Entrepreneur of the Year

Entrepreneurs to Watch



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.
Chris Shields    

Kathleen & 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 at Rensselaer.
 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 fax service.
 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 here."

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