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Be a Pioneer for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Our entrepreneurial spirit runs deep.

At WashU Olin, we foster an entrepreneurial spirit in every student—whether your plans include a startup, a Fortune 500 company or somewhere in between.

videoIt’s this spirit of entrepreneurship that gives you the skills and the confidence to challenge existing management models and drive innovation. That hones your ability to respond nimbly and rapidly to market forces, while at the same time opening doors for positive, sustainable progress.

You’ll start on day one: Our global MBA program is built on an immersive experiential learning that spans three continents. As students gain an enhanced understanding of business expertise and international leadership, they also develop an appreciation for the role innovation plays in all organizations. Through experiential business projects in Barcelona and Shanghai, students put their developing entrepreneurial spirit to work to provide fresh thinking to real clients with real challenges.

Strange Donuts project in Shanghai

Part of WashU Olin’s summer immersion semester for first-year MBA students includes field research in Shanghai, where students work to provide innovative strategies for a US business to enter the local market.

Building your entrepreneurship skills

It all starts with the ability to recognize problems and devise innovative solutions—solutions that will create change, for good. Here you’ll roll up your sleeves and get right to work. Developing your own business plan. Helping existing startups refine theirs. Putting your plan to the test in a business plan competition. Bringing fresh ideas to the boardrooms of established companies. Working with local and global entrepreneurs to offer strategic consulting advice.

All this happens in an environment designed to let you experiment, push boundaries, refine ideas and get better the next time. Your learning lab will be St. Louis’ humming startup ecosystem.

Valerie Toothman,MBA ’08, executive vice president for brand and beverage marketing at Drinkworks

“The act of creation is what I get excited about.”

—Valerie Toothman, MBA ’08, executive vice president for brand and beverage marketing at Drinkworks

Valerie’s interest in innovation inspired her pre-AB InBev/Drinkworks career as a biomedical engineer. “The biggest passion point for me is a natural curiosity for solving ambiguous problems,” she says, “whether in the realm of a medical device or of beer, whether that’s talking to surgeons and patients or brewmasters and beer consumers.”

In and out of the classroom

The St. Louis business community holds WashU and its students in high regard. That creates two very important things—access and opportunity.

Outside the classroom, you can work with senior executives and entrepreneurs in case competitions and consulting engagements. Inside the classroom, take an entrepreneurship course with WashU students from other disciplines—medicine, social work, engineering and more—a dynamic mix of backgrounds that spurs innovative thinking and shifts perspectives.

Innovation and entrepreneurship courses include:

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

Olin’s MBA entrepreneurship platform helps you further explore career opportunities and find networking opportunities with startup innovators and investors.

Tony Zhu, BSBA 2017

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.

Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning offers two consulting courses to give you an up-close experience with an entrepreneurial venture.

The first is the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect) course, where you engage in a consulting project for an early-stage St. Louis startup. 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.

The Metrics Clinic course connects you with a St. Louis startup looking for data-driven consulting on a business challenge. These six- to eight-week consulting projects, focused on enterprises in the startup ecosystem, are student-led and faculty-supervised.

Startup capital for budding entrepreneurs

WashU has a solid track record of cultivating student businesses that grow to greatness. Since 2008, student-founded startups raised $68.8 million, created 457 positions in St. Louis and filed for 17 provisional patents.

The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a range of programs open to all WashU students. IdeaBounce® is both an online platform and event for sharing venture ideas and making connections. The Skandalaris Venture Competition awards up to $15,000 to startups for commercializing their idea, launching and pitching to investors.

The Holekamp Seed Fund allows students to compete for $1000 grants (20 awarded per year), providing student-run startups an injection of capital to get them off the ground. Any WashU student with a serious business plan and a passion to get it started is eligible to apply to the Holekamp Seed Fund with no strings attached—only a hope that students will donate to the fund after they graduate.