The entrepreneurship scene is booming at the University of Illinois and students across campus are eager to get involved. The MBA students at the University of Illinois - College of Business are no exception.
Second-year MBA Larry Rubeck and a few of his colleagues met with Illinois Launch Director Amara Andrews during the 2010-2011 school year to create the Illini New Venture Advisors, a group of MBAs that will advise Illinois Launch teams each semester.
“We are creating an organization similar to the IBC (Integrated Business Consulting) that will connect MBA students with new ventures,” Rubeck explained. “It will be MBA-led and will give students a real-world business experience, while supporting local entrepreneurs.”
Rubeck explained that each startup has different needs, which may include assistance with marketing, product development, business development, financial and/or business planning. Rubeck is currently working to pair Launch teams with MBA students based on skillsets and personal preferences.
“How the MBAs help the startups is going to really depend on what the needs of the startups are,” Rubeck said. “The MBAs can work 5-10 hours a week on this project. They can hold weekly meetings to get status updates, or they can be more hands-off and give guidance more broadly over the course of the semester. It is up to them.”
Rubeck said that it is important to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit in the organization, which makes him apprehensive to create a lot of rules or bureaucracy around it.
“We are having the MBAs hold initial meetings where the teams tell them where their businesses are and where they are going,” Rubeck explained. “At the end of the semester, the MBAs will give a presentation about what progress they have made. The Illinois Launch teams will do evaluation reports about the MBAs as well.”
The goal of the Illini New Venture Advisors initiative is to build relationships that last and that build success for both parties involved, Rubeck explained.
“For the startups, hopefully they are getting some good resources with the skills that they need to further the goals of their companies,” he said. “I would love to see some long-term relationships be formed through this organization.”
For the MBAs, Rubeck added, advising a startup company is a resume-building opportunity, a great way to get hands-on experience and a way to further develop a professional network.
“When you are working with a startup, you are applying the concepts you learn in class in a real business world setting,” Rubeck said. “This initiative could also lead to future employment opportunities for the MBAs when they have completed school.”
Though Rubeck’s role in the initiative is administrative at present, he will eventually transition to a more developmental role, he said.
“Now I am looking at building human capital through recruiting and training MBA students, and through analyzing their performances,” Rubeck said, noting that for this round of startup-MBA pairing, MBA students were not recruited. All participants signed up for the initiative voluntarily.
“I would like to do more active recruitment in the future,” Rubeck said. “Even at the point of entry, so the admissions team would get MBA students excited about it before they enter the program.”
The first priorities, Rubeck said, were to get MBAs actively working with startups and to develop the organization as a whole. In the future, he would like to have startups and MBAs meet earlier during the semester before they are matched together.
“That way, matches could happen more easily and the pairs would be a better fit,” Rubeck said.
Rubeck said he will dedicate time to marketing initiatives to get the Illini New Venture Advisors’ name out across campus.
“We want to differentiate ourselves from the other entrepreneurship organizations on campus,” Rubeck said, “but we would also welcome the opportunity work with them.”
To learn more about the Illini New Venture Advisors and how you can get involved, e-mail Larry Rubeck at email@example.com.