5 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Partner With a University Sure, my sheepskin cost a lot, but these days I'm leveraging it for success.
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Congratulations! You graduated from a pricey college with a bachelor's or master's degree, or a Ph.D., or something else of the sort. So, now what? How can you maximize your investment, in terms of time and money, in all that higher education?
Here's an idea: collegiate partnerships.
In fact, collegiate programs can add value to your company and personal life long after you've graduated. And, with just a little bit of intention and effort on your part, that value can extend far beyond the perks your alumni association offers.
Here is how I successfully leveraged my own relationship with my own alma mater. Hopefully, these ideas can guide you to do the same.
1. Pools of investors
A few of my early investors came from my alma mater, and similarly, the majority of those involved in my current round of fundraising are alumni from my own and similar academic programs.
People who graduated from the same program you did are excellent investor-candidates because they know who your professors were, and they trust your education and capabilities. Also, you likely have common ground beyond just an interest in your field; so it's easy for you to quickly build rapport.
2. A network of heavy-hitting advisors
One of the professors from my doctorate program, William Chan, helped me launch my current business. Chan is one of the world's leading researchers when it comes to the human enzyme that my product, Daily Decaffeinate, affects. Daily Decaffeinate is a supplement that eliminates caffeine from the body to help you unwind and relax after a day with coffee.
If I had taken on this project by myself, I would have spent thousands of dollars in consulting fees. Yet, because my former professor had already done extensive research in this area, I was able to learn from him instead of begin from scratch.
3. Niche field validity
The University of Pacific has many programs but is particularly well known for its pharmacy school. Because I attended that school, and because our startup is a pharmaceutical company, my status as an alum lends credibility to what I do.
It shows my investors that I am a good fit for creating and distributing this product, not just someone who stumbled into the industry.
4. Strong co-branding
Universities want to partner with companies that look good to donors, alumni and potential students. Their motivation is clear: They want to associate successful alumni, exciting startups and innovative products with their brand. That's why there's a great mutually beneficial relationship that can develop as your company gains speed and your university partner takes notice.
5. Potential employee pool
I am a preceptor at Pacific, which means I help instruct graduate students, in their last year at the university, in real-world applications of their degree. There are a handful of students I work with every year who get work experience at my company for college credit. I give them projects and they learn about the industry while finishing their programs. At the same time, I get to learn what their work ethic is like. When I need to hire, I have a pool of people to choose from whom I already know.
So, go ahead: Email that favorite professor and reposition your relationship from student/professor to potential colleagues. If you never had a close relationship with any of your professors, introduce yourself to a chosen professor at your alma mater who is in the department you graduated from.
Let him or her know who you are, what your project or business is and what your three biggest hurdles are. See if the professor you're addressing has an idea how the university can help. He or she will likely at least offer expert advice, which has immense value. You might also ask if there is any way your company and the university can partner to bring benefit to you both.
In sum, my entrepreneurial endeavors would not be where they are today without the help of the University of the Pacific. The professors, the dean of my program and my classmates have all been instrumental in my ability to launch my product, my consulting company and my real estate investment fund. And I cannot thank them enough.
So, do as I have: Engage with your alma mater and see where it can take you.