Dartmouth Ventures 2013
Dartmouth Ventures, formerly Greener Ventures, was a daylong conference on entrepreneurship with a startup showcase held at Tuck School of Business. The focus of the event was on “success and social value” in business. While the conference was held at Tuck, it was open to the public and offered a great opportunity to all Dartmouth community members for networking and learning from recognized entrepreneurs, many of whom are Dartmouth alumni or currently affiliated with Dartmouth. The entire day was packed with great panels followed by the final round of the Dartmouth Ventures (DV) Entrepreneurship Contest. Participants had the opportunity of attending three out of nine panels, in addition to attending a lunch workshop, mentorship discussion, startup showcase, and the final round of the Dartmouth Ventures Entrepreneurship Contest.
Governor Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) made the opening remarks. Gregg Fairbrothers (D’76; Director, Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network) laid the foundation for the theme of the conference—success and social value—with an emphasis on creating wealth that can be recycled to attain more social meaning. Following this, the keynote address by Bill Helman (D’80; Greylock Partners) and Diana Taylor (D’77; Wolfensohn Fund Management LP) focused on how a company can create social value regardless of the company being for-profit or non-profit.
Professor John Vogel led a panel on whether there is room for more than one bottom line. Dick Couch (D’64, Th’ 65; Hypertherm) and Barbara Couch (Hypertherm) participated on the panel and shed light on Hypertherm’s short-term and long-term goals for being greener and more socially responsible. They also talked about their community service program, which they believe leads to their employees not only contributing towards their communities but also instills a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment in their jobs.
Caroline Bressan (T’14) led another panel on the current financial environment for social impact, with Phil Ferneau (D’84, T’96; Borealis Ventures; Tuck School), Elizabeth Glenshaw (the Clean Yield), and Michael Wilson (New Hampshire Charitable Foundation). Phil Ferneau elaborated on how Borealis Ventures invests in companies they believe will have global impact, while Michael Wilson spoke about how his organization has invested to foster economic development in New Hampshire. Elizabeth Glenshaw spoke of her experience crafting a community-banking program in Vermont.
A third panel, led by Pat Palmiotto (Adv’07; Tuck School) was titled “Social Entrepreneurs and Their Stories.” Wynona Ward (Have Justice Will Travel, Inc.), an attorney by training, shared the story of how she broke the culture of silence and oppression that she grew up in. Her mission of not accepting social abuse and bringing legal and social services to rural Vermont keeps her motivated. Luanne Zurlo (D’87; Worldfund) shared her story on how she founded Worldfund to improve the quality of education in Latin America and discussed Worldfund’s strategies for launching innovative teaching programs that currently affect 350,000 students annually.
Participants had the opportunity to attend different lunch workshops, which were focused around the early phases of an enterprise. The Startup Operations Bootcamp, led by Jennifer Gabler (D’ 85; Marlborough Street Partners), provided a good overview of best practices for managing accounting and administration in startups. During the fireside chat on mentorship, Sherri Oberg (D’82, T’86; Acusphere, Inc.) and Michael Stern (T’79; Premier Retail Networks) shared their experiences on being mentored and serving as mentors. This talk highlighted the role mentorship plays in starting a successful business. Both Oberg and Stern stressed how one has to be persistent to find a good mentor and how one should be open to criticism from mentors.
The final phase of the day included the DV Entrepreneurship Contest. Three teams in the final round pitched to a panel of judges. Instant Insight (the Tuck student team), which has developed an application to provide mobile phone-based surveys that allows retailers to collect immediate feedback from consumers, won first prize. Samsara (the Dartmouth College undergraduate team) won second prize as well as the people’s choice award for a patented water bottle that accommodates flavor cartridges. The third prize went to Sighten (the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network City team), which has developed tools to assist investors in managing capital in renewable energy sources.
Dartmouth Ventures 2013 provided an excellent portal for students and other budding entrepreneurs to network with leaders in the field. It provided a great learning opportunity for all participants and highlighted Dartmouth’s belief that entrepreneurial skills can be learned.
by Yash R. Patankar
photo by Mark Washburn Photography