Welcome to the exhilarating, volatile world of technological entrepreneurship.
It's a world inhabited by numerous Rensselaer alumni, faculty, and students
caught up in the quest to turn innovation into commercial success. And
it's a world where venture capitalists looking for the next winner, and
successful alumni entrepreneurs hoping to help the next generation, are
forming what's called an angel network.
& Paul Severino '69
In March, entrepreneur extraordinaire and Rensselaer trustee Paul
Severino '69 and his wife, Kathleen, made a gift of $5 million to endow
the Paul J. '69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship
An engineer and computer networking pioneer, Severino launched InterLan
Inc., one of the nation's first local area network (LAN) companies, in
1981. Four years later he sold it to Microm Systems for $64 million. In
1986 he founded Wellfleet Communications. Named "the Fastest Growing Company
in the United States" by Fortune magazine in both 1992 and 1993, Wellfleet
became Bay Networks after a merger with Synoptics Communications in 1994
and was acquired by the Canadian-based Nortel Networks in 1998 for $9
billion. Never one to sit still, Severino is currently chairman of NetCentric
Corp., which designs, sells, and supports systems that provide Internet
Severino's Rensselaer education did not prepare him for the business
challenges he has faced. Unlike today, Rensselaer in the '60s offered
no entrepreneurship courses, no Incubator, or Tech Park. He learned about
finance and business plans and developing a competitive strategy as he
went along. "Technical people, in particular, don't often get that kind
of education," he says.
That's where the Severino Center comes in.
"Understanding the principles, practice, and importance of entrepreneurship
is vital to a university education, especially in our top technological
schools," he insists. Severino serves as chair of the Trustees Committee
on Information Technology and is pushing the center to sponsor a wide
range of activities to bring entrepreneurship, particularly entrepreneurship
and IT, "front and center to the whole student body" and propel Rensselaer's
program into the limelight.
"The Severino name will put us in a new league in the rankings,
raise our profile and credibility, raise enthusiasm for entrepreneurship
across campus, and help us leverage even more giving," says Bill Stitt
'63, clinical professor of management and former center director.
Mark Rice '71 agrees. In July, Rice, who had stepped aside for two
years, reassumed leadership of the Severino Center. "One of the things
Paul wants to do is establish an annual Venture Forum. He will use his
network of contacts to bring top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs
from around the country to Rensselaer to talk to students about the process
of raising money and starting companies and to learn about what's happening
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