Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coleman discusses growing entrepreneurial spirit in chat with MPowered

The student-led business startup group MPowered Entrepreneurship is all about new ideas. So it makes sense that President Mary Sue Coleman's visit with the MPowered team on Wednesday apparently sparked the creation of a new word.

"Mary Sue Coleman meeting us shows that our entrepreneurial movement is spreading across campus, and that the administration is behind our mission to 'entrepreneurialize' the campus," said Jenny Li, an Ann Arbor sophomore and incoming MPowered vice president of operations.

Li was among nearly 60 MPowered team members who met with the president at the Kuenzel Room in the Michigan Union for an update on U-M's efforts to promote entrepreneurial efforts and to ask questions.

"I really believe you have done something of extraordinary importance. I am intrigued by your inventiveness and your ideas. Everywhere I've talked about it people are impressed," Coleman told the group.

Coleman talked with the students about her work with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to promote the role of universities in advancing tech transfer and job growth. Coleman is co-chair of the 26-person National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The council's efforts to improve the technology commercialization process at universities and federal laboratories include working to move innovative ideas into the marketplace by connecting those people who have the ideas with people in a position to help build companies.

"Universities aren't the only actors here. The venture capitalists are actors. Businesses are actors. There's all these pieces to the puzzle and universities are a part of it," Coleman said.

The president said that in talking with people around the country she was struck by how unique MPowered was. She said that while many universities are involved in pursuing tech transfer, a student-run entrepreneurial effort stands out.

Founded in 2007, MPowered Entrepreneurship is a nonprofit student organization focused on encouraging self-starters to begin their entrepreneurial journey, and to spread their passion to the rest of the U-M community.

Coleman said success isn't measured solely in the successful startup of a new company. "Having an entrepreneurial spirit is really a good thing to have; it helps to drive change. I think it's something really distinctive about Michigan," she said.

Among MPowered's successes are the annual 1,000 Pitches business idea contest and a Peer Mentorship Program, which guides students through the entrepreneurial process and offers mentors to help them create business designs.

"My feeling is that we have been a real leader here and I hope others will emulate what we've done because the model is so interesting and there's so much energy you can generate among students. I'm hoping that by being part of this national effort I can really help the university get recognition of what it's done, but I'm also looking toward the natural evolution of collaboration across the colleges. I think that's the next step," Coleman said.

Coleman said the promotion of entrepreneurship through collaboration across the disciplines could serve as a theme for the university's next capital campaign. "I believe this is a very promising fundraising target for the university. I see that as the next frontier," she said.

Prateek Garg, an Ann Arbor sophomore and incoming MPowered president, expressed appreciation for Coleman's insights.

"One of the things that stuck out for me was the fact that she recognized that there is a real need for venture capital companies to move to Ann Arbor to push forward this entrepreneurial endeavor," Garg said.

President Mary Sue Coleman (front row center) shows off her MPowered T-shirt for a group photo during Wednesday's meeting to discuss student entrepreneurship. (Photo by Daryl Marshke, U-M Photo Services)