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Fostering Innovation, Sparking Entrepreneurship

videoCreative, forward-thinking students. Collaborative, content-rich, hands-on learning. Opportunities to pitch ideas and even win funding. St. Louis’s lively entrepreneurial ecosystem. These are the elements driving Olin’s focus on the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a focus so fundamental to us, we’ve named it one of our pillars of excellence.

EntrepreneurshipOur courses, competition and capital funding opportunities, and our immersion in the entrepreneurial ecosystems in St. Louis, Silicon Valley and New York City—well as international locations—all contribute to our recognition as the #1 MBA entrepreneurship program in the world for the fourth consecutive year.

Olin’s MBA program also ranks #21 by Bloomberg Businessweek and #3 for entrepreneurship (2022-2023). And Princeton Review ranks WashU Olin the #15 Top School for Entrepreneurship Studies (graduate programs, November, 2021).

Doug Villhard

Want to know more?

Contact Doug Villhard, entrepreneurship program platform director, at dvillhard@wustl.edu.


WashU has more than two dozen classes dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship—including our acclaimed Hatchery course, which has launched companies that have raised a combined $87 million since 2008. And yes, Olin’s faculty includes serial entrepreneurs who have guided and launched their own businesses several times over.

Innovation and entrepreneurship courses include:

  • Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship
  • Social Innovation
  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship
  • Innovating for Healthcare
  • The Basics of Bio-Entrepreneurship
  • Venture Advising
  • Managing the Innovation Process
  • Acquisition Entrepreneurship
  • Business Planning for New Enterprises (The Hatchery)
  • Business Fundamentals for Nonbusiness Students
  • Sustainable Development and Conservation through Entrepreneurial Collaboration: Madagascar
  • Venture Capital Methods

Courses are part of the collaborative, content-rich, hands-on learning at Olin—but they don’t tell the whole story. At WashU Olin, anyone with the ambition to launch a startup can step through a carefully charted program of coursework, seminars, workshops and competitions. That same rigorous programming also empowers students interested in venture capital, social impact, corporate innovation and, yes, founding a company.

Plus, you collaborate with students within Olin and across the WashU campus. Inspiration grows when individuals from various disciplines gather to solve problems. That’s what happens through our rich coursework and our collaboration with WashU’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

At WashU Olin, the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep. In the WashU MBA, you learn how to fall in love with customers’ problems—and how to solve them. Olin gives students the tools to innovate and create—whether you’re destined to launch a startup, offer next-level problem-solving to a young business or drive innovation inside a global enterprise.

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Entrepreneurship Fellowship

Our recognition has given us an opportunity to attract diverse, creative and forward-thinking students who are looking to grow an idea or discover their untapped potential. The Entrepreneurship Fellowship is aimed at students seeking to influence business and society in areas including sustainability/environmentalism, social responsibility, global impact, and equity, diversity and inclusion.

Fellows receive full tuition remission, housing within the Lewis Collaborative, networking opportunities, one-on-one mentorship and more. For more information download this information sheet (PDF).

Competition and capital for budding entrepreneurs

videoSince WashU Olin launched its entrepreneurship program, student- and alumni-founded startups have received $735 million through various funding sources. That support begins at the earliest stages of innovation with the Holekamp Seed Fund, which offers $1,000 grants to students, giving them the first injection of capital to get their idea off the ground.

Olin's BIG IdeaBounce is an elevator pitch contest with $30,000 in cash prizes each school year. Any WashU student with an idea and a passion to get it started is eligible to apply.

The Skandalaris Venture Competition awards up to $40,000 to startups for commercializing their ideas, launching and pitching to investors.

But that's not all. The WashU Venture Network—in conjunction with Olin and the Skandalaris Center—was founded to attract angel investment to startups connected to WashU. Plus, our new League of Extraordinary Student Entrepreneurs will help our "best of the best" students better connect with Olin's entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus and around the world.

A lively ecosystem for innovation

Over more than a decade, Olin's students and its entrepreneurship program have cultivated a reputation for excellence in the region. That means that outside the classroom, you will work with senior executives and entrepreneurs in case competitions and consulting engagements. Olin's Center for Experiential Learning offers two consulting courses to give you an up-close experience with an entrepreneurial venture.

They include the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect) course, in which you engage in a consulting project for early-stage startups located in St. Louis, New York City, San Francisco, and internationally. During the semester-long course, you’ll work closely with the founder as you gain information to better understand the venture’s challenges and advise on strategies to drive the business forward.

Meanwhile, we offer two options of the CEL Metrics Clinic—finance and marketing. These courses connect you with a St. Louis startup looking for data-driven consulting on a business challenge in one of those two disciplines. These six- to eight-week consulting projects are student led and faculty supervised.

Our vast alumni network engages with students regularly as coaches and competition judges—building your network of potential clients and funders. New initiatives also include new courses focused on leveraging innovation for good in partnership with WashU’s Brown Public Policy School and “innovating for defense,” in collaboration with WashU’s McKelvey School of Engineering and the US Department of Defense.

Tony Zhu, BSBA 2017

The entrepreneurial ecosystem around St. Louis is considerable.

And it provides access and opportunity to WashU students. Olin’s classroom extends beyond campus to St. Louis’s thriving innovation district, which includes Cortex Innovation Community, a vibrant, 200-acre hub of business, innovation and technology, and downtown’s T-REX, a nonprofit technology startup incubator. Student teams consult for startups, working one-on-one with founders for an up-close learning experience.