Study Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WashU Olin

Advance yourself on the path to entrepreneurship with Olin.

Creative, forward-thinking students. Collaborative, hands-on learning. Opportunities to pitch ideas and win funding. St. Louis’s lively entrepreneurial ecosystem. These elements drive Olin’s focus on the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a focus so fundamental to us that it’s one of our pillars of excellence.

Olin is dedicated to fostering innovation and supporting budding entrepreneurs. We teach you to fall in love with problems and envision solutions that change the way things are done, not to mention people’s lives. From classes to student consulting to competitions to extracurriculars, you have ample opportunity to develop the skills and background you need to see your entrepreneurial dreams realized.

Additionally, WashU Olin is part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in St. Louis as well as Silicon Valley, New York City and Tel Aviv, to name a few. 

Entrepreneurship by the Numbers


# 1 MBA

for entrepreneurship

Poets & Quants 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024


#8 undergrad

program for entrepreneurship

Princeton Review 2023



entrepreneurship courses

available to students campus-wide


$735 million

in funding

for student- and alumni-founded startups since program began

Entrepreneurial Courses

Olin’s entrepreneurship courses are based on collaboration, cross-disciplinary thinking and hands-on learning. As a student, you choose courses that focus on your specific interests in entrepreneurship. Some of our entrepreneurial courses include:

Workshop Your Own Idea

The Hatchery
Introduction to Entrepreneurship
Social Entrepreneurship
The League of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

Embed with a Startup

CELect: St Louis, San Francisco, New York City and international
Marketing Metrics

Consult with Investors

Venture Capital Methods and Practice
Private Equity Methods and Practice
Entrepreneurship through Acquisition

Innovate within Larger Entities

Managing the Innovation Process
Innovating for Defense

Change the World

Social Innovation
Endgame of Entrepreneurship: Leveraging Capitalism for Good

MBA Olin Entrepreneurial Fellowship

Grow your idea or discover your untapped potential.

entrepreneur fellows 2023

The Olin Entrepreneurship Fellowship is aimed at MBA 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, networking opportunities and more.

Learn by Doing

WashU Olin offers many opportunities for you to gain entrepreneurial experience and further your startup idea.
  • IdeaBounce® Competition

    Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce® is a 2-minute-video elevator pitch contest open to all WashU students. The $15,000 prize purse helps winners get their big ideas off the ground. All ideas receive personalized feedback from a panel of experienced judges and mentors.

    The WashU Olin Big IdeaBounce® Powered by Poets & Quants is a pitch competition to support and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and the creation of innovative solutions. This exciting competition is open to student startups around the world. Teams compete for a $50,000 grand prize to fund their idea. In last year’s competition, we received 158 submissions from teams representing 90+ schools and 13 countries.

  • The Hatchery

    Teams of students work with local entrepreneurs and investors to develop a business plan and then present their recommendations to startup and venture capital experts. The Hatchery is the oldest university-affiliated business-plan course in the country.

  • The League of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

    The “League” is an advanced entrepreneurship class that functions like an accelerator for WashU student entrepreneurs with business ideas. You can join as an individual or with a team. It’s a great opportunity to work with some of WashU’s most successful alumni and friends.

    In the past, we featured Jim McKelvey (Square), Andrew Rubin (Illumio), Jesse Pujji (Gateway X), David Eckstein (Menlo Security), Lori Coulter (Summersalt), JD Ross (Opendoor &, Lee Fixel (Addition), Deborah Barta (BlockFi), Marc Bernstein (Balto), Chuck Cohn (Nerdy), Luke Saunders (Farmer’s Fridge), Amie Patel (Elevar Equity), Maxine Clark (Build-A-Bear) and Eliana Eskinazi (Wagr).

    Learn more about the League.

  • Startup Consulting

    Student consultants engage in semester-long consulting projects for startups at various stages of their development through the Center for Experiential Learning. Two courses—CELect and Metrics Clinic—leverage WashU’s relationships with the St. Louis startup community, providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity for students who want to run existing companies or launch their own firms. CELect students have worked with startups in St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Israel and more.

  • Holekamp Seed Fund

    This seed fund provides $1,000 awards and up to $5,000 follow-on rewards to WashU student entrepreneurs to defray the initial costs of founding a business.

    Read more about the fund.

  • Run a Campus Business

    Through WashU’s Student Enterprise Program (StEP), you can create a campus business or buy an existing one—and manage it until you graduate. The success of the business is reliant on you, and the university allocates and subsidizes storefront locations.

  • Skandalaris Center

    Extracurricular entrepreneurship activities are offered by WashU’s Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurial Studies, which sponsors business plan competitions, speakers, internships, mentoring programs and more.

  • Arch Grants

    WashU students and faculty are frequent participants in the Arch Grants business plan competition, which provides $75,000 grants to startups and takes no equity in return.

  • St. Louis Ecosystem

    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.

Olin’s MBA program gave me the confidence I needed to take entrepreneurial risks in the real world. The program’s rigorous coursework helped me develop a deep understanding of business strategy and prioritization.

—Kai Skallerud, MBA 2022

Fastest-Growing Startup City

St. Louis is one of only seven US cities ranked in PitchBook’s top 20 fastest-growing startup hubs in the world.

Venture capital firm PitchBook’s Global VC Ecosystems ranking looks at the most developed markets for venture capital activity and the cities seeing the fastest growth. Coming in at #20, St. Louis joins Dubai, Milan, Miami and other global cities “growing their VC activity at a faster rate than more established, expensive and saturated locations.”

Read the article.

Dedicated to Students


Doug Villhard is Olin’s resident entrepreneurship guru. He’s a professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship. Doug’s a serial entrepreneur—starting, selling, buying, advising and investing in companies. He’s also a dedicated teacher who likes nothing better than watching students thrive.

Want to talk entrepreneurship at WashU Olin? Doug’s the guy to contact.

Doug Villhard

Read about Doug

Professor Doug Villhard has been a valued mentor and advisor. Doug has always given me realistic feedback on growth aspirations and plans for my startup, sharing his own experiences and best judgment on how to move forward. He has cultivated a great community of entrepreneurs at WashU, one that I draw insights from quite regularly.

—Paarvv Goel, MBA 2023