Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative launched

Provost Marie Lynn Miranda has announced a new cross-disciplinary initiative to provide students from across the university with additional skills and knowledge to succeed in a world where entrepreneurial capabilities are increasingly critical for meaningful and influential careers.

The Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative’s goal is to build a collection of curricular and co-curricular activities designed to prepare students for the process of entrepreneurship — from starting a company to hiring people and managing finances. The initiative will be led by Yael Hochberg, the Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Jones Graduate School of Business.


“Professor Hochberg has the expertise, knowledge and savvy needed for an initiative that will both educate our students and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture on campus,” Miranda said. “We are delighted that she has agreed to lead this exciting new endeavor.”

The initiative will provide tailored road maps that address the different needs of undergraduate, graduate, MBA and Executive MBA students. Classes will accentuate experiential learning by combining theory and practice to provide students the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom. Speakers and workshops will highlight timely topics in entrepreneurship. Rice faculty and practitioners will ensure that students are exposed to a broad range of perspectives and experiences throughout their entrepreneurship journey.

“Rice’s combination of top-tier engineering and sciences, strong business school and vibrant humanities along with a very creative student body create a natural environment for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Hochberg, who has expertise in entrepreneurship, innovation and finance.

Hochberg came to Rice in 2013 from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and is considered one of the foremost experts on accelerator programs. She serves as managing director of the annual Seed Accelerator Rankings Project and as academic director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which hosts the world’s largest and richest student startup competition, the Rice Business Plan Competition. She also is a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

Jones School Dean Bill Glick, the H. Joe Nelson III Professor of Management, said Hochberg’s appointment speaks to her skills and the school’s acclaimed graduate entrepreneurship program, which was founded by nationally recognized faculty led by Al Napier and Edward Williams and for six years in a row has been ranked as a top 10 U.S. program by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. The Rice Alliance, led by managing director Brad Burke, has been a global leader in the creation and commercialization of new products and technologies, establishing itself as the No. 1 university business incubator in the world, according to UBI Index, a Swedish research initiative. In addition, OwlSpark, a startup accelerator founded in 2013 by Rice students to ignite entrepreneurship on campus, offers a summer program that provides teams of students and recent alumni with the funding, space, industrial and academic mentorship and networking opportunities required to launch their companies.

“Yael has already made impressive strides in connecting with various internal and external stakeholders and developing a vision for the initiative,” Glick said.

As head of the initiative, Hochberg will report to the provost and will set the direction of the program in ways that benefit both undergraduate and graduate students.

“Rice’s combination of top-tier engineering and sciences, strong business school and vibrant humanities along with a very creative student body create a natural environment for innovation and entrepreneurship.” — Yael Hochberg

“Entrepreneurship is a learning-by-doing field,” Hochberg said, underscoring the importance of experiential learning. “It’s not quite as simple as just teaching the theory. You have to see what entrepreneurship is about, fail a lot and learn the lessons from it and see how the lessons might apply in the real world.”

Abby Larson, most recently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Social Science Research Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will serve as director of the initiative and report to Hochberg starting Sept. 1. Larson earned a Ph.D. in sociology from New York University in 2010. Her research interests focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, management and organizational behavior, leadership and business ethics.

Hochberg stressed that her door will be open to Rice students, faculty and staff interested in the new initiative, as will Larson’s door. “We don’t want to limit ourselves, and we want to be very useful to the Rice community,” she said.

For more information about the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative and course offerings, visit http://entrepreneurship.rice.edu.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.