The Westmont Launch
Westmont is a true entrepreneurial venture! In 1902, Alex and Ruth Kerr founded Kerr Glass Manufacturing in San Francisco to sell their patented glass vacuum jars. The February 21, 1939 TIME magazine reported sales of more than 100 million jars annually. They persevered through the great 1906 earthquake (their facilities were completely destroyed), and relocated the business to Los Angeles. After Alex’s death in 1925, Ruth assumed leadership, and by the late 1930s had laid out her entrepreneurial vision to launch a liberal arts college in Southern California that would rival the best colleges nationwide, and offer a curriculum grounded in the Christian faith. Faced with significant barriers to entry in the market and limited start-up capital, the college was launched in 1937 in Pasadena. In 1940, the fledgling venture moved to its newly purchased estate in the Montecito hills of Santa Barbara, and began to expand its faculty, student body, and facilities. Today Westmont boasts a 70-year history with over 10,000 alumni, and is consistently ranked by U.S. News, The Carnegie Foundation, and The Templeton Foundation’s Honor Roll as among the top 50 highly-selective liberal arts colleges in America.
New Venture Development
David Newton launched the Westmont Entrepreneurship Program during the Fall of 1990. He had just completed teaching for 5 years at Pepperdine’s MBA program, and one year at UMass-Amherst, and had recently finished his DBA in one of the first entrepreneurial finance + strategy doctoral programs in the nation, under the direction of Igor Ansoff at U.S. International University in San Diego. Beginning in the late 1960s, Dr. Ansoff remained widely-recognized worldwide as the father of modern strategic management, with more than 200 journal articles and 30 books published during his tenure at Carnegie-Mellon, Vanderbilt (founding dean of the business school), UCLA, and finally his last 17 years at USIU. Since 1981, the global Strategic Management Society (headquartered at the prestigious INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France) has presented the H. Igor Ansoff Award to the leading academic scholar in strategic venturing who has contributed most to global corporate management. Dr. Ansoff’s seminal books Corporate Strategy and Implementing Strategic Management have been translated into more than 30 languages.
In February 1991, as a favor to a former student (David Newton), Dr. Ansoff came to Westmont and gave a 2-day research colloquium for students and faculty on entrepreneurial strategic behavior, as part of the first-year launch of the Westmont program. Dr. Newton continues to develop entrepreneurial initiatives based on the strategic vision developed in those two days and his applied research with Dr. Ansoff.
One of the core concepts of economics is the entrepreneur, that change agent who steps into a perceived gap within various stages of commerce and economic transactions, and introduces an innovative product or process. Derived from a variation of the French entre - prendre (meaning to initiate an undertaking) - entrepreneurs spot opportunities, create new approaches, and accept the risks of funding and implementing new ventures.
For 18 years, every Westmont entrepreneurship student memorizes this seminal description of entrepreneurial initiative from Francis Knight’s classic 1921 publication - Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit: “The confident and venturesome, assume the risk, or insure the doubtful and timid, by guaranteeing to the latter a fixed income in exchanged for an assignment of the actual results”.
That “assignment of the actual results” could be devastating loss, break-even, or significant profit for the long-term, and therein lies the inherent risk of being an entrepreneur. Today, Westmont Entrepreneurship includes the following initiatives and strategic alliances:
- Upper Division Courses: Dr. Newton introduced EB 191-Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development (offered each Fall), and EB 192-Change and Innovation (offered each Spring). The former focuses on understanding entrepreneurs and the processes involved in conceiving of, researching, financing, and launching new ventures. The latter focuses on the role of creativity, change, and innovation on industries and market turbulence.
- Alumni Start-Up Companies: Since 1990, 300+ students have completed the entrepreneurship courses, and over 50 graduates have successfully launched their own ventures, including:
- Acero Distribution, LLC
- ACFI Student Travel, Inc.
- Anodos Group, LLC
- Ascendim, Inc.
- Bellevue Health Care, Inc.
- Bevan Bevan & Giordano, LLC
- California Leash Company
- Credo Software, Inc.
- Curterro, Inc.
- Global Destination
- Hearn Investment Properties
- Prima Worldwide, Inc.
- Regency Audio Files, Inc.
- SafetyMan, LLC
- Smart-Tag, Inc.
- SophSuds, Inc.
- Vision Launchers, Inc.
- Business Plan Competition: The 21st Annual Westmont Collegiate Business Plan Competition will take place on campus, in December 2010. Each year the top four student ventures from the Fall course present their start-up bizplans to an expert panel of outside judges comprised of investment bankers, angel investors, successful entrepreneurs, and private equity fund managers. The top two student ventures are then entered into national and international collegiate business plan competitions. Since 1993, Westmont students have earned 13 national semi-final invitations to events such as The NASDAQ Venture Challenge (San Diego), The Univ. of Nebraska Small Business Development Center (Lincoln, NE), the California Coast Venure Forum (Santa Barbara), the Midwest Enterprise Creation Competition (jointly sponsored by Indiana-Bloomington and Syracuse Univ.), and the SEED National Collegiate Venture Forum (Santa Barbara). The 2003 student venture - Solum Monitoring Systems - won first place and $7,500 at the 7th Annual MECC, beating out teams from Purdue and the Univ. of Arizona in the finals.
- California Coast Venture Forum: Founded in May 1997 by Westmont, Silicon Valley Bank, Southern California Edison, and Nida & Maloney, the first forum was held on Westmont’s campus and showcased five start-up companies for an audience of about 30 qualified high net-wroth investors. Today, CCVF is held every June at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel, with more than 200 attendees. Over the last 10 years the forum has helped more than 300 emerging ventures raises over $220 million from private equity funds, angel investors, hedge funds, and venture capitalists.
- M.I.T. Forum: The same year that Westmont launched the Entrepreneurship program, a new local chapter of the M.I.T. Enterprise Forum was started in Santa Barbara to serve the Central Coast entrepreneurship and technology community. With more than 30 local chapters nationwide, the MIT Forum was designed by alums at MIT’s Sloan School of Management to provide networking between emerging ventures and technologies, local entrepreneurs, and investors. Westmont students have been attending the monthly meetings (dinner, networking, and a formal bizplan presentation from a new company) for 16 years, and MIT members have opened doors to dozens of great internships and full-time jobs for Westmont students, come to campus to speak with students, and served as reviewers and judges at the annual on-campus Westmont Business Plan Competition.
- Technology Incubator: Since 1999, Dr. Newton has been an equity-holder and founding member of the Board of Advisors for the Santa Barbara Technology Group, which launched a multi-million dollar venture fund and 22,000 sq. ft. high-tech incubator in downtown Santa Barbara. Over the last 7+ years, than 20 Westmont students have been hired by the Group and/or the incubator for both internships, and full-time positions after graduation. With an average of 20-30 start-up and emerging ventures housed at the incubator at any given time, Westmont entrepreneurship students also secure internships with a wide variety of early-stage technology companies.
- Online Global Research Exchange: After the January 2001 national convention for USASBE in Orlando, Dr. Newton organized a founding team of advisors and investors to launch TechKnowledge Point Corporation in July 2001, as the world’s first online networking and referral hub for some 1,700 entrepreneurship researchers around the world. Over two dozen Westmont students have worked as research assistants, interns, and had full-time employment with the company, which serves as an intermediary for making a wide range of connections between entrepreneurs, faculty-researchers, and firms in various stages of development, including a three-year strategic partnership with Entrepreneur.com and Entrepreneur magazine.
- S.E.E.D. Venture Forum: Since October 2003, Westmont Entrepreneurship and numerous private companies have supported the SEED National Collegiate Venture Forum. Founded and sponsored by TechKnowledge Point, and held each March in Santa Barbara, the first three SEED forums have attracted nationally-recognized graduate and undergraduate student venture teams, including: Boston University, Columbia Business School (NY), Carnegie-Mellon, Duke, Rice, Syracuse, Washington State, Westmont, and the Universities of Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, Houston, and Texas at Austin. The 8th Annual SEED Forum will happen March, 2011.