Carnegie Mellon University
Swartz Center Entrance Photo

What is the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship?

Carnegie Mellon University alumnus James R. Swartz, a distinguished entrepreneur and founding partner of the global venture capital firm Acceldonated $31 million to support the university’s entrepreneurship activities in 2015. In recognition of this generous gift, the university created the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship.

Our Mission

The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, works with its partners to serve the entire CMU community — departments, colleges, centers and campuses — to accelerate bringing research innovations and promising ideas to the global marketplace and helping all entrepreneurial students, faculty, staff and alumni tap into the "innovation ecosystem."

The Swartz Center's mission is threefold:

  1. Defining CMU as the "destination of choice" for all individuals — faculty, staff and students — interested in entrepreneurship;
  2. Fostering an "inside-out" approach to creating winning commercial ventures from cutting-edge research and ingenious ideas for the benefit of society; and
  3. Developing an extensive, vibrant network of alumni entrepreneurs.

Jim Swartz

Portrait of Jim Swartz

James Swartz, MSIA '66 | Recipient of the 2018 CMU Alumni Award

Jim Swartz founded Accel with Arthur Patterson in 1983.

Entering a fifth decade in venture capital, Jim has been a lead director of more than 50 successful companies. He also works with the Accel London team as a founder/mentor of Accel's European business.

Before founding Accel, Jim was the founding general partner of Adler & Company, which he started with Fred Adler in 1978 after his tenure as a vice president of Citicorp Venture Capital. A long time industry leader, Jim is former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and a 2007 recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jim’s philanthropic initiatives include dozens of academic, athletic, arts, health, scholarship and social impact programs.

He serves as chairman of the Swartz Foundation and the Christian Center of Park City, director emeritus of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Foundation (where he established the Borgen-Swartz Education Endowment), trustee of the Sundance Institute and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a member of the board of advisors of Tepper School of Business.

Jim grew up in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, graduated from Harvard in Engineering and has a M.S. in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University where he sponsors the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and the Swartz Fellowship Program. Jim also serves as Chair of the President’s Global Advisory Council at Carnegie Mellon.

James Swartz, MSIA '66 | Recipient of the 2013 Tepper School Alumni Achievement Award

James Swartz, MSIA '66 | Tepper School of Business Commencement Speech 2016

History of Entrepreneurship at CMU

Carnegie Mellon University has a rich history of entrepreneurship. Below, we highlight milestones in the university’s history that led to the creation of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship in 2015.

1971: The Tepper School of Business was one of the first schools in the world to offer entrepreneurship education. Jack Thorne and Dick Cyert, later the president of CMU, spearheaded the initiative.

1989: The Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship (DJC) was established with a transformational $1 million gift, with the mission to serve the Carnegie Mellon campus. The DJC was positioned on campus as the epicenter of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. Academic courses and programs tie in across the campus’ variety of science and arts programs.

1993: Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC) is founded. CTTEC is responsible for facilitating and accelerating the movement of research and technology out of the university and into the marketplace.

1994: The Jones Center begins offering non-credit entrepreneurial education programs for area entrepreneurs looking to commercialize technology, grow a company beyond the startup phase or acquire another venture.

2003: The McGinnis Venture Competition is established with the help of an endowment by Gerald H. McGinnis, founder of Respironics, Inc. — now Phillips Respironics. The business plan competition promotes entrepreneurship through technology and includes funding for competition winners.

2005: Carnegie Mellon University’s Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) opens. The CIC houses some of the biggest names in corporate innovation, such as Google, Apple and the Intel Research Lab-Pittsburgh. The CIC provides opportunities for students looking to pursue entrepreneurship in partnership with mature companies. Disney and Microsoft facilities are also adjacent to the CIC and campus.

2006: The James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, named for Jim Swartz founder of Accel Partners, is established. The Swartz Fellows Program is geared toward MBA students who have a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation. This program focuses on the experiential side of developing future entrepreneurial leaders. Alumni around the country mentor students in the Swartz Fellows Program.

2007: Project Olympus, a Carnegie Mellon innovation center, is founded. Project Olympus operates at the earliest stages of the value creation chain. Olympus provides startup advice, micro-grants, incubator space and connections for faculty, alumni and students across campus with the wider regional, national and global business communities.

2007: The Jones Center founds the first entrepreneurship and innovation program in the Middle East with support from the Qatar Foundation and its Qatar Science and Technology Park.

2007: The Silicon Valley trek program begins. This program was initiated to give students in Tepper invaluable exposure to entrepreneurs on the West Coast. 

2012: The Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is created to strengthen and serve the already bustling culture of entrepreneurship and innovation at Carnegie Mellon, and to accelerate the commercialization of university research and innovative ideas. The CIE helped unite entrepreneurship programs across campus, including the Don Jones Center and Project Olympus, under an umbrella of opportunities across campus, which was made possible by a generous gift from the McCune Foundation.

2015:  The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship is announced. The Swartz Center was made possible by a transformational $31 million gift from alumnus and venture capitalist James R. Swartz.

2017: Corporate Startup Lab, a Swartz Center Initiative, is launched with the mission of researching and promoting transformative innovation within corporations.

2018: The VentureBridge Summer Accelerator receives a generous gift of $1.5 million from the Robert and Kathleen Dobkin Intuitive Foundation. This program is exclusively focused on helping Carnegie Mellon alumni founders succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures.

2021: CMU VentureBridge Summer Accelerator program expands from San Francisco to include New York as well.

2021: Swartz Center launches the Patron Program. This program helps patrons impact the success of CMU’s most promising ventures, while gaining widespread visibility and recognition within the worldwide CMU community and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

2021: The Strength in Numbers DEI Outreach Program is created to support women and minority family-owned businesses. This program would transition into the joint Tepper School of Business / Swartz Center Family Business program launching in Fall 2022.