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Two pieces of news for those interested in studying entrepreneurship at Fletcher. The first is actually an update on a previous post, highlighting Adelante, the new venture launched by current MALD student Peter Sacco. Two nice stories recently appeared in local press locations, BostInno and yesterday’s Sunday Boston Globe and Adelante’s Kickstarter campaign has exceeded the original goal with nearly 300 backers!
The second piece of news is that there are second-round winners of Fletcher’s D-Prize! The two proposals are:
ComeOnGirls: Raise scholarships for rural girls in China to attend secondary school through social media marketing and public speaking, submitted by Meghan Li, first-year MALD student; and
Light Afghanistan: Develop a solar market in Afghanistan, where approximately only 35% of the country has consistent electric power, submitted by Michael Baskin, Fletcher PhD candidate.
From here, Meghan and Michael have six weeks to submit a business plan and build a team to pilot their start-ups. To that end, last week they presented their concepts to members of the community who might want to be part of the team. The final decision on awarding seed funds to one of these ventures will come on March 2, 2017.
If you’ve had your eye on the news about travel technology startups in the Boston area, you’ve already heard of Emily Bernard, a 2013 MALD graduate, who is the co-founder and chief brand officer of PlacePass.com, a travel technology startup based in Cambridge. Emily describes PlacePass as a “metasearch engine that enables travelers to instantly compare hundreds of tour and activity websites simultaneously,” and says that, with PlacePass, “travelers can find high-quality local experiences in more than 180 destinations, and save money and time by booking online.” You can read more about PlacePass and the local travel startup scene in the Boston Globe and on BostInno (an online resource for the local tech and startup community). Today, Emily tells us how Fletcher prepared her for her current work.
Five Ways Fletcher Prepared Me to Be a Travel Entrepreneur
Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask me about my path to PlacePass. “What inspired you to establish a travel technology startup?” “How did you decide this was the right opportunity?” “What gave you the confidence to lead a startup organization?” These are excellent, welcome questions — and not always easy to answer.
The truth is, like that of many entrepreneurs, my journey to PlacePass has been a winding one. I’m still discovering how the narrative fits together. I’m delighted and surprised by the ways my past experiences have aligned to bring me here. But one thing is for certain: Fletcher is a key part of the story.
There are countless ways in which Fletcher prepared me for PlacePass. I’ve gathered a few of them here, and am hopeful they will be useful for prospective Fletcher students interested in the wild, wonderful experience of entrepreneurship.
- Global Perspective
A global perspective is the hallmark of a Fletcher education. From the diversity of the student body to the course offerings to international internships, Fletcher is constantly looking outwards. This perspective has been essential in my role at PlacePass. Though based in Cambridge, we are a global company, already serving more than 180 destinations. Our strategic vision must take into account global trends, global tastes, and global risks. We must consider how our brand and product offerings will be perceived in various markets and in diverse cultural settings. I feel well-equipped to tackle these tough decisions because of my Fletcher education.
- Commitment to Sustainable, Inclusive Business Practices
From the start, my co-founder Ethan and I have been committed to sustainable, inclusive business practices. We believe the travel industry has a key role to play in building more prosperous communities around the world. My Fletcher education has given me the inspiration and tools I need to develop a comprehensive CSR strategy that contributes to the community in a meaningful way and sets us up for long-term success. I’m very proud to share that, for every tour booked on PlacePass, we donate $1 to EGBOK, a non-profit in Cambodia that provides vocational training in hospitality for at-risk youth. It’s a wonderful partnership and we look forward to expanding this initiative to other countries as PlacePass continues to grow.
- Industry Expertise
Fletcher’s highly flexible curriculum gives students the space to explore the industries, topics, and issues of interest to them. For me, that was travel and hospitality, and during my Fletcher tenure I found many ways to strengthen my expertise in this area. For example, I spent my summer internship at the U.S. Mission to UNESCO in Paris, where I explored the economic and environmental impacts of World Heritage site designation. In my thesis, advised by Professor Carolyn Gideon, I evaluated how Brand USA (the U.S. tourism promotion agency) markets our country to international visitors. For a course on risk management, I studied how Arctic tour companies de-risk their voyages and work to ensure the safety of their passengers while preserving the perception of a high-adrenaline adventure. In a course on leadership, I studied how managers of the Marriott Islamabad responded to a terrorist attack on the hotel. And finally, in an entrepreneurship marketing class, I developed a marketing strategy for a culinary travel start-up.
- Project Management Capabilities
It’s all about execution for early-stage startups. Founders must work with limited resources and limited time to bring their idea to fruition. At PlacePass, that means I’m focused aggressively on good project management. Whether we’re planning out a marketing campaign or developing a roadmap for the next iteration of our website, it’s essential that we plan and execute well. At Fletcher I was able to develop very strong project management capabilities through group projects and by completing my thesis.
- The Fletcher Network
The strength of Fletcher’s alumni network is unparalleled. It still amazes me how the Fletcher community comes together to provide answers, questions, connections, ideas, and inspiration. This has been crucial for me at PlacePass on a number of fronts. When I face a question or issue I can’t solve internally, I have an entire network of Fletcher colleagues ready to help point me in the right direction. Traveling for work, I know that there will always be Fletcher friends or Fletcher connections willing to meet me and help me navigate a new city or culture. Most importantly, my Fletcher classmates provide much-needed personal support as I pursue this venture. It’s not easy starting a business, and I am grateful for and humbled by the encouragement and enthusiasm my classmates have demonstrated.
As I still have a large group of people coming over for dinner tonight, I will not join the U.S. tradition of shopping today. But if you’re looking for shoes (or information about the entrepreneurial activities of Fletcher students), check out this story about second-year MALD student Peter Sacco and his new social enterprise, Adelante Shoe Co., which he is launching this month. Peter notes that Adelante “is dedicated to making it absolutely effortless for you to buy a socially responsible pair of shoes without compromising on quality, style or affordability.” His Kickstarter campaign starts today, and if you choose to buy a pair of shoes, you’ll be a member of Adelante’s Founders Club. Or just check out the website and find out what Adelante is all about.
Today and tomorrow, four teams from Fletcher will be showcasing their ventures at the finals of the Tufts 100K New Ventures Competition. The full program of activities includes the competition itself, the Tufts Entrepreneurship Showcase, a keynote address from John Sculley, and the awards ceremony.
In addition to the big prize, there is a $1000 audience award, so the Fletcher teams are encouraging the community to come out and vote for them. It’s a public event and tickets are available.
The four Fletcher teams are:
PowerShare, which also competed last year.
And you can (as usual) follow the competition on Twitter. Good luck to our entrepreneurial students!
A winter week is the perfect time to create a celebratory event, which is what Innovate Tufts has done. Innovation Week, a multi-event conference dedicated to celebrating innovation and cultivating entrepreneurship within our community, started last Friday and continues through this week. Here’s the lineup:
Friday, January 29: DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOP — Led by Frog Design, a leading strategic design firm. Learn Human Centered Design. Understand user needs, identify relevant stakeholders, and fill our walls with post-it notes of your observations, as we ideate with creative solutions to local problems.
Monday, February 1-Thursday, February 3: PANELS — Distinguished speakers and innovators engaging you on:
Thursday, February 4: DEMO NIGHT — Tufts and Fletcher entrepreneurs pitch their startups and business ideas, followed by a networking event to celebrate the week.
You can learn more about the week at the Innovate Tufts website.
For the second year, one of our alumni, Rockford Weitz is supporting entrepreneurial students, alumni, and faculty as Fletcher’s Entrepreneur Coach in Residence. Through planned activities and his scheduled office hours, Rocky is bringing entrepreneurship to the front of student career planning.
Here (from an email to the community) is how Rocky describes his role at Fletcher:
What is Entrepreneurship?
Good question. Entrepreneurship means different things to different people. I define entrepreneurship as “problem solving with limited resources and an unclear path forward.” By this definition, most of you will likely be entrepreneurs at some point during your career.
The entrepreneurial approach works well in many Fletcher career trajectories, including social entrepreneurship, tech-driven entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship (using entrepreneurship techniques to succeed as a change agent in large organizations in the private, public, non-profit, intergovernmental and academic sectors).
Fletcher students and alumni have launched and scaled numerous enterprises, including non-profits, technology startups, and new offices within larger organizations, such as the United Nations or the U.S. State Department.
As Entrepreneur Coach, I help Fletcher students, faculty, staff and alumni:
- Connect with potential customers, potential investors and service providers that could help aspiring Fletcher entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable enterprises.
- Think through business, social, and policy ideas where entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship could be part of the solution.
- Create business plans, go-to-market strategies, and presentations to potential customers and investors.
There are two events today linked to entrepreneurship at Fletcher. First, Rocky will be providing an “Overview of the Tufts and Boston Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” He describes it as:
At this event, I will provide an overview of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and support network available at Fletcher, Tufts, and the Greater Boston area. Topics will include startup prizes (such as Fletcher D-Prize and Tufts $100K), startup accelerators, including those that do not take equity (such as MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator, located in downtown Boston) and other support resources for aspiring entrepreneurs (such as Demeter, FinTech Sandbox, District Hall, and the Venture Cafe). Special attention will be given to resources available to aspiring social entrepreneurs and those Fletcherites interested in entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship in emerging markets.
Later in the day, Gerry Ford, F84, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Caffè Nero will speak on “The Journey of an Entrepreneur: From Start-up to Billion Dollar Company.” Here’s the description of his talk:
Gerry Ford is Chairman and Chief Executive of Caffè Nero Group Limited, Europe’s largest independent coffee house group. Gerry founded Caffè Nero in 1997. He later listed Caffè Nero on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2001-2007. In 2005, Dr. Ford was named the UK’s Entrepreneur of the Year by the Financial Times and The London Stock Exchange. In 2007, Gerry took Caffè Nero private and today he remains the majority shareholder of the company. Currently, Caffè Nero has more than 5,500 employees in 700 stores across seven countries. The company continues to open at a pace of a new store every four days somewhere in the world. Dr. Ford has a BA from Stanford University, a MALD from The Fletcher School/Tufts University, a MBA from INSEAD and a PhD from Oxford University. He sits on the boards of several consumer goods businesses throughout Europe and the USA, and is a frequent speaker internationally on the topics of developing consumer brands and entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship is an area that has long interested Fletcher students, many of whom wish to start their own organizations. Having Rocky Weitz has increased the available resources, both through his time and the activities that result from his residency here.
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