Durham is arguably at the center of the growing Research Triangle Park area that fosters a massive amount of technology startups. Incubators and programs for entrepreneurs to meet, converse, and solve problems are in abundance, especially on Duke’s campus. Personally, this was the greatest selling point of the MMS program. I’ve met many people in the context of creating new businesses and solving problems, while also having the opportunity to apply the skills that I’ve gained from both the MMS coursework and my undergraduate expertise.
Generally speaking, graduate business school programs uniquely allow students to mesh their theoretical coursework with practical application. For instance, often times learning communications, marketing, finance, and statistics “by-the-book” slightly differs from interpretations and practices of these subjects within “the real world.” One of the best ways to remedy these disconnects is through the study of entrepreneurship.
The best illustration of this is the Program for Entrepreneurs (P4E) course. This class is generally open to only Fuqua MBAs, but for the first time this year, it was open to MMS students. I was very excited to take advantage of this opportunity, because of my interest in entrepreneurship, specifically after co-founding an entertainment start-up during undergrad. The P4E course, led by Howie Rhee and Jon Fjeld, offers students a platform for a year, to develop a venture and sharpen the necessary skills required to bring their product to market. The program starts in the fall, during which student-led teams pitch their ventures to other prospective team members. After the audience decides which teams they’d like to work with, connections are made and teams are constructed, and we’re matched with appropriate mentors. I joined classmate Yifang Xiong and (fellow blogger) James Chen, in constructing a mobile application (Chapter) for couples in long distance relationships. Yifang constructed the app while he was in Singapore, but decided to enroll in the P4E class to determine strategies for selling the app through U.S.-based outlets, including Google Play and iTunes. Our mentors are both Fuqua alumni: Josh Felser (Daytime MBA ’90) and Joe Velk (Daytime MBA ’85). They’ve given us pivotal information about dealing with venture capitalists and how to engage our target market.
We began by meeting bi-weekly with our mentor(s) to assess the progression of the venture and also attended classes during which a presenter (generally a Fuqua alum or CEO of a business in the Research Triangle) discusses a novel facet of entrepreneurship. Within the contex of the class, we’ve built connections, gained an understanding of what is required to succeed as an entrepreneur, and are applying the skills that we’re learning within the context of entrepreneurship.
Stay tuned for more on my entrepreneurial ventures …