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Oct. 2, 2009 2:45 pm

Friday Q & A: Mark Loschiavo, Executive Director of the Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University

Mark Loschiavo, Executive Director of the Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University, believes the region’s universities are key to heightening the city’s profile when it comes to entrepreneurship. “Part of our mission is to not only drive entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurial thinking,” he says. Since 2001, The Baida Center has been a business incubator in […]

Mark Loschiavo, Executive Director of the Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University, believes the region’s universities are key to heightening the city’s profile when it comes to entrepreneurship.

“Part of our mission is to not only drive entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurial thinking,” he says.

Since 2001, The Baida Center has been a business incubator in Drexel’s Lebow School of Business that houses eight to ten companies on average, mostly winners of the school’s incubator competition. The center is also a big reason the school was named one of the top three entrepreneurship programs for graduate students in the country (three spots ahead of, ahem, Temple University).

Technically Philly sat down with the man behind the scenes: Executive Director and Senior Executive in Residence Mark P. Loschiavo and asked him how the incubator works and why, like the rest of us, Loschiavo has trouble pronouncing “Baiada.”

As always, edited for length and clarity.

First thing is first, how do you pronounce the name of the center?

It’s BAY – ADA.

If it’s any consolation to you, I was running the center for several months and I knew Mel Baiada quite well and always heard him pronounce it “Bi – ada.” But I was at CN8′s Money Matters one night (see video here) with his brother Mark and I introduced someone to him as Mark “Bi – ada” and he corrected me. I thought “Dang, I have been running the center and pronouncing it wrong for six months.”

MarkLoschiavoHow does Baiada work? Are participants all students?

It is predominately not students. Within the last couple of years, we piloted a student incubator program. That is, students could incubate a product while still in school.

We don’t limit it to Drexel student or alums, but that’s mostly what we have here. There are two ways to get into the center: One is through winning our incubator competition. The other way is through what we refer to as “exceptional merit.”

Which means we review the team, the business plan, and the market to determine weather or not the company has a better-than-average chance to be successful. And based on that, we will let people in. We’re pretty selective.

What kind of financial support does the incubator offer the companies?

The winners of the competition are given seed capital [up to $10,000], the amount of that depends on whether they win first, second or third place. All three also receive space for the first year for free. We also provide in-kind services.

We do not take an equity position in the companies. After the second year, the fees kick in. We charge half the market rate in year two and full market rate in year three.

So what’s in it for the university to house these companies if you are not taking a stake?

The primary reason we are doing this is to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region and also to further people’s interest, passion and best practices in entrepreneurship. We really view it as part of the educational mission.

We hope, down the road, that these companies will ultimately give back. We hope that the ones that are successful will someday write a big check to us as a benefactor.

What is one of the most successful companies that have come from the incubator?

One that folks recognize in this area, especially when they park, is Ompay. Ompay is the company that develops SmartCards, the solution for the Philadelphia parking authority so you can pay for your meters.

Temple has its own entrepreneurial program, Penn has MentorTech Ventures. How do you view the landscape when it comes to the university-led incubator?

I think both Temple and Penn have some really good stuff that they’re doing. It’s exciting that this region has as much activity as it does around entrepreneurship.

Temple has been strong in women entrepreneurship. They’ve also done some interesting stuff in global entrepreneurship.

If you look at a majority of Temple business plans they tend to lifestyle businesses, ours tend to have more tech-type businesses that are more scalable.

The Wharton Small Business Development Center is for people in the community who are trying to learn the business of business. They do a nice job with that. Our training is quite different.

We have a program called GAP [Growth Acceleration Program] that is not meant for the individual on the street. It’s geared more toward companies, small and mid-size.

Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

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Sean Blanda is an adviser to Technical.ly, the local technology news network, having cofounded its flagship Technically Philly in February 2009. He is a media consultant, engagement editor for Behance and lives in Brooklyn, NYC.

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