Entrepreneurship committee seeks to engage alumni, campus community in fostering innovations for society

The Princeton Entrepreneurship Advisory Committee (PEAC), which is gathering input and exploring options to recommend a broad vision for fostering entrepreneurship at the University, has launched a website seeking feedback from alumni, students, faculty and staff.

Provost David Lee has asked the committee to conduct a strategic assessment of entrepreneurial opportunities through the lens of Princeton's values of education, research and service. The group is working to develop a set of recommendations for actions the University can take to create an entrepreneurship "identity" at Princeton, and an environment that offers students and faculty the fullest opportunity to explore and pursue entrepreneurial paths.

The committee of 19 alumni, faculty, staff and students is chaired by Mung Chiang, director of the Keller Center and the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering. The group began its work earlier this year and is currently in a "listening phase" conducting focus groups with students, interviewing faculty, staff and alumni, speaking with entrepreneurial leaders and students at peer institutions, and surveying the University community via its new website.

"Princeton's faculty, students, staff and alumni are increasingly interested in exploring Princeton's emerging role in the area of entrepreneurship," Lee said. "This is an opportune moment to develop a broad, holistic vision for what entrepreneurship 'the Princeton way' could look like on campus and beyond. Such a vision will necessarily be rooted in Princeton's strengths as a liberal arts institution and as a leading research university, and should amplify the University's core missions of teaching and research."


The number of entrepreneurship-related activities at Princeton University has grown considerably in recent years, including the Keller Center's eLab Summer Accelerator Program to support student ideas for startup businesses and projects. This past summer, student teams presented their projects to business people and entrepreneurs during the eLab Demo Day at the Friend Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski for the Keller Center)

The committee's website asks alumni, students, faculty and staff about their involvement in and suggestions for entrepreneurial activities at Princeton. It also asks alumni about their entrepreneurial experiences since graduation, as well as their interests in mentoring students and supporting entrepreneurial initiatives at the University.

"We view entrepreneurship broadly as an opportunity to magnify what Princeton stands for in its education, in its research and in its commitment to service," Chiang said. "The committee has defined entrepreneurship in a broad way as initiating transformative changes and challenging conventions through risk-taking actions using a relatively small amount of resources."

The number of entrepreneurship-related activities on campus has grown considerably in recent years, ranging from courses such as "Entrepreneurial Leadership" and "Social Entrepreneurship: Ventures to Address Global Challenges"; to the annual Innovation Forum showcasing University research with potential to succeed in the marketplace and the eLab summer accelerator program; and student organizations such as the Entrepreneurship Club and Social Entrepreneurship Initiative.

"We see entrepreneur not as a job title, but a mindset in approaching problems," Chiang said. "Entrepreneurship is not just about startups and commercialization; it is a mindset that is looking to challenge conventional wisdom and to use innovations to help transform society."

Committee member and senior Vivian Qu said she has observed growing student interest in entrepreneurship.

"Entrepreneurship at Princeton is not only about providing students the funding and resources to succeed with their startup ideas, but also to make them aware that entrepreneurship even exists," said Qu, who has served as co-president of Entrepreneurship Club. "More and more people are getting interested now or keeping it in the back of their minds as a possibility later in life."

Princeton alumni are also leaders in a range of entrepreneurial endeavors, from Class of 1989 graduate Wendy Kopp, whose senior thesis became the launch pad for the nonprofit organization Teach for America, to Class of 1986 graduate Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, and to Class of 1976 graduate Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google.

"We have numerous alumni engaging in entrepreneurial efforts in diverse ways," Lee said. "They can be a great asset in providing their thoughts to the committee and engaging with the University to support this initiative."

The committee expects to continue its work through the summer and fall to form recommendations on the vision, structures and mechanisms of entrepreneurship at Princeton. It plans to produce a report by the end of this year.

"Entrepreneurship is about creative individuals pushing, pivoting and persisting," Chiang said. "'Entrepreneurship the Princeton way' will flourish from the bottom-up. We are looking at how entrepreneurship can enhance learning, discovery and societal leadership, and amplify Princeton's unique strengths."

In addition to Chiang, the committee members are:

  • Lynda M. Clarizio, Class of 1982 and president of U.S. media for Nielsen;
  • Kimberly de los Santos, the John C. Bogle '51 and Burton G. Malkiel *64 Director of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement;
  • Catherine Dennig, Class of 2015 and co-president of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, 2013-14;
  • University Trustee John Diekman, Class of 1965, founder and managing partner of 5AM Ventures;
  • Eric First, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering;
  • Chris Kuenne, Class of 1985, founder and CEO of Rosemark Capital Group, and a lecturer in the Keller Center;
  • Sanjeev Kulkarni, dean of the Graduate School and professor of electrical engineering;
  • Melissa Lane, professor of politics;
  • Kai Li, the Paul M. Wythes '55 P86 and Marcia R. Wythes P86 Professor in Computer Science;
  • Lynn Loo, the Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering;
  • David MacMillan, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry;
  • Adel Mahmoud, lecturer with the rank of professor in molecular biology and public policy;
  • Pascale Poussart, director of undergraduate research in the Office of the Dean of the College and secretary to the committee;
  • Vivian Qu, Class of 2014 and co-president of the Entrepreneurship Club, 2013-14;
  • Jennifer Rexford, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering and a professor of computer science;
  • Gordon Ritter, Class of 1986 and founder and general partner of Emergence Capital Partners;
  • John Ritter, director of the Office of Technology Licensing; and
  • University Trustee Peter Wendell, Class of 1972, managing director of Sierra Ventures.