BOSTON—Ten to fifteen years after graduating from Harvard Business School, fifty percent of HBS alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs. But many don’t wait that long. In fact, with the help of a broad portfolio of programs offered by the School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, including the Rock Accelerator, summer fellowships, and the annual New Venture Competition (co-sponsored by the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative), more and more Harvard MBA students are launching enterprises while they’re still in school or newly-minted alums.
On October 18, some 100 of these HBS entrepreneurs gathered from near and far at the Harvard University Innovation Lab on the HBS campus for a two-day learning and networking conference (held every other year) called the Rock 100 Summit, chaired by HBS professors Tom Eisenmann and Shikhar Ghosh (a serial entrepreneur in his own right) and Rock Center Director Jodi Gernon.
Also present for advice and counsel was an extraordinarily talented and experienced Advisory Board comprising 18 HBS graduates who have founded, scaled, and nourished a slew of companies, from Sam Clemens, now founder and chief product office of Boston-based business analytics company InsightSquared and Sarah Leary, co-founder and vice president of marketing and operations at Nextdoor, the free and private social network for neighborhoods, to Matt Salzberg, founder and first president and CEO of Blue Apron, and Alexandra Wilson, a cofounder of online fashion retailer Gilt and now senior vice president of consumer strategy and innovation for the global pharmaceutical company Allergan.
After a welcoming dinner on the evening of October 18 featuring remarks by HBS professor Frances Frei, a service management expert who during a recent leave of absence served as senior vice president of leadership and strategy at Uber, participants hit the ground running on the morning of October 19 at a series of “Flash Talks,” curated presentations by HBS faculty members and/or advisory members regarding frameworks, strategies, and research aimed at helping founders advance their ventures.
Topics included Brand Storytelling with Senior Lecturer Jill Avery; Hiring, Firing, and Building a Killer Team, with Prof. Ghosh; and Pathway to Exit with Senior Lecturer Bob Higgins. Other presentations were Building a Metrics-Driven Salesforce with Senior Lecturer Frank Cespedes; Developing Effective Managers in High-Growth Companies with Associate Professor Ethan Bernstein; Managing Your Board with Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Rayport; and What Non-Technical Founders Need to Know about Product Roadmap with Senior Lecturer Julia Austin. The afternoon involved participants in a number of small-group discussions.
“The success of the Rock 100 Summit reflects the very high level of interest in entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School and the remarkable achievements of our young alumni in this space,” said Gernon. “Legendary professors Bill Sahlman and Howard Stevenson started us down this path several decades ago, and now with an entrepreneurship faculty of over 30, more than 300 of our current MBA students participate in entrepreneurship programs. The School’s focus is global rather than centered on one or two geographical areas, and we teach our students how to lead and scale their companies, not just start them. The variety of enterprises they have founded is awesome, from new satellite technology and better weather forecasting to tiny houses and platforms for interior design.”
As one participant put it, “The Rock 100 Summit is truly a Disneyland for both aspiring and accomplished entrepreneurs.” Stay tuned for the next one in 2020.