: Seminars and training programs, Professional development – client, Client services-general, University partnerships

Contact NBIA

Phone: (740) 593-4331
Fax: (740) 593-1996
340 West State Street, Unit 25
Athens, OH 45701-1565
info@nbia.org