Mentoring Universities on…Mentoring

Around the country, universities are hiring Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) to help mentor and train interested faculty and students on the ins and outs of starting their own companies.  In most cases, the EIRs will also be working alongside the tech transfer offices to assess new discoveries for licensing potential and accelerate new campus startups.  The EIRs are experienced CEOs that have the necessary knowledge to improve universities’ entrepreneur programs and TTOs in order to work at a higher level.

The University of Michigan has a program that has received notable recognition. They refer to their EIRs as MIRs, or Mentors in Residence. The program was started in 2008 and has seen tremendous success. The MIRs are hired to enhance U of M’s capabilities in licensing technology and creating high-growth, venture-quality startups. Currently, the university is looking at their largest cohort ever.  The difference between this program and other EIR programs throughout the country is that the MIRs each have a different portfolio of projects and are not allowed to have a financial stake in a project to ensure impartiality.

On top of working to license technologies, other programs also use their EIRs to mentor the students at the university. The EIRs are made available to the students interested in entrepreneurship, as well as other related fields, in order to share their expertise. It is an extremely beneficial source for those universities, as they hope that those students benefiting from the EIRs will, in turn, come back and help the university in the future.

The University of Michigan, having had four years to figure out exactly what they are looking for in an MIR, posted their requirements for the position on their website:

  1. Experience or knowledge of technology commercialization.
  2. Management experience in an early-stage company.
  3. In-depth knowledge of regional start-up resources (e.g. ability to identify local start-up management talent).
  4. Willingness to expand tech transfer’s business formation capabilities through sharing of personal contacts for Catalyst Resource Network.
  5. Ability to make the time commitment to the program.
  6. Experience raising capital (e.g. angel, venture, grants).

That is just one example of the requirements that universities are looking for. The University of Iowa has also developed their own program and, on top of listing responsibilities, they also give an idea of the experience that is sought:

  1. Senior management in an early stage high technology startup.
  2. Management in a company that specializes in spinout companies.
  3. Experience in a seed stage venture capital firm.
  4. Served in a business development role in a high performing university business development organization that successfully formed new ventures.
  5. Served in a business development role, product development role, or other capacities for high technology products or services that enable substantial knowledge of the earliest stages of development for a new technology spinout company.

These programs are slowly catching on across the country as universities are realizing what a great resource the EIRs are to have on staff. Do you think the EIRs are a worthy investment for universities as well as other businesses? Let us know in the comments!

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