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The Entrepreneurial Academic CEO

We fondly recall our time as students and a few professors that made a lasting impression on us. We are …

We fondly recall our time as students and a few professors that made a lasting impression on us. We are also proud alums and may even have our school decal on our cars. 

But, we do not often think of this wonderful resource right in our backyards and the Academic CEO’s who are creating a new educational model for lifelong learning and who are the entrepreneurial spirit at the forefront of change in this era of technological innovation. I have been following one such academic CEO and his quest for a new business model for lifelong executive education and outreach to the business community, in addition to growing future CEO’s on campus. 

Harold Raveche, CEO of Stevens Institute of Technology located in the town that Frank Sinatra made famous – Hoboken, New Jersey is one such entrepreneurial academic CEO. His unique selling proposition is a concept called technogenisis.

Hal’s definition of technogenisis is: “Learning in an environment that commercializes university intellectual property with external partners by launching company’s with a shared value for all”.

This concept has fostered a level of faculty creativity that involves students and has changed the culture of an academic institution. 

By creating an atmosphere that promotes faculty and student cooperation with corporate management using successful alumni as advisors and mentors Stevens has developed a new business model for academia. This model has evolved into Stevens jointly owning companies and establishing a “for profit” separate entity with its own independent board and CEO on campus.  

This for-profit holding company licenses technology developed thru the collaborations described above generating income that continues to fund this stand-alone business unit. It also has created a major incentive for faculty and students to search for more and more technological innovations.  This pioneering new academic business model has already produced significant relationships with well known corporate partners like Stryker Corporation, a global leader in medical technology and many others. 

This new model for academic entrepreneurship combines research and teaching with the development of a creative enterprise by fostering a mindset for innovation among faculty and students. In so doing a research university has become a source of sustained innovation, as well as recognized center for proven technological break throughs. And now, sort after research partner. 

The real value of this culture change is that it has created an enriched learning experience for the faculty and through exciting research has resulted in student inventors getting patents and trademarks. It has also resulted in prototypes that have spawned new ventures of interest to serious investors. This has resulted in new businesses being established that have grown into major contributors to improving our health and standard of living. 

In addition, students graduate with the ability to launch and grow companies. More importantly as a result of their experience with Stevens they are natural future partners allowing the university to sustain their innovative culture through this rich  engineering/science based lode of graduates. 

Another nice byproduct of this creative culture at Stevens is that the graduating class of 2007 actually accepted starting salary’s that were higher than the national average.

The real change that Hal Raveche has created is truly industry-university partnerships working on joint new product developments for joint equity, not contract R&D as has been the case in the past. This has resulted in funding for student initiatives and their faculty mentors. 

This new business model has also resulted in a new organizational structure at Stevens and new programs. Stevens has also been recognized as a pioneer in global graduate programs with the largest program in China of any U.S. university. Their joint venture in China has already graduated 150 students. Stevens has also received the Sloan Award for the best online teaching and learning programs in China. 

Stevens also offers programs throughout Europe and Singapore. 

They have also pioneered a new school of Systems Enterprises. In addition Stevens has developed a new Business & Technology undergraduate program. 

Lastly, Hal Raveche sponsors a visiting scholars lecture series where successful alums demonstrate the financial realities of the successful commercialization of technology with case history’s of their own experiences. This allows for a very positive connectivity with “movers and shakers” in the investment community.

I guess the natural question is “are you involved with the academic institution you graduated from”? Or, even better “have you followed their evolution since you graduated”? 

Maybe there is something happening at your alma mater that can be helpful to your business. Have you ever thought about utilizing interns? Providing a research project?  

More importantly, what role can you play as a mentor to students or partner of some kind with the faculty on their research efforts? 

There just could be something happening right in your back yard like at Stevens that could result in a very rewarding and mutually profitable venture for you and them. 

Rather than thinking about your school as just a place asking for contributions, maybe there is a contribution that you can make that’s more valuable and mutually rewarding than sending in your check for the annual fund drive. 

Let me know if I can be helpful to you in thinking of ways to give something back to your school or getting involved with a rich lifelong learning experience.

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.

He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

About Robert M. Donnelly

Robert M. Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is CMO of Flo-Tite Valves & Controls, a U.S. based supplier of valves and components to the process control industry in North America. A coach, educator, and advisor to founders/CEOs of growing firms, he is a serial entrepreneur, having started, grown and sold several technology based businesses. Previously he held executive positions at IBM, Pfizer and Exxon.