School:University of Nevada Reno
Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship within the University of Nevada's College of Business gives students a comprehensive exposure to the particular methods and challenges of starting a business. Instead of deflecting students to general business courses, the Entrepreneurship minor is composed of its own ENT classes, most of which are taught by professors or entrepreneurs-in-residence with substantial business prowess and experience. The Entrepreneurship minor also emphasizes internship experience through its Entrepreneurship Internship class; however, this class currently has no students enrolled.
- Speakers / Lunch Meetings: The eClub meets to listen to guest speakers, usually local operating entrepreneurs, share their advice on starting up and succeeding.
- Pack Pitch: Every semester, the eClub organizes and conducts Pack Pitch, a micro-business-plan competition dedicated to bringing out and vetting innovative business ideas. Participants are judged on a 5-minute pitch; the audience votes down to the final contestants, and a panel of community entrepreneurs and university professors selects the final winner.
- Internships: Local businesses speaking to the eClub are often seek are open to the idea of hiring student interns. No formal program within the eClub exists for this, but opportunities are fairly frequent.
Enactus - University of Nevada Reno, formely SIFE, assists local businesses and community outreach programs, with an emphasis on free enterprise. Enactus is relatively small, but it is very active in its projects and accomplishments, from supporting the development of a Bangladeshi hospital to offering small businesses a reduced advertising rate through its Discover Washoe Valley project.
Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada are almost exclusively the domain of the College of Business; little, if any, institutional connection exists between this group and the College of Engineering and the more "innovation"-oriented side of the campus. That said, the College of Business maintains a strong and growing emphasis on nurturing entrepreneurship.
The College has two Endowed Chairs in Entrepreneurship. These are Dr. Mark Pingle, Charles N. Mathewson Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Dr. Dave Croasdell, Charles and Ruth Hopping Professor of Entrepreneurship. Dr. Pingle is also a professor of economics; Dr. Croasdell is the chair of the College's Information Systems Department.
Matt Westfield is an Entrepreneur in Residence for the University. He currently teaches New Venture Creation for the University and acts as Founder and Director of the Entrepreneurs' Assembly. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded Startup Growth Strategies, Inc., LSA Inc., LOGOpaperCLIPs, and several other companies.
University Technology Transfer Function
Technology transfer and research licensure are handled at Nevada by the University Technology Transfer Office. TTO, a joint initiative between the University of Nevada and the nearby Desert Research Institute, fulfills tech transfer and licensing functions while vetting on-campus research projects for their potential as startups. TTO's main mode of development for these projects is the formation of venture teams for entry into the $50,000 Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition; as these teams mature and develop, TTO pipelines them into becoming actual ventures. The unfortunate reality of this plan is that many students, including some of the most successful, end up abandoning their projects to pursue more lucrative schooling or job opportunities.
The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition will be happening for the third time this year; TTO-created teams have won both of the previous competitions.
The Senior Capstone Design Project for the College of Engineering has involved students in partnerships with a wide range of local and global companies including Moment Skis, Barrick Gold Corporation, Genentech Incorporated, and others. This year-long partnership between students and companies allows them familiarity with a company's culture and the chance to make a significant contribution to the company's processes, products, or bottom line. The lasting impact of these design projects varies: some companies will give the same project to graduating seniors every year, more as an academic exercise than an operational improvement.
Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts
The Nevada Small Business Development Center, an outreach program of the College of Business, provides logistical advice and access to local and national loan programs for startups and small businesses in and outside of the University. They offer demographic information, incorporation and form assistance, and consulting.
Outside the University, Nevada and Northern Nevada in particular have a wealth of programs dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial efforts. Mentoring and advice are available from the following groups, among many others:
- Matt Westfield, Nevada's Entrepreneur in Residence, is a founder of both the Entrepreneurs' Assembly, an intensive entrepreneurship training and networking course, and Startup Growth Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm for early-stage companies.
- The Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network organizes Raise the Bar Social Mixers, Power Lunches, and other networking events toward the mission of cultivating "an informed and involved young professional community in the Truckee Meadows in order to retain and attract young and diverse talent."
- The Nevada Microenterprise Initiative provides entrepreneurial training, technical assistance, and access to loans for startups, especially those started by low- to moderate-income individuals in Nevada.
Other groups provide angel funding and investment sources; these include Sierra Angels, Battle Born Venture, and others.