The panel comprised of six representatives from the university discussed the university’s increased commitment to entrepreneurship and the changes now underway to support that commitment.
Just over a year ago the Princeton Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee submitted its report to the university’s President and Provost that included over 20 recommendations relating to the role entrepreneurship should have at the university and how the university should engage with external entrepreneurial ecosystems.
One of the most visible signs of Princeton’s commitment to enact the committee’s recommendations are the panel members themselves; four of whom having joined the University within just the past year.
- Coleen Burrus, Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations, Moderator
- Spencer Reynolds, Corporate Engagement (Physical Sciences)
- Alan Naidoff, Corporate Engagement (Life Sciences)
- Laurie Tzodikov, Office of Technology Licensing
- Anthony Williams, New Ventures Associate
- Anne-Marie Maman, Princeton Entrepreneurship Council
Laurie Tzodikov is the most senior staff member having ten years with the University and followed next by Spencer Reynolds having just over three years.
“We have had a real push from the top leadership at the university to be more out in the world, to be more involved with the New Jersey ecosystem, the ecosystem around the country,” explained Coleen Burrus.
Burrus cited examples of the university’s growing outreach ranging from their attendance at key events in conferences in New Jersey to the recent placement of a university representative in San Francisco working with companies in Silicon Valley.
Within Corporate Engagement and Foundations Relations, Burrus described her efforts for finding funding as “the Princeton 360 approach” that is distinct from other university funding models for research that narrowly focus on a particular government, industry or foundation source.
“We see it as a holistic way of funding,” Burrus said. She gave the example of a foundation looking to do a specific research project at the university in which her team will serve to engage other potential funding participants, whether it is the university’s innovation fund or well-off individuals, government or industry, to join in the project.
“Entrepreneurship the Princeton Way,” another university approach which emerged from the recent Committee report, is still being defined, according to a consensus of the full panel. They all nodded in agreement about greater clarity arising in the coming year as a result of their and other’s efforts to learn about the ecosystems in which Princeton now recognizes as having an important role.
“This says something strong to us on campus, as well as to us as alumni. It means we are not trying to be MIT or Stanford. It means that we are grounded in the things that are important to Princeton. It is a liberal arts university….We are making sure it is broad ranged and academically rigorous and it is civic minded in the service of the nation and all humanity,” explained Anne-Marie Maman.
Maman who joined Princeton just three months ago to head the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council touted some of the early strides that have been made during her brief tenure.
They include the establishment of the eHub, the imminent launch of a university entrepreneurship and innovation focused web site, the planned growth of her staff to five in the coming months and discussions underway for a possible minor or certificate in entrepreneurship. Fairly prompt steps in view of Princeton being a large institution, according to Maman.
Each of the panelists, with the exception of Maman, are part of the Office of the Dean for Research. They stressed the collaboration and team work that they see as critical to fulfilling their assignments that also touch each other’s specialties.
While Maman serves as both a hub and liaison around the University, her associates working in the Office for the Dean for Research are each engaged more narrowly with faculty, researchers, and students in specialty areas that directly impact their research and potential ventures.
Spencer Reynolds in Corporate Engagement-Physical Sciences, focuses on corporate/industry interactions that support the educational and research divisions. This includes corporate funding and research collaboration.
Alan Naidoff in Corporate Engagement-Life Sciences, similar to Spencer Reynolds efforts, sees also the key role of relationship building that may lead to broader and deeper opportunities across the University in the long term. He was pleased to learn of the willingness of Foundations to invest in early stage ventures.
Laurie Tzodikov in Office of Technology Licensing deals a lot with the nuts and bolts that helps “researchers do their jobs well”. This “ranges from getting disclosures in from the PI’s to federally funded research to determining the best type of IP protection whether patent, trademark or copyright.”
Tony Williams in New Ventures “serves any faculty or researchers for spin-outs—whatever they need…entrepreneurs to drive it, someone to mentor, connect with those who can…including funding sources.” SBIR/STTR federal sources, market analysis, traction, IP strategy, are part of a very full spectrum of assistance.
“We are actively looking at building the ecosystem. Princeton really does understand that we cannot be an entrepreneurial ecosystem just in the little bubble of Princeton. That is not going to work. We are not going to be able to attract investments to our little companies unless the whole community is investible. Unless there are people to staff those companies. Unless there are other reasons for venture capitalists to come,” stated Maman in summing up their mission and goals.