Salovey heralds strength of Yale entrepreneurship at alumni assembly

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Entrepreneurship "the Yale way" aims for a positive social impact, President Peter Salovey told the alumni. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

“Here’s the bottom line: Every day, everywhere, the entrepreneurial spirit animates Yale. And, importantly, there’s a double bottom line, as that spirit seeks results that have a positive social impact,”  Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. told alumni volunteer leaders in a luncheon address on Nov. 14, during the annual assembly of the Yale alumni association

Salovey was among  the university leaders, faculty, staff, students, and alumni featured at the assembly on “The Entrepreneurial Spirit,” a gathering of 567 alumni delegates and invited guests — an all-time high among the 74 alumni assemblies ever held on campus. (Read the full text of Salovey’s speech.)

Read more about the AYA Assembly LXXIV

Noting that the area of entrepreneurship and innovation is a key priority for the university, Salovey pointed out that it also is vital for Yale’s hometown of New Haven. He welcomed the alumni interest in Yale’s accomplishments and plans, observing that until recently “the robustness of what we are doing and the particular Yale way we are doing it” have not been fully appreciated by many outside the university.

“I hope you will go forth from this assembly and spread the word and build further momentum for what you have seen and heard,” he urged the delegates. Salovey cited a set of quantitative measures of the strength of entrepreneurial activity on campus, including: 

  • The Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID) has attracted more than 2,400 members over the past two and a half years, with nearly 1,800 current active users — students, faculty, and research staff from across the spectrum of Yale undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.
  • More than 50 companies based on faculty inventions have spun out of Yale with assistance from the Office of Cooperative Research. These companies have collectively raised $5 billion in equity capital in the last 15 years. More than half are located in the New Haven area.
  • Since 2007, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) has supported the formation and growth of 79 student-founded ventures. These companies have raised nearly $120 million in funding and created 380 jobs to date.

“I can assure you that if you visit campus any day you will find that entrepreneurial spirit thriving,” Salovey said. He mentioned recent events including the “Hacking Health @ Yale” event at the Schools of Engineering, Management, Public Health, and Medicine in October; YHack’s intensive Halloween hackathon for over 1,000 college students at the West Campus; and the 54-hour marathon “Startup Weekend New Haven” that brought together campus and community developers and designers Nov. 14-16.

“At Yale we don’t just want to make new things, we want to make things better.”

— Peter Salovey

Yale Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer ’77 J.D. had highlighted the entrepreneurial momentum on campus in remarks opening the assembly on Nov. 13. “I am betting we will look back on 2014 as the year Yale got serious about formal education about entrepreneurship,” she said, citing the hiring by the Yale School of Management (SOM) of Kyle Jensen as its inaugural director of entrepreneurial programs.

Celebrating the growth of entrepreneurial education, Lorimer noted SOM now has 12 courses on various facets of entrepreneurship. Its entrepreneurship curriculum is open to students from throughout the university, she said, in keeping with Salovey’s vision of a more unified Yale.

Both Salovey and Lorimer stressed that “entrepreneurship the Yale way” aims for positive social impact. Reminding the audience that Yale was America’s first college to inscribe service to society in its founding mission, Salovey asserted, “At Yale we don’t just want to make new things, we want to make things better.”

According to Salovey, “Yale’s dynamic tradition of innovation for impact” is expressed by the alumni association itself, in programs like the annual Day of Service and the Yale Alumni Service Corps. “You take seriously the words at commencement that a Yale degree confers not only rights, but also responsibilities,” the President told the delegates. “I am proud to be part of a university whose alumni association has become a force that calls alumni to serve society.”

Nathan Hale’s most famous saying, Salovey remarked, is “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” but it is another Hale quote, inscribed in Branford Courtyard, that also inspires many alumni entrepreneurs: “I wish to be useful.” 

Quoting arecent article that called Yale “the ultimate training ground for innovative social entrepreneurs,”,” Salovey shared the article’s insight that the women of Yale, in particular, are the vanguard of social entrepreneurship, with alumnae founding groups such as Unite for Sight, Code for America, and the Global Health Corps, to name just a few.

Innovation in both science and art

In addition to social impact, another key feature of Yale entrepreneurship, assembly speakers said, is that it is interdisciplinary and active across all schools and departments. Noting that the assembly sessions started at the University Theatre, Salovey saluted the School of Drama as “a very entrepreneurial school, championing the development of playwrights and their new works.” He added, “You will find entrepreneurship likewise thriving at the Schools of Architecture, Art, and Music, in our museums, and in all our excellent humanities departments.”

“Innovation at Yale privileges both science and art,” Salovey said. Lorimer had observed earlier that entrepreneurship at Yale is “both/and” — with aspects associated with business start-ups as well as “innovation in the arts, in the professions, and in civil society.” Salovey underscored that sentiment, pointing to a number of examples of interdisciplinary endeavors on campus, such as:

That interdisciplinary culture, added Salovey, continues with alumni as Yale educates people who can build teams across disciplines. He quoted Bing Gordon, the former chief creative officer of Electronic Arts and now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, who said at a San Francisco alumni conference in May, “Yale people are the best synthesizers and team-builders of any selective university.” 

As proof of Gordon’s statement, Salovey pointed to “the growing success of Yale entrepreneurs — in Silicon Valley out West; in Silicon Alley nearby in New York City; at home in New Haven; and elsewhere … Pinterest to PaperG, General Assembly to Gilt, Alexion and Prometheus Research — Yale entrepreneurs are on the move. Teamwork and synthesis are a winning formula for impact in the private sector, just as they are in the social sector. 

“The liberal arts and interdiscipli-nary learning allow you to do more than just build the next gizmo …”

—Peter Salovey

Success involves more than just inventing a product, Salovey argued. “The liberal arts and interdisciplinary learning allow you to do more than just build the next gizmo … they allow you to build the organizations that create jobs and change society.”

“I am excited about how much we have been able to accomplish already with the entrepreneurial spirit at Yale — and I am confident that we will creatively construct much more together in the future,” Salovey concluded.

“My confidence comes from all that I see around campus — at the CEID, at YEI, at SOM, at the medical campus, on Science Hill, in the humanities and social sciences, at West Campus, and all over. My confidence comes from the leadership among alumni entrepreneurs who are succeeding close to home and around the world. And my confidence comes from the enthusiasm alumni have for Yale and our commitment to innovation and excellence.”

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