Yale School of Management Expands Entrepreneurship Programming

The launch of a formal Entrepreneurship Program, the appointment of Dr. Kyle Jensen as the inaugural Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurial Programs, and new scholarships and financial support for entrepreneurial students signals major new commitment to entrepreneurship at Yale.

The Yale School of Management (SOM) announced today the formal launch of its Entrepreneurship Program and the appointment of Kyle Jensen, PhD, as the inaugural Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurial Programs and lecturer in entrepreneurship.

Yale SOM Dean Edward A. Snyder said, “Now is the perfect time for us to take this big step forward, to build on our momentum, to appoint a great leader of entrepreneurial programs that will become more cohesive, to connect more systematically throughout Yale, and to engage with faculty and students throughout the Global Network for Advanced Management to take advantage of opportunities in all sectors and regions. We thank our generous donors who have allowed us to respond to the sharply increased interest in entrepreneurship among students, faculty, and alumni with new efforts that will be distinctively Yale.”

The announcement of the new Entrepreneurship Program coincides with the appointment of Dr. Kyle Jensen as the inaugural Shanna and Eric Bass ’05 Director of Entrepreneurial Programs. Jensen, who will begin his official duties on July 1, will design and teach courses in entrepreneurship. He will also coordinate and advance a slate of activities related to entrepreneurship: He will recruit and advise student entrepreneurs, establish programming that complements the work of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) and other university resources, strengthen connections with SOM alumni entrepreneurs and entrepreneurially minded constituents across Yale, and advise the school on entrepreneurship-related faculty hiring. Jensen and his team will be located in the newly established Entrepreneurial Studies Suite in Edward P. Evans Hall.

Snyder, one of three members of YEI’s senior advisory board, said of the appointment, “Kyle has exactly the right background to lead this effort. His experience spans the tech, healthcare, and social sectors, and he has significant academic experience as well. He will work with our faculty to ensure that we have an excellent, rigorous program of courses, and will also develop programming to support our students as they apply what they learn to their own enterprises.” SOM currently has one of the highest proportions among Yale schools and programs of students working actively with YEI and with Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design.

University Provost Benjamin Polak underscored the importance of this initiative to the whole university: “Entrepreneurship is a big part of Yale’s agenda, and SOM will continue to have a central role.” Both Provost Polak and Dean Snyder expressed the hope that the new course offerings will include foundational courses for students from all of Yale’s graduate and professional schools.

Kyle Jensen earned a PhD in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has founded numerous ventures. While at MIT, he co-founded Agrivida, an agricultural biotechnology company creating novel corn varieties for producing animal feed and fuel ethanol that now has over 40 employees. He then worked at the nonprofit PIPRA, helping universities in emerging economies start technology licensing programs. Later, Jensen founded PriorSmart, which provided patent and patent litigation analytics services to major technology companies and which was acquired by NASDAQ-listed RPX Corp. His most recent endeavor, Pit Rho Corporation, was established in New Haven and creates real-time analytics software for NASCAR teams.

Jensen has been working actively with Yale entrepreneurs since 2012, when he joined YEI as a mentor and entrepreneur-in-residence. In addition to sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring entrepreneurs, he has co-taught YEI’s lean startup workshop, Start Something. “Yale is a fantastic place to be an entrepreneur,” Jensen said. “I couldn’t be more excited to teach students from across Yale about entrepreneurship and to support SOM’s student-founders.” James Boyle, YEI’s managing director, said “Kyle is an extraordinary person to lead SOM’s entrepreneurial expansion. His unique combination of operating skills and willingness to roll up his sleeves and build the curriculum and the program will greatly augment Yale’s innovation ecosystem.”

The entrepreneurship search was led by Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinbach Professor of Management at SOM. “We are incredibly fortunate to bring in someone who combines first-rate academic research with successful founder experience and a keen interest in teaching and mentoring,” Nalebuff said. “What attracted Kyle to Yale is also what made him attractive to us: He is excited by the challenges and opportunities of a startup. We’ve had some great courses and great faculty teaching entrepreneurship, but now we are aiming to build a great program. Kyle wants to shake things up and I am confident he will. SOM, Yale, and New Haven will all be better for it.” Professor David Cromwell, an award-winning teacher of entrepreneurial business planning and venture capital and private equity investment courses, added, “I’m excited that SOM will be building on the work we’ve been doing in entrepreneurship. It’s an important engine of global economic growth and an almost limitless source of opportunity for our students and alumni.”

Concurrent with Jensen’s appointment, SOM has created two new scholarships for students in each entering MBA class. The merit-based awards will be granted on the basis of demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and future potential as an entrepreneur. In addition, each year SOM will name up to five Entrepreneurial Fellows who, after graduation, will receive two years of loan deferral to enable them to work full-time on a startup.

Anjani Jain, senior associate dean for the MBA program, said, “Yale SOM’s unique integrated core is the perfect foundation for anyone looking to start a new venture, and we have observed increasing numbers of our graduates starting their own businesses in recent years. Our curriculum ensures that our students not only acquire essential business competencies, like building high-performance teams and managing assets and cash flow, but also understand how every important decision affects the entire organization and the environment within which it operates.”

Dean Snyder stressed that the entrepreneurial program build-out will have global dimensions, and that Yale SOM and other members of the Global Network for Advanced Management have focused on entrepreneurship. Renmin University of China School of Business has offered a Global Network Week on new business models in China. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is currently offering an on-line course focused on innovation for students from Global Network schools.

Miriam Erez, vice dean for the MBA program and chair of the Knowledge Center for Innovation at Technion, observed, “SOM students understand that trying to find the ‘right’ answer to a given problem is often not nearly as productive as first defining the problem in a whole new way. This is an invaluable framework for anyone interested in starting a business.” Erez recently co-taught Start-up Nation, a Global Network Week offered by Technion to students from Yale SOM and other schools in the Global Network for Advanced Management.

Dean Snyder emphasized that the school is deeply grateful to the donors who have contributed over $7 million to the threshold goal of $12 million for the program build-out. Responding to Jensen’s appointment, Eric Bass ’05, managing partner at Houston-based Velite Benchmark Capital Management, commented, “When I was at SOM a decade ago, it wasn’t always obvious to student entrepreneurs where to go for advice and counsel. With YEI and other activities on campus, students clearly have more resources now. Putting some additional structure around support for entrepreneurs at SOM and ensuring that all Yale graduate and professional students have access to invaluable coursework is exactly the right next step.”  

Len Baker YC ’64, managing director at Sutter Hill Ventures and a member of the Yale SOM Board of Advisors, agreed, saying, “Yale has built up support for entrepreneurs steadily in recent years, and bringing in Kyle Jensen to develop this program at SOM is a tremendous leap forward.” SOM student Jonas Clark ’15 said, “I'm thrilled that Kyle is joining SOM, and I know that he’s going to be a fantastic resource for students. I got to know him through YEI this year and the energy, enthusiasm, and experience he brings is phenomenal. He really loves working with student entrepreneurs.”

Jensen has already made substantial contributions to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in New Haven by co-founding both MakeHaven and NewHaven.io. His appointment and the school’s increased commitment to entrepreneurship have generated excitement beyond Yale, with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp saying, “Yale University and the City of New Haven both want to see more Yale entrepreneurs setting up shop right here in the city. Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and SOM’s entrepreneurial program are attractive resources, as are the many successful entrepreneurs already living and working here.”