College 10th in Forbes entrepreneurship ranking

Forbes ranked Dartmouth 10th on its top-50 list of most entrepreneurial schools in a July 30 report, which employed a new methodology from its previous published rankings. Although the College fell three spots from its seventh-place position in Forbes’ 2012 report, Forbes data journalist and report author Liyan Chen said in an interview that the reports should not be compared given the change in research method.

Stanford University led the rankings in both 2014 and 2012, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came in second in both reports. The University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University and the University of California at Los Angeles rounded out the top five in 2014.

This year, Forbes’ research procedure divided the number of students and alumni at an institution who list themselves as founders or owners of a business on LinkedIn over the size of the matriculating class. In 2012, Forbes tracked only the number of people affiliated with an institution who founded a business that employed 10 or more people, again based on LinkedIn data. Forbes did not publish a ranking in 2013.

The new methodology better controls for the size of each institution, Chen said.

Although the reliance on Linkedin could introduce bias, Chen said Forbes found similar usage of the service across different institutions.

Director of Dartmouth’s new Innovation Center and New Venture Incubator programs Jamie Coughlin said the Forbes report, like any top-10 ranking, marked a “significant achievement.” He credited Dartmouth’s ranking to College President Phil Hanlon’s commitment to entrepreneurship.

In his September inaugural address, Hanlon announced the establishment of a new innovation center aimed at spurring student entrepreneurship.

“I would say, and I witness this on a daily basis, that there is an undeniable excitement around the growing entrepreneurial awareness within the greater Dartmouth community,” Coughlin said.

To improve its ranking, Coughlin said, Dartmouth must increase “exposure,” which means boosting the accessibility of existing resources and introducing new programming aimed at educating community members about entrepreneurship. It must also existing entrepreneurial projects by leveraging Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) and providing seed capital.

In the report, Chen wrote that the DEN provided support to student projects.

Shinri Kamei ’16, who founded the start-up Tray Bien earlier this year, said she was heavily influenced by former DEN director and former Tuck School of Business professor Gregg Fairbrothers ’76. She said entrepreneurship at the College “centered” on several important mentors who remain accessible.

“I think that’s the best thing about Dartmouth entrepreneurship,” Kamei said. “There is no barrier to entry.”

Kamei said she appreciated the ranking, especially given what she called Dartmouth’s reputation for being “corporate.”

Austin Boral ’16, DEN associate of external affairs and former vice president of entrepreneurship accelerator Mitosis, said that the rankings show Dartmouth is “up and coming.” Boral credited Hanlon’s tenure as improving entrepreneurial resources at the College.

While some segments of the student body have long been passionate about entrepreneurship, he said, the opportunity to partake in entrepreneurship has now expanded to a larger portion of students.

Economics professor Andrew Samwick, who began teaching a new social entrepreneurship class this term, said the ranking’s methodology was “not necessarily all that reliable” and cautioned against overemphasizing the report.

“I don’t put any stock in rankings like that as an objective,” he said. “What you want here, for entrepreneurship, is for people to understand that it is an extremely valid synthesis for a liberal arts education. Liberal arts education is what we do.”

Samwick said that the report’s focus on DEN was appropriate, since entrepreneurship requires strong networks.

Fairbrothers, the former DEN director, said rankings “suggest a precision that’s difficult to support,” citing former College President James Wright’s opinions on the matter. But he said that receiving attention bodes well for Dartmouth and noted that the College’s student body was historically highly entrepreneurial.

Fairbrothers said that strong entrepreneurial networks do not necessarily help entrepreneurs, since those who succeed in starting new ventures could succeed with or without help from resources.

Fairbrothers’s departure last spring from the College was highly controversial. In April the College informed him that he would no longer serve as DEN director or as an adjunct professor at Tuck. This termination  spurred a petition signed by over 1,300 students, faculty and alumni rallying behind keeping Fairbrothers at the College. Many warned about the future of entrepreneurship going forward without him.

“Everybody’s got to learn somewhere, and everybody can use a helping hand,” he said. “But if you have to do everything for somebody in order for them to succeed, I’m not sure that’s entrepreneurial.”

Next fall, the College will open DEN in Residence as a living-learning community where residents will be exposed to and involved in DEN innovation activities, learning about a wide range of entrepreneurial perspectives.

Boral is a former member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (8/15/14):

Due to an editing error, a characterization of the list and the attribution of one quotation were misstated. Forbes released a top-50 list of most entrepreneurial schools, not a top-20 list. Coughlin, not Hanlon, noted that he saw excitement around the “growing entrepreneurial awareness” at Dartmouth.

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