November 5, 2018

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New Venture Fellows Celebrates a Successful 1st Year


By: DAN GARCIA

November 5, 2018

Ever wanted to join a fellowship program that provides startup experience and extensive networking opportunities?

Duke University’s New Venture Fellows program connects select MBA students with Duke startups to promote both Duke’s startup environment and student expertise in business.

The program was launched September last year by Director of New Ventures, Rob Hallford, as an initiative to increase support for Duke’s startup community and provide MBA students with an opportunity for hands-on experience in the field. “Our pitch to the students is an opportunity to work with ‘live ammunition’–exciting technologies with top-notch faculty founders that, with the right support, will turn into real companies,” said Hallford. The pilot consisted of three Fellows during the fall season but has since expanded to over fifteen.

First, New Venture Fellows (NVFs) are connected with an experienced Mentor-in-Residence (MIR) that provides guidance and support for each Fellow. Each MIR specializes in a particular field, such as materials, tech, and pharmaceuticals. They form the foundation of the NVF Program; Carlos Dedesma described his role as an MIR, saying, “much of what we do is cultural. Everyone knows that Duke faculty are on the cutting edge of innovation. We help the entrepreneurs understand the commitment needed to catapult discovery into commercialization.”

Fellows then work with their MIRs on various Duke startups through projects that include market research and tech evaluation. Hallford adds the NVF program perfectly coincided with an “entrepreneurial ecosystem that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years.”

The program also allows Fellows to network with Duke entrepreneurs in their respective fields, further strengthening and connecting the Duke startup community. Fellows also are invited to special guest presentations and other exclusive opportunities to fortify their skills in conjunction with their specific semester-long program.

“NVF gave me the first opportunity to apply my technical and business skills in a real world application. It gave me crucial experience going into my internship as well and ignited my new passion for emerging technologies. As a NVF Program Manager now, I look forward to helping others get the same excellent experience I did,” said Vincent Tse, who was a New Venture Fellow last year and has returned again this year.

It is not uncommon to see a NVF invited back to take a paid position at one of Duke’s many startups. Overall, OLV seeks to increase the partnership for promising Duke innovators and entrepreneurs with expert mentorship and advice through this new program. It is just one of many steps that OLV is taking to better equip the entrepreneurs of the future.