Carnegie Mellon University

Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

January 02, 2019

Tepper School Places #6 for Entrepreneurship in Bloomberg Businessweek 2018 Ranking

For this year's full-time MBA rankings, Bloomberg Businessweek employed a new methodology, incorporating feedback from thousands of students, alumni, and recruiters to determine the most highly valued aspects of a business school education. As a result, this year's rankings evaluate schools along four indexes: compensation, learning, networking, and entrepreneurship.

The Tepper School of Business placed #6 in the entrepreneurship index, scoring 70.4 points out of 100. In describing the new methodology, Businessweek stated, "The entrepreneurship index explored student perceptions toward starting their own businesses, alumni insights on how seriously entrepreneurship was taken at each school as a career path, as well as the quality of training received to launch a startup, and recruiters provided input on whether graduates showed exceptional entrepreneurial skills."

Dave Mawhinney is Executive Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a hub for educational and professional resources for innovators and entrepreneurs at Carnegie Mellon University, and an Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship for the Tepper School. "The Swartz Center is an all-encompassing resource for entrepreneurship activities, which not only teaches you the entire process of starting a business, but can give you access to a broad network of investors, suppliers, mentors, and customers," he said.

Hands-On Experience

The James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellowship is a program administered by the Swartz Center to support aspiring entrepreneurs in Carnegie Mellon's graduate student population. About a dozen students are selected each year to participate in entrepreneurship coursework, networking opportunities with mentors and investors, roundtable discussions with entrepreneurial leaders, and a summer internship at a top-tier startup in the Bay Area.

Swartz Fellow and second-year MBA student Grant Vandenbussche completed an internship this summer with RoBotany, launched by Tepper School alumni Austin Webb (MBA 2017) and Danny Seim (MBA 2017). He has been hired by the company to work full time while he completes his second year at the Tepper School. "This is the perfect environment to learn from a founder," he said.

Vandenbussche came to the Tepper School following a career managing international supply chain with General Mills. He had long considered launching a technology venture, and so was pleased to find that pursuing his MBA at CMU gave him access to the university's highly regarded curriculum in artificial intelligence and robotics. He stressed the value of the Swartz Center in contributing to the Tepper School's placement in the rankings. "It does a lot for students interested in entrepreneurship," he said. "If you share what you're interested in and how you want to do it, they'll put you in the right spot to achieve it."

Network Support

First-year MBA student Asha Banks is a member of the 2019 class of current Swartz Fellows. "I have been blown away by the access I have to people with great entrepreneurial insights," Banks said. She had applied to the Swartz Fellowship because of encouraging conversations with Swartz Center Entrepreneurs-in-Residence — successful entrepreneurs who mentor aspiring entrepreneurs through the Swartz Center.

She has attended many of the workshops offered in the CONNECTS series, open seminars led by Carnegie Mellon faculty members and Pittsburgh entrepreneurial community members that focus on the nuts and bolts of launching a startup. "You go through all the steps of what it is to build a business, but then also you can get into the minds of VCs, for example, and understand what they're looking for."

Banks has found the network of entrepreneurs around her to be an invaluable resource to test and critique her ideas. She has participated in a recurring activity hosted by the Graduate Entrepreneurship Club called FrIDEA, where CMU students propose venture ideas to their peers for brainstorming and feedback. "I'm happy to be in a place where you can get valuable, critical feedback," she said.

In her MBA studies, Banks is concentrating in entrepreneurship, in addition to marketing and strategy. "We have courses like Lean Entrepreneurship and Marketing for Entrepreneurs that allow you to pitch your idea to the class," she said. "I plan to use those opportunities to further develop my ideas."

Entrepreneurship in the Curriculum

Recent graduate JJ Xu (MBA 2018) benefitted from the opportunities in her courses to build TalkMeUp, a software company that provides communication training via artificial intelligence-based coaching. Xu built TalkMeUp as the capstone project for the Tepper School's entrepreneurship track, a series of courses designed around building key entrepreneurial skills. Unlike the entrepreneurship concentration — which requires a student to complete three focused electives — a track at the Tepper School includes a sequence of intensive courses culminating in a capstone course designed to put into practice all of the skills developed in the curriculum.

Craig Markovitz, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, coordinates the entrepreneurship track and is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School. "The track offers a comprehensive education in entrepreneurial skills." Markovitz said. "The sheer volume of guidance and support that Carnegie Mellon has in place for entrepreneurs is astonishing."

"I took advantage of all the possible entrepreneurial resources here, both on campus and in the broader alumni network," Xu said. Her company took second place in the 2018 McGinnis Venture Competition, a Swartz Center event that invites student entrepreneurs to pitch their startups to investors and alumni entrepreneurs. After she graduated, Xu brought TalkMeUp to Silicon Valley to participate in the Swartz Center's VentureBridge Accelerator, which connected Xu with a broad network of alumni who are now serving as mentors and investors for the company. "Thanks to that program, we were able to quickly build our beta product," she said. "And then CMU invested in us."

TalkMeUp is currently operating out of a "garage" space in the Swartz Center dedicated to stimulating startup development. Having the garage space in the Tepper Quad has benefitted Xu; across the hall are the offices of the Accelerate Leadership Center where she consults with leadership coaches to augment their communication training with TalkMeUp's coaching software. "Accelerate's coaches cannot possibly be on demand, and this will help them quantify, monitor, and analyze the students' progress so that they can provide more value-added and customized consultation to the students," Xu said.

"The new Swartz Center space at the Tepper Quad has been essential to bolstering our ability to support entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon," Mawhinney said. "It is encouraging that Businessweek recognizes the significance of our strong curriculum and network behind our entrepreneurs."