As Managing Director of Fuqua’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), I work with students or alumni, to help with their startups. I assist in leveraging Duke’s amazing network, whether they be investors, partners, mentors, or potential customers. I also maintain the relationship between the center and the entrepreneurial community, here in the Triangle and around the world. Although the CEI is part of Fuqua, we try to connect MBAs with budding entrepreneurs in Duke’s other schools including engineering, medicine and the environment, to name a few.

It’s not uncommon for a Weekend Executive MBA to take the entrepreneurial path, so we offer information on where to start, who to speak to in the Duke network, and how to think critically in all aspects of starting a business.

Here is a partial listing of the resources we support:

  • Concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation provides students in the Weekend, Cross Continent or Global Executive MBA programs the opportunity to work on a startup business idea or an innovation in a corporate setting. Students follow a version of Duke’s Program for Entrepreneurs process in an elective course and series of workshops, then finish with a team project on their business idea.
  • The Duke Global Entrepreneurship Network (DukeGEN) provides a wealth of resources, but most importantly connects entrepreneurs with over 6,000 like-minded Duke alumni and students. DukeGEN is the largest university-based entrepreneurship group on LinkedIn and since 2008 has hosted 150 events in major metropolitan areas across the globe.
  • The Duke Start-Up Challenge, founded in 1999, is an entrepreneurship competition and accelerator program for Duke students. All, including Weekend Executive MBAs, are eligible to compete for cash prizes. Even if you don’t win, you’ll get exposure, critical feedback on your business, receive mentoring and networking opportunities, and possibly connections to potential investors.
  • The DukeGEN Startup Showcase is a semi-annual event in New York City and San Francisco, where Duke startups pitch to Duke angel investors. It has played a role in publicizing and raising funds for home-grown businesses such as Getable, Coverhound, and The Daily Muse.

Startup Stories

Prof. Jon Fjeld (left) and Jeff Iannaccone
Prof. Jon Fjeld (left) and Jeff Iannaccone at a Fuqua entrepreneurship workshop

Jeff Iannaccone, ’13 is a Weekend Executive who took advantage of CEI’s close connection with Fuqua. During his MBA, Jeff got involved with the Duke Start-Up Challenge and quickly got the entrepreneurial bug. It took 2 times at bat to write a pitch-perfect business plan and get the judge’s attention. While he didn’t win, he did receive much needed mentorship that has helped him along the way. His most candid feedback was going to market without the ideal business plan. He listened—and his company, Towel Burner, has just closed out a $150K seed round and is finalizing contracts with some of the nation’s largest fitness chains.

While in the Weekend Executive Program, Haley Gray, ’12 took a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Through the guidance of Professor Jon Fjeld, she created a successful project plan for her business Extension of You. He helped her research pricing, costing, her competitive advantage and competitive wages. So far, her company has grown exponentially—$15K of revenue in the first year, $200K in the second and projecting well over $1mil for 2015. She’s convinced that without having taken an entrepreneurial concentration, it would have been a much tougher road to success.

Arturo Fagundo, ‘12 met his partners at a Duke pitch event. After one and a half years of trying to get his company, All9s, off the ground, he has decided to wind down the business. But to his credit, he sees his experience as a positive. Arturo is looking to work for another startup and feels quite confident he has the experience to choose the right role at the right organization, can evaluate their potential success and opportunities, and can influence their growth.

Weekend Executive MBAs can take advantage of Duke’s entrepreneurial resources during their program or as alumni. But what’s most reassuring through these stories, is that whenever you do decide to take the leap, the Duke community’s support and advice will be immensely invaluable.