Inside Rensselaer
* Don McMurtry ’86

Don McMurtry ’86, former vp of sales at Research in Motion (which created the Blackberry), is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Lally this semester.

Severino Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Aim To Engage Students Across Disciplines

Entrepreneurship is an exciting but risky endeavor. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, each year on average 600,000 businesses are started. More than 50 percent of them fail within the first five years. For aspiring entrepreneurs, learning from experienced founders, working in collaboration, and personal mentoring can make all the difference in achieving success.

To address this need of Rensselaer’s emerging entrepreneurs, the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship (SCTE) is hosting five Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) for the 2009-10 academic year. All five have extensive experience in developing new businesses. Three of the five EIRs are Rensselaer alumni, and all share a passion for mentoring student entrepreneurs. Their ultimate objective is to prepare Rensselaer’s next generation of business leaders and technology entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs-in-Residence serve as a resource to students for different aspects of starting a business, from idea development and feasibility evaluation, to creation of a business plan and learning how to secure funding.

EIRs serve as a resource to students for different aspects of starting a business, from idea development and feasibility evaluation, to creation of a business plan and learning how to secure funding. The EIRs bring a breadth of experience from a wide range of industries, including software, healthcare, biotechnology, alternative energy, mobile network devices, IT, and communications. They also offer extensive functional expertise in innovation, operations management, intellectual property, creating partnerships, venture financing, strategic planning, marketing, sales, and technology commercialization.

According to Jean Howard, associate director of the Severino Center, “Entrepreneurship is often thought of as a solo endeavor. The reality couldn’t be more different. To turn technical innovation into commercial success requires a collaborative approach between the inventor and a team of experts in business, financing, law, and marketing, to name a few. The EIRs and Severino Center programs incorporate a multidisciplinary approach that is key to entrepreneurial success.”

EIRs are participating in Severino programs like Tech Launch Pad, the Biotech Management and Entrepreneurship series, Women in Entrepreneurship programs, and the new Student Sandbox program for summer 2010. EIRs also meet informally with students in scheduled SCTE programs such as the Brown Bag Lunch Series and the Women’s Coffee House. In addition to lecturing and mentoring students, this year’s EIRs are also focused on developing and establishing new programs to engage students across all disciplines in technology commercialization.

The five SCTE Entrepreneurs in Residence are:

  • Richard Frederick, founder, Autotask, former president and CEO at Logical Net, adjunct professor in entrepreneurship at Union College.
  • Don McMurtry ’86, former vice president for sales, Research in Motion (developers of the Blackberry); product management/sales, RDM Corporation.
  • Shreefal Mehta, MBA ’02, founder, The Paper Batter Company Inc., successful biotech entrepreneur; author of Commercializing Successful Biomedical Technologies.
  • Pinki Srivastava ’83, Ph.D. ’90, principal, PS Ventures, which creates and implements strategic, marketing, and communication plans, conducts financial and statistical analysis, and interprets data.
  • Silke Muhlmeier, Visiting Scholar, managing director, Center for Innovation, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

“The motivation to work with the Severino Center comes from the experience of meeting smart people at Rensselaer who have exciting technical ideas and want to see those ideas turned into commercial reality,” said McMurty. “But the most fundamental motivation is my desire to help grow the reputation of Rensselaer as a pre-eminent university. The Institute’s reputation in the future will be a reflection of how successfully Rensselaer helps students, faculty, and staff turn technical innovation into commercial success. Commercial success will draw the best students and faculty back to Rensselaer, and the positive feedback will perpetuate.”

To meet with a Severino EIR or for more information on Severino entrepreneurship programs, contact Jean Howard at 276-8398 or

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 7, April 16, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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