The Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, tasked with coordinating programs and activities relating to entrepreneurship across campus, officially launched in September. Daniel Warshay ’87, adjunct lecturer in engineering, was appointed the center’s executive director Aug. 15.
Currently based out of the third floor of Brown/RISD Hillel, the center aims to “make entrepreneurship a central part of the Brown experience,” Warshay said. Innovation and interdisciplinary work have always been “knitted into the fabric of Brown,” and the center hopes to make entrepreneurship accessible to all students, he added.
Though many entrepreneurship programs have existed at Brown before the creation of the center, hosting them all under one organization helps streamline the process for students hoping to learn more about entrepreneurship, Warshay said. The center now helps facilitate various venture support grants that range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. Students can also meet with mentors who are Brown alums, visiting entrepreneurs or other students if they need advice, he added.
The center has worked to develop partnerships with a number of organizations on campus, including the Brown Center for Students of Color, the First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center and women’s entrepreneurship group Lady Launchers, Warshay said. Through collaborations with these three groups, the center has developed programs and events to support those who belong to underrepresented groups, he said. The center hosted a conference titled “Entrepreneurship at the Intersection of Diversity and Inequality” Dec. 5.
Many peer institutions have long had centers for entrepreneurship, and Brown is just now catching up, said Angus Kingon, professor of entrepreneurship and organizational studies and engineering. A concerted focus on entrepreneurship is “critical for a modern university,” Kingon added.
Over the past few decades, students’ expectations for university education have also changed, and the school must “shift to reflect the realities of job security,” Kingon said. He added that a college education once prepared students for a decades-long career at a single company, but now students are exploring a variety of options, including switching careers and building their own companies.
An immediate focus for the center is to establish a more permanent space where students and staff can collaborate, Warshay said. He added that he is “treating the new center as a startup.”
“We’re trying to exercise appropriate humility and not assume that we know about all the unmet needs,” Warshay said. “Even in the creation of the center, we’re trying to exhibit entrepreneurship.”
Warshay also meets weekly with the leaders of the Brown Entrepreneurship Program, said Valentin Perez ’18, co-president of the group. Prior to the creation of the center, the group met with representatives from the Swearer Center for Public Service, Perez said.
Brown EP and Warshay meet to discuss activities they can coordinate together, Perez said. Alexandra Paul ’18, co-president of the group, said she believes these meetings are valuable because she and Perez can offer insight into student attitudes and ultimately shape how programs and events are developed.
Paul said Brown EP is excited about the center because it serves as a “one-stop shop for all the entrepreneurs on campus.” Though she hopes to see the center grow and find a more permanent location, it is still encouraging to see University support for entrepreneurs, Paul added.
Nurturing entrepreneurship is important because it is a “way of thinking that can be applied to anything,” Perez said. Brown students, who are “entrepreneurial by nature,” can benefit from the center by learning to be even more innovative, he added.
Warshay comes to the center with a wealth of experience, wrote Eric Suuberg, professor of technology entrepreneurship and engineering, in an email to The Herald. His appointment to the position, as well as Jonathan Nelson’s $25 million gift to fund the center, were celebrated in a September event that gathered Brown alumni entrepreneurs, according to a University press release.
Warshay has been teaching ENGN1010: “The Entrepreneurial Process: Innovation in Practice” for 11 years. Earlier in his career, he co-founded Clearview Software and sold the business to Apple. He has since founded and developed numerous other companies and teaches entrepreneurship workshops globally.
Suuberg lauded Warshay’s knowledge of Brown and entrepreneurship in general, in addition to praising his connections and demonstrated success in helping Brown entrepreneurs. “What more could one ask of someone who is assuming this role?” Suuberg added.
Kingon said he hopes that the center will develop scholarship in entrepreneurship. Every other discipline demands that professors teach, understand practical applications and participate in research, Kingon said.
Additionally, Kingon hopes that the center will work with the Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, of which he and Suuberg are co-directors, to link science and technology to entrepreneurship. Kingon added he believes it is important to teach students to translate science and technology research into tools of value for society.
The formation of the center will also help tackle questions concerning the extent to which Brown will support entrepreneurial activities and how students can continue to be supported after they graduate, Suuberg wrote.