SALT LAKE CITY — Freshly minted entrepreneurs looking to give their startups a boost can tap into a novel new graduate program unveiled Wednesday by the University of Utah that merges the best of business accelerators and MBA programs.
The Master of Business Creation is a nine-month program designed to give entrepreneurs an academic track focused on building and scaling their business startups. Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute Executive Director Troy D'Ambrosio said the joint effort of the David Eccles School of Business and Lassonde is based on a purpose-built curriculum designed to leverage graduate-level business coursework with the vast knowledge base available at the U. and Lassonde's startup expertise. The end goal, D'Ambrosio said, is to provide the tools for founders to take their startups to the next level.
"It's a unique combination of an accelerator … and the relevant theory and knowledge that you find in an typical MBA program," D'Ambrosio said. "We didn't just repackage a traditional MBA track, we created new classes tailored for business creation."
While entrepreneurial curriculum under the Lassonde banner tracks back to 2001, the U.'s startup-focused programming has blossomed since the opening of the program's award-winning, $45 million facility in 2016.
The 160,000-square-foot building houses a 20,000-square-foot innovation space on the first floor. It features a workshop and cafe open to all students at the U. with workbenches, group work areas, 3D printers, laser cutter, power tools and more. Above that are four themed floors of student housing where 400 students live, collaborate and launch new ideas. Themes include sustainability and global impact; products, design and arts; adventure and gear; and games and digital media. The themes are designed to encourage collaboration across academic disciplines.
Since opening, the facility has become a veritable breeding ground for new businesses, launching hundreds of startups.
While Lassonde's doors are open to all, even those whose business ideas are still germinating, participants in the new master's program will need to be a little further down the entrepreneurial road. D'Ambrosio said the program is looking for candidates that are fully in the game.
"This isn't for the part-timer or for someone who's still in ideation mode," D'Ambrosio said. "The ideal candidate … is the active, full-time entrepreneur who has serious resources committed to the effort."
D'Ambrosio noted that does not mean eligible program entrants need to be earning revenue, necessarily, but have to be "fully in the effort."
Eccles School of Business Dean Taylor Randall said the program will be attractive to both undergrads coming out of Lassonde who are looking for one more year to evolve their business in a setting of academic support as well as those who may be five or six years out of school who have a startup in play but want to switch from "moonlighting" to a full-time committment.
He also noted the program is charting new territory in the realm of "active learning" and will change the utility of case study knowledge from learning what someone else did at some previous time to self-analysis, and response, happening in the now.
"Really, this is perhaps a degree that takes active learning to a new level," Randall said. "The professors and students involved in this program will be applying knowledge in real time. In fact, faculty expect what they give to students to be used the very day it's delivered to them.
"The case studies for this degree are their own companies, not material found outside what they're doing."
Randall noted that while the program would create wide access to expertise and support mechanisms much like business accelerators, unlike those for-profit programs, the school would not be seeking any equity interests in the companies. He said the program was aiming to propel startup efforts and working to ensure student ventures "get off the ground in a successful way."
"I think (the program) transforms faculty into advisers for companies and creates a support system and ecosystem that people haven’t seen before," Randall said. "It certainly makes the education very, very relevant."
Randall said the program also has significant scholarship support, an intentional aspect that aims to help participants mitigate carry-on debt after they complete the curriculum. Tuition, at roughly $44,000, is similar to the school's one-year Executive MBA program.1 comment on this story
The Eccles business school, of which Lassonde is a part, has earned numerous awards and recognitions as a top training ground for new entrepreneurs. It is ranked among the top 10 programs in the country for entrepreneurship by Bloomberg, U.S. News and the Princeton Review. Beyond the rankings, the school is also seeing prolific success in helping students get their business off the ground. During the 2017-18 academic year, for example, students launched 504 startup teams.
Randall said he believes the Master of Business Creation curriculum will only add to the school's path of success.
"I think that this program continues to put the University of Utah in the forefront of entrepreneurial education in the U.S. and probably the world," Randall said.