Educating a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

Three questions for Lang Center Faculty Director Angela W. Lee

Professor Angela W. Lee, faculty director for the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center.
Professor Angela W. Lee, faculty director for the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center.
Topics
Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Social Impact
Author
Roland Wyn Jones
Published

With entrepreneurship and venture capital becoming increasingly popular career paths for MBA students, top business schools are expanding their offerings.

This is certainly the case at Columbia Business School, which has launched several new programs, curriculum innovations and coaching resources for students and alumni designed to produce best-in-class startup founders and investors.

We recently checked in with Professor Angela W. Lee, faculty director for the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, professor of practice, and chief innovation officer, who shared her thoughts on the center’s priorities and goals for the coming year.

Q: What are the center’s major initiatives?

One of the programs we’re particularly excited about is the Columbia Build Lab, which connects Business School students looking to launch a start-up with Columbia Engineering School students. Together, they work on turning an idea into a minimum viable product. The program, which we launched in November 2019, has been a big success. We’ve matched about 50 founders with over 200 engineering students so far.

Another focus is the expansion of the Lang Fund, which provides early-stage investment opportunities to qualifying student ventures. Last year, for the first time, we widened the fund’s selection process to include alumni-founded startups, and we received over 250 applications and have funded seven to date. We recognize that people start new ventures at all stages of their lives, and we want to meet alumni where they are in their careers.

The Columbia Venture Fellows program is another important initiative. It’s a two-year fellowship that guarantees our students seats in our overbid venture capital courses and puts them into the shoes of investors by having them act as associates in the Lang Fund. Students work with venture capital mentors to write an investment thesis.

Q: What has been the impact of these programs?

Over the past 18 months or so, we’ve seen more than $750,000 in seed funding awarded to students and alumni, with 18 percent of that money awarded to Black founders. We’ve also seen a 17 percent rise in female founders and a 130 percent increase in Black founders. And we’ve seen a 30 percent increase in the number of student teams participating in our summer accelerator programs.

To help students and alumni grow their connections and improve funding opportunities, we have built an amazing network of entrepreneurs and investors who offer advice and guidance. Since the 2020–21 academic year students have booked 450 coaching sessions with our experts.

When you note that the Business School has incubated at least 20 recent unicorns—including online financial advisor Betterment and supply chain and logistics solutions provider Flexport—it’s clear that we offer unparalleled opportunities for coaching and networking, and we want to make sure students and alumni know about that.

“We offer unparalleled opportunities for coaching and networking, and we want to make sure students and alumni know about that.”

Angela W. Lee, Professor of Practice and Chief Innovation Officer

Q: What does the future of the Lang Center look like?

Our next big priority is to unleash the power of our incredible alumni network by making it easy for our graduates to get involved with the School. Expanding our funding opportunities is another priority and we are exploring ways to do that.

We are building out multiple innovation and collaboration spaces, such as on-campus co-working environments and areas where founders can experiment and build out prototypes. These spaces will not only support students but will also be available to the community around the School to support to local businesses.

Experiential learning is another area where we want to do more. One of our strengths is our location here in the heart of New York City, and we want to leverage the deep connections we have with our corporate partners and bring the power of that network to bear for our students.

We want the broader startup and venture capital community to know that Columbia Business School is creating the best founders and the best investors, and we’ll be shouting that from the rooftops.

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