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Entrepreneurship Initiative Hosts Day-Long Showcase

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Getting involved in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship can be a daunting process. With tight budgets, constant deadlines, and a work environment that moves a mile a minute, the transition from academia to startups can be an abrupt one. To help students make this transition, the Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Initiative — an organization affiliated with the McDonough School of Business — hosted the fourth annual Georgetown Entrepreneurship Day to educate students about the world of entrepreneurship and to encourage students who are considering careers at startups.

The day started with an opening session that featured students and alumni who already are involved in entrepreneurship on campus and around D.C. Mini-keynote speakers featured Georgetown’s existing strength in entrepreneurial activities, as well as new and future partnerships that will be an added asset to aspiring entrepreneurs on campus. Among these were Kevin Brosnan (COL ’16) and Sonia Vora (SFS ’15), whose new online magazine, Venture Capitol, covers and connects with startups in the D.C. area, and Donna Harris, a cofounder of D.C. startup incubator 1776, with which Georgetown recently announced an expansive partnership.

After hearing opening session speakers, attendees moved to one of four breakout sessions, which covered specific entrepreneurial topics — venture capital, social entrepreneurship, searching for a job at a startup, and the basics of starting one’s own company — in more detail.

In the breakout session focused on job searches, a panel of students and recent alumni commented on the best ways to get involved in a given startup, and what employers are looking for in their interns or entry-level employees — often different from what recruiters at Fortune 500 companies seek in their new hires.

For one, the ever-present possibility of failure in startups is something that is unique to an entrepreneurial career track. “The reality is that startups fail. It shouldn’t be stigmatized — it’s a badge of honor,” panelist Josh Smith (MBA ’15) said. “They want to see how you handle failure.”

Furthermore, it can be difficult to display on a college transcript the types of skills for which entrepreneurs are looking. “The school connection really helps — a lot of the interviews I had were with Georgetown graduates,” panelist Melanie Horsford (MBA ’15) said, citing the difficulty in securing a job that might have limited funding for even one employee, but enough work for two or three.

Cindy Gao (SFS ’17), who is involved with social entrepreneurship organizations on campus, said that the conference will help motivate her and educate her in how to achieve her goals in social entrepreneurship. “We all understand that in order for something to have long-term impact and be sustainable, it has to be profitable,” she said. “And that’s why entrepreneurship itself is so core to making a difference.”

In the closing session, Ted Leonsis (COL ’77) — a longtime entrepreneur, investor, and founder and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment — delivered the keynote address, during which he recounted the principles that guided him through his successful career as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Leonsis, who is also a founder and managing partner at the new investment firm Revolution Growth, advised the audience to stay active in multiple communities, learn to express thoughts effectively, be an empathetic leader, and get out of the “I” and into the “we.”

Above all, he reminded the audience that success in business requires more than just hard work and the proper know-how.

-David Chardack