Bao Le, a graduate student in pharmaceutical sciences, was interested in exploring an entrepreneurial career path, but she felt intimidated by the idea of starting a career in business. Then she attended the recent Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Bootcamp (WEB), an intensive week-long program that provides science, technology, engineering, and math graduate students with the business background to begin looking at their research as potential business opportunities.
“It made me realize that business is not scary,” Le says. “And it gave me a better plan and mindset for when I graduate with my Ph.D. I know I want to go into the industry rather than academia, and I really want to try to work for a startup company sometime in my career.”
John Morgridge, chairman emeritus of Cisco Systems Inc. and Wisconsin School of Business alumnus, speaks to group of aspiring entrepreneurs at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Bootcamp.
More than 60 graduate students from across the University of Wisconsin–Madison participated in this year’s program sponsored by John and Tashia Morgridge and the Wisconsin School of Business, which features case analyses, lectures, expert panels, exercises in market assessments, and networking opportunities to help participants explore entrepreneurial opportunities.
“The program doesn’t require students to work on a specific ideas but instead provides them with knowledge, tools, and inspiration so that when they get back to their labs, they can start to think about opportunities in their research for potential commercialization,” says Dan Olszewski, director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at the Wisconsin School of Business. “It’s a very intense week with several 12-hour days, but the students are engaged and eager to apply what they learn over the week in their academic and business careers.”
First offered in 2007, WEB has had more than 500 students participate. Alumni have gone on to create startups such as C-Motive Technologies, SnowShoe, and bluDiagnostic (winner of the most recent Governor’s Business Plan Contest).
Some graduate students brought well-articulated business ideas to develop, and others came to learn about how entrepreneurial opportunities might fit with their career plans.
“I’m interested in entrepreneurship and have a broad idea for a business that I might want to start,” says Kim Toops, postdoctoral fellow in ophthalmology. “It’s been an outstanding experience, more than I hoped for. It made me think about things that I never would have thought about. It has given me confidence to start thinking about [my business idea] as a real option.”