What Exactly Does an University EIR Do?

Last semester, we asked students, alumni, and faculty to recognize entrepreneurship professors at their universities. We received an overwhelming number of nominations that we vetted and compiled into a list of Top 25 Entrepreneurship Professors of 2013. In an effort to recognize other individuals instrumental in entrepreneurship education at the university level, we opened a ballot to recognize Entrepreneurs in Residence. Surprisingly, we did not receive as many nominations as we hoped for.

To understand why this was the case, we asked various students if they were familiar with the role of entrepreneur in residence at their respective universities. Some students had a firm grasp of what their EIR did and had direct relationships with them through related classes and programs. Many students were somewhat familiar with the concept of an EIR and others had no clue.

This begs the question: What exactly does an entrepreneur in residence at a university do?

Roles vary accordingly, but for the most part, EIRs do the following:

  1. EIRs mentor and advise student startups, particular those in the early stages of development. EIRs can assist students in developing their proposed business ideas, identifying markets, and even obtaining funding.
  2. Some EIRs also work with faculty, staff, and alumni that are seeking to commercialize university technology and intellectual property.
  3. Universities may also have multiple EIRs with specialized backgrounds in different departments. For example, an EIR in a medical school will be an entrepreneur with a background in medical technology.
  4. EIRs interact with students through office hours and some also teach entrepreneurship courses. Most EIRs hold residency at a university for a year.

EIRs are individuals with a breadth of experience in running high growth companies. Their experience and expertise offer great value to students looking to start early stage companies. But why aren’t all students interested in entrepreneurship taking advantage of such expertise? One reason may be that some students aren’t aware of EIR roles because a large number of university entrepreneurship programs are still siloed. For example, a lot of entrepreneurship programs are associated with the business school, meaning certain students that are not plugged into that college, may not realize that an EIR is available to serve all majors. In some cases not all universities have EIRs on staff.

So how can you as a student capitalize on the offerings of an EIR while you’re at the university?

  1. Start by scheduling office hours with your EIR. Prepare your questions beforehand — know what you want help with and make clear asks. As a student, you have to be prepared to listen, ask questions, and be open to taking advice.
  2. Make an effort to meet with your EIR regularly. If your EIR assigns you homework or assignments, do them in a timely manner before your next meeting.
  3. EIRs can connect you to other mentors and individuals that will help you during each stage of your business, so make the time to keep your EIR updated on your business.
  4. If your EIR teaches a course that falls under a course credit you need, take it! This is a win-win situation. You get to spend twice as much time with someone who has the expertise to help advise your startup both inside and outside the classroom.

If you are a student looking to start a company while you are still in college, be sure to inquire about the resources that are available at your university. As a student you have the opportunity to access a wealth of resources at very little cost to you. Do your research and reach out to professors, mentors, and EIRs for their expertise and help.

Some Notable University EIRs:

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  1. Brett Hurt, The University of Texas at Austin
    • Brett Hurt is the vice chairman and former CEO and co-founder of Bazaar Voice. He led the company to an IPO in 2012 with a subsequent follow-on offering and two acquisitions. He is currently the EIR at McCombs for 2013-2014.
  2. Diego Rodriguez, Harvard University
    • Diego Rodriguez is a partner at IDEO and a founding professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school).  In 2010, Fortune named Diego as one of “The Smartest People in Tech.”
  3. David Bluhm, University of Washington
    • David Bluhm currently serves as Chairman of Z2Live which creates social and multiplayer games for mobile devices. David is a co-founder of Medio Systems, a mobile search and advertising company, and former CEO at WUF Networks, which helped pioneer mobile music streaming and was acquired by Yahoo.
  4. Rob Fassino, NYU
    • Rob Fassino cofounded The Knot, Inc. (now XO Group Inc; NYSE: XOXO), a global media and technology leader devoted to weddings, pregnancy and everything in between. Rob co-founded and directed the interactive division of Margetotes Fertitta + Partners advertising

Related post: Why the University is the Ideal Startup Platform

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