The power of an entrepreneurship alumni network is an invaluable resource for students and alumni looking to start successful businesses. Not only do alumni networks and fellow classmates provide guidance, advice, and mentorship, they can also be conduits to lay the groundwork on which to build growing ventures.
As we continue to celebrate May Small Business Month, we at NerdScholar gathered our favorite alumni networks that help students find great business opportunities, get guidance from faculty, and cross interdisciplinary frontiers to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into realities.
Favorite Alumni Networks that provide networking opportunities
Cornell Entrepreneur Network (CEN)
At Cornell University, they place a high value on networking, and the main mission is to spur career success. Their vast entrepreneur network helps students learn the ins and outs of launching a new business and connects them with fellow alumni who can provide advice.
CEN is notorious for producing events on both the east and west coast that feature alumni speakers and opportunities to meet potential business contacts. Recently, Cornell hosted the “Business of Hip-Hop” where top industry leaders in entertainment from the NYC area were present. Before and during the events, alumni have the chance to partake in an open mic session where they give an elevator pitch of who they are, what they want from the event, and what type of professional they are trying to meet. They even provide online webinars and live streaming of events in order for Cornell alumni to access these resources remotely and globally.
In addition, Cornell’s uses the CoFoundersLab to help their alumni find co-founders based on geographic location, complementary skillsets, goals, and values. Alumni can simply take the “Entrepreneur Archetype Assessment” to find their match.
Georgetown Entrepreneurship Alliance
Georgetown’s Entrepreneurship Alliance is alumni led and academically integrated with the university. They seek to provide current students a forum to interact with fellow students and alumni. Such interactions often lead to partnerships made in college like the one Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru formed and led to the launching of SweetGreen, which is not your conventional salad bar spot. The chain, concentrated in the east coast, uses local and organic ingredients from local farms in the east coast with the aim to be sustainable and cultivate meaningful relationships with those around them. To this end, they share healthy local foods and music by keeping a blog and hosting their annual SweetLife Festival where this year they invited Pheonix, Passion Pit, and other notable bands.
They even have specific sub-alliances for those interested in entertainment and media, the tech space, and venture capital. All in all, the Hoyas have a powerful resource to help them start their own businesses.
Favorite Alumni Networks that provide access to faculty
University of Washington Foster’s Buerk Center Entrepreneur Alumni Network
Foster’s Buerk Center Entrepreneur Alumni Network builds a bridge between students, alumni, and faculty in order to create a community that provides business opportunities and expands the school’s entrepreneurial activities.
Alumni have access to Foster’s highly acclaimed faculty, like lecturer and alumna Emer Dooley who has taught entrepreneurship to UW’s business, engineering, and computer science students for 11 years. In her TedX talk, she described an entrepreneurship education as learning while doing and gives students tips on what the top five skills of entrepreneurs are. Foster alumni undoubtedly have great faculty to seek guidance from.
Furthermore, alumni can connect with the center’s advisory board that contains members from the Seattle entrepreneurship community. They also hold events like networking parties, business plan competitions, and tailgates. The network is also very proud to cultivate entrepreneurship among their youngest students by having a dedicated alumni scholarship fund.
Emory’s Goizueta Business School Alumni Entrepreneur Network
Emory’s powerful entrepreneur network gives alumni access to their faculty and university resources. Each month they host meetings where GBS professors, successful entrepreneurs, and former alumni gather to discuss the latest business trends and emerging opportunities. This has helped Goizueta Business School build partnerships and a close community with its alumni who are interested in starting their own businesses thereby helping their current students get mentorship as well.
Additionally, because they have built such a tight-knit community, they pride themselves in being able to give their alumni and current students peer review resources, opportunities for funding, and other professional services.
Evergreen State College Alumni Entrepreneur Network
At Evergreen, their alumni network has the strength to propel students’ businesses forward and build better communities by helping alumni stay connected to the universities educational resources.
Evergreen has built a community of entrepreneurs that are willing to give their expertise and stay connected with the university’s ambitious research endeavors. For example, alumna Jackie Heinricher started Booshoot Gardens in her Anacortes barn and consulted with Foster through out the process of ramping up her venture. Her now multi-million dollar bio tech company develops sustainable bamboo fiber that can be used for toilet paper, wood products, paper, reforestation, and potential to sequester carbon. Because Evergreen is very much committed to the environment and public interest it was natural that she would leverage the college’s expertise.
Favorite Alumni Networks that encourage collaboration across different disciplines and industries
NYU’s Venture Community
New York University’s Venture Community is unique in that even after graduation, it encourages alumni to collaborate with graduates across different disciplines. The private multi-disciplinary collaborative community seeks to foster entrepreneurship by facilitating communication among its alumni. Students can connect with current students or alumni anywhere from public service, social enterprise to medicine and computer science.
The alumni network has a speaker series, which seeks to inspire NYU students to act on their ideas and start their own business enterprises. Furthermore, their diverse alumni network is always seeking to mentor current students and provide them with job opportunities with seasoned entrepreneurs. Some of their past events include Demo Days where about 5-6 NYU founders pitch their ideas to VCs, who in turn give them feedback and advice. Additionally, alumni can take advantage of the NYU/Columbia job fair.
Chicago Booth School of Business
At Chicago Booth’s School of Business, alumni are critical to the success of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation because they have launched ventures across many sectors—from technology to real estate and education. They serve as mentors to budding college entrepreneurs and guide through their best practices in starting their businesses. Students have the common bond of being Booth alumni so they are able to reach out to successful entrepreneurs in their Chicago Private Equity Network, their Global Entrepreneurship Network, or their Chicago’s Women Alliance. This interdisciplinary sampling of resources and potential connections gives Booth entrepreneurs a competitive edge.
The Polsky Center, alumni, and Chicago Booth’s career services have partnered to help students. In turn, alumni have the opportunity to attend seminars given by the Polsky Center’s faculty and get help from college students seeking to learn from entrepreneurs. Two of many successful entrepreneurs from Booth are Ashish Rangnekar and Saurabh Sharma who created BenchPrep, which merges the technology world with the education world and allows developers to create test preparation apps. Over 200,000 users worldwide use this to prepare for the GMAT, GRE, and other tests needed to advance in higher education.
Tufts Entrepreneurial Alumni Network
This Entrepreneurial Alumni Network is aligned with the Gordon Institute and Tufts’ Entrepreneurial Leadership Program who educates students in the arts, sciences, and engineering. The alumni network serves as a catapult to build enterprises by connecting students to fellow alumni with a heavy leadership focus across different disciplines. Students are encouraged to collaborate with other students or alumni with different backgrounds. Alumni also have the network to connect with business alum, like eBay’s creator Pierre Omidyar.