Temple University is not yet widely seen as the kind of local leader of entrepreneurship or tech innovation in the way that its University City peers Drexel and Penn are. The college has had its tech transfer stories and trialed MOOCs, but relative to its large size, Temple is rarely listed as a force behind what’s changed in the last decade. There’s an effort to change that.
In his inaugural speech last year, Dr. Neil Theobald, the new president of the region’s largest public research university, laid out six commitments that he said would shape his tenure. One of them was focused on “the entrepreneurial spirit,” with plans to make Temple students ‘real-world ready.’
Late last month was officially Entrepreneurship Day on Temple’s Main Campus, which brought together a number of existing efforts in the hopes of amplifying their impact and awareness. For a school that has such a large footprint on so much of Philadelphia, the wider local tech ecosystem is still surprisingly new territory.
The school held its 16th Annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl business plan competition with other $225,000 in cash and prizes, said Jaine Lucas, the organizer and executive director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI). This year’s Grand Prize Winner was Temple CIS Professor John Nosek of Guiding Technologies, an effort for autistic children.
While the competition was underway, Temple’s Entrepreneurial Student Association (ESA) hosted its annual Tower Takeover event to engage local businesses and students around a 30-table entrepreneurship expo.
Dave Silver, a Temple alumnus and founder of Broad Street Music Group and a recent presenter at a Start.Stay.Grow event for student entrepreneurs organized by Philly Startup Leaders, said to grow Temple’s perceived influence on the region’s tech community, students will need to do much of the lifting.
“It’s great to see the students taking charge and putting their heads together to bring local brands out in front of their target market,” he said.
Earlier in April, Temple’s Fox School of Business held its annual IT Awards, an event series that is increasingly touching a wider tech community here. There’s also the established Urban Apps and Maps program from Youngjin Yoo that connects students, North Philadelphia residents and wider efforts, and the Fox School has earned outside recognition for its entrepreneurship work. Temple is also hoping institutional changes might support that growth.
“Our entrepreneurship program had a breakthrough year,” said Lucas, highlighting several new efforts.
- Opened in April 2013 a new dorm floor for student entrepreneurs
- Launched a GenEd course in Creativity and Organizational Innovation open to any of 37,000 undergraduate students,
- Began a new Masters of Science Degree in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship
- Unveiled an Innovation Leadership Speaker Series
- Opened the Blackstone Launch Pad
So why the perceived distance from Drexel and Penn? In part, it’s surely to do with resources: though with a far smaller student population, the private Ivy League school, including Wharton, has far wealthier network to pull from. It also has to do with specialty: Drexel’s technical and co-op roots prepped it well for today’s entrepreneurship surge.
By comparison, Temple is a large and sprawling public university with a different enrollment philosophy. For example, three of those other six commitments from Temple president Theobald include a commitment to affordability, impact on the city and a diverse student body.
So the expectations should be different, as should the goals. Instead, Temple and Theobald seem well timed to broaden the reach of tech business and entrepreneurship to a wider class of students.