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Ten-plus years ago, I founded the Simon Venture Fund:

Think of it as a mini “Shark Tank.”

I did it in conjunction with the University of Rochester – Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, where I earned my MBA while working full time for Frontier Communications (which also graciously paid for my education).

In the Simon Venture fund, students, alumni entrepreneurs, and faculty review and invest real $$ in early-stage deals.

It’s a way for students to integrate experiential learning and street smarts—something I’m a strong believer in.

My thanks to and the dedication of past and current Simon leadership Mark Zupan, Christian Gordon, Sevin Yeltekin, David Oliveiri and Ronald Goettler.

I’m also grateful for alumni and successful entrepreneurs Joe Abrams, Arunas Chesonis, Chris Schiavo, Mark Ain, Brad Banikowski, Philip Fraher, Gregg Steinberg, Brennan Mulcahey, Rami K. and Danielle N. Beyer for the birth and ongoing stewardship and support of the Simon Venture Fund.

Designed as a bridge between theoretical knowledge and real-world application, the fund is a testament to the belief that learning by doing is incomparable.

It is not a surprise to me that Simon has been ranked as the #9 biz school in the USA and #19 in the world for Entrepreneurship.

The results speak for themselves.

I’m not talking about the return on the investments made by the fund, although there have been a few exits and “Heroes” along with a few ‘Zeroes”.

The Real Results I am talking about are the future business leaders I met while they worked on the fund.

Shout out to some of my favorite students and now successful business leaders who led the fund while at Simon. They are the blooming flowers with amazing and passionate career paths, whose entrepreneurial seeds were sowed to accelerate their future paths and experiences through the Simon Venture Fund:

Mo S. – Co-Founder & CEO, Aptos
Hawa Sultani – Global Azure Strategist, Microsoft
Sarah Armstrong – VP, Operations & Finance, Livepeer
Matt Bloom – Venture Investor & Startup Advisor
Sarah Spoto – Head of Marketing, GM Europe

This journey—from setting up the fund to seeing its alumni thrive—reinforces my belief in the power of experiential learning.

Education is evolving, and traditional models are being challenged by the need for practical, real-world skills.

In this era of “solopreneurs” and unlimited online resources, the blend of street smarts and book smarts has never been more crucial.

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