University of Delaware
Charles W. Horn speaks at a special event celebrating the new Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.

Elevating entrepreneurship

UD unveils creative details of Horn Program in Entrepreneurship


11:14 a.m., Oct. 18, 2012--Nearly 200 students, faculty, entrepreneurs and guests gathered to celebrate the official launch of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, made possible by a recent $3 million commitment from 1975 alumnus Charles W. Horn and his wife, Patricia.

The celebration, held Friday on the lawn of the Roselle Center for the Arts, is the University’s latest effort to expand entrepreneurial studies through an interdisciplinary program.

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“It is extremely gratifying to see so many people who have helped the entrepreneurship program pursue our opportunity to inspire, educate and connect student innovators and entrepreneurs to the broader entrepreneurial community,” said Dan Freeman, associate professor of marketing and director of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.

Before starting the program Freeman gave a special thanks to Scott Jones, professor of accounting.

“Scott created the entrepreneurship program here at UD about six years ago and he is really the one who established the connection that we have with many of the people here today, so to Scott – thank you,” said Freeman. 

UD President Patrick Harker then welcomed attendees, and commented on the critical importance of startups to the University, the state and the American economy, noting that “aspiring entrepreneurs don’t suffer from a lack of ideas, they suffer from a lack of support.”

“Our strength is in our startups, in the growth and proliferation of small companies begun by people smart enough to have great ideas and lucky enough to find investors, advisers and mentors,” said Harker. “Charlie and Patty want to take the lucky part out of that equation.

“They believe everyone should be able to access an education in entrepreneurship; everyone should have a chance to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and find backing for the dreams worth pursuing. I am so grateful for their passion, their vision and, of course, their enormous generosity.”

Horn, a seasoned entrepreneur and investor in several high-growth companies, is chairman and founder of the prescription drug benefit company, ScriptSave; the private equity company, Pro Private Equity, LLC; and the management advisory services company, Pro Business Management Services, LLC.

He told guests that the inspiration to make a gift came from the passion, vision and support of Harker, Freeman, and Bruce Weber, dean of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, as well as the potential Delaware offers as an entrepreneurial hub.

“Delaware could be known as the innovation state,” said Horn, citing “Delaware first,” one of the five guiding principles in UD’s Path to Prominence, and recounting entrepreneurs like E.I. du Pont, Bill and Bob Gore, and Delaware’s 2,500 independently-operating farmers.

“Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or you just want to be part of an entrepreneurial enterprise, learning about entrepreneurship is absolutely critical,” said Horn. “We know entrepreneurs are great learners and entrepreneurship can be taught, and I applaud Dan, Dean Weber and President Harker for supporting this program.”

Horn initiative’s components

A new promotional video outlined for guests the five major components of the Horn initiative, which include the startup experience; the Venture Development Center (VDC) expansion; the Diamond Challenge; the online resource exchange; and the Horn Challenge.

“The Horn Program in Entrepreneurship has a solid foundation of curricular, co-curricular and outreach programming,” said Freeman. “On the curricular side, we have an undergraduate minor and an MBA concentration; on the co-curricular side, our signature properties are the VDC, a student business hatchery/incubator; our startup funding competition Hen Hatch; and our outreach component, the annual President’s Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”

At the heart of the Horn initiative is the startup experience, which is a new University- wide program, open to students at all levels – undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral – in all colleges and majors. 

Students who enroll in the program will learn about entrepreneurship by working with a team to try to conceive, validate and launch a high growth potential startup. The Horn program is currently recruiting the first cohort for a spring 2013 launch. Application information is available from the VDC.

The relocation and expansion of the VDC will provide students with a home, which Freeman envisions as a state-of-the-art facility with spaces for mentoring, conferencing, socializing and working.

The centerpiece of new outreach programming is the Diamond Challenge for high school entrepreneurs.  

“We want to provide all high school students with an outstanding opportunity to develop entrepreneurial knowledge and skills,” said Freeman. “We hope to raise awareness of entrepreneurship as a viable career path and are working with representatives from Delaware Technical Community College, Junior Achievement, Glasgow High School and Delaware’s Department of Education in this effort.”

According to Freeman, the inaugural Diamond Challenge will be open only to Delaware high school students with the goal of eventual expansion into a regional event.

A comprehensive online resource exchange is another component of the Horn Program. The precise nature of exchange is yet to be determined. It will be built using customer development and lean startup principles to ensure that it provides resources that solve meaningful problems for student- and community-based entrepreneurs. 

The last component of the initiative is the Horn Challenge. Donors who make gifts to the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship receive triple recognition credit for their gift. This will allow donors to more quickly enter the University’s giving societies and enjoy the privileges they provide.

World-class program

“Our ambition is to create a world class program for entrepreneurship at UD,” said Freeman. “These five major components promise to create impactful opportunities that move us rapidly toward the fulfillment of this ambition.”

“The Horn Initiative for the Lerner College is really transformational,” added Weber. “What we have today is an opportunity to establish entrepreneurial education that will strengthen this college in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do without the support of the Horns.”

As the structure of the economy continues to change, Weber said, “we need to begin to prepare our students to either take a job or to make a job.”

“We also know the best way to prepare students is to combine theory and practice through experiential learning, and that is exactly what the entrepreneurial education at Lerner College is providing: heavy doses of learning by doing,” said Weber.

Special guest speaker U.S. Sen. Chris Coons called the gift “catalytic and transformative,” noting that a Kaufman Foundation study reported a decade ago that although there were a few iconic businesses that had grown in Delaware, a “general culture of risk-taking and an enthusiasm for how to survive an enthusiasm for risk-taking was largely lacking.” 

According to Coons, while the last decade has seen much growth in all sectors from non-profit to education to business, “this very well-crafted constellation of five components of [the Horn] initiative is a remarkable next step transformation” for innovation in Delaware.

In closing, he called the gift from the Horns “a fundamental contribution to the DNA of what this entrepreneurship center, what the Lerner College of Business and Economics, what the University of Delaware and what the Delaware community will be going forward.”

Elevator pitch competition

Bookends to the event, student entrepreneurs kicked off the campus-wide entrepreneurship initiative with an elevator pitch competition

Finalists had 60 seconds to pitch their product and service ideas to guests who showed their support by distributing Venture Development Center “dollars” and voting on the aspiring student entrepreneurs’ business ideas. 

At the close of the event, Freeman announced the top three pitches, who brought home almost $2,000 in start-up support and resources from an anonymous donor: Maclean Nagaswami, Anthony Hughes, Greg Star, Yangpeng Zhou, Radhika Samant and Serguel Akiti for PenguinAds ($1,000); Michael Powers, Sven Ellefson, Chris Gray and Chelsea Trottier with mentoring from Dyer Harris, professor of mechanical engineering, for HelioCentric Systems LLC ($500); and Austin Crouse for LawnBot ($250).

Article by Kathryn Meier

Photos by Evan Krape

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