I would argue that this tremendous entrepreneurial momentum here at the University of Michigan originates in one very simple, but radical thought: if we empower students to be leaders, they will make the impossible become possible.
Consider MPowered Entrepreneurship: As far as I am concerned, they are as much a contributor to our entrepreneurial success as anything we have done as faculty or as program officials. When returning from our first entrepreneurship-focused trip to meet alumni in the Bay Area, two student walk-ons had the idea to start MPowered because they believed that they could match the BASES organization at Stanford that they met. It took a while to establish trust, but in the meantime, MPowered is one of the campus organizations with the best name recognition.
- They run the 1000 pitches, the biggest idea competition of any student campus nationally or internationally!
- They run the MPowered Career Fair that provides small and growth companies to come recruit U-M students and thus gives students new opportunities. Prior to this, we had almost no small and growth companies recruit at U-M.
- They run the U-M startup weekend that includes 200-300 people from the university and from the entrepreneurial community and come up with companies together.
Consider TedXUofM: Recently, these amazing students ran an event with 1,200 audience members, 20+ speakers and acts, a movie and sound crew while streaming the entire thing on the web. I am told this is the largest TedX event and certainly one of the best organized you will find.
I could go on and talk about the China Entrepreneurship Network, an organization with over 250 members focused on Chinese Entrepreneurs. Their forum is straight-out amazing. There are many others…
It is my assertion that our nearly explosive growth of entrepreneurship on campus was caused because we have a deep alignment between our entrepreneurial academics and co-curricular programs with the passion and activities of impactful student organizations and their leaders.
So, how do you lead such organization as a faculty or as a university? The answer is: you don’t! You empower them instead and help them achieve their objectives: You support their leaders and magic will happen.