Category Archives: Center Stage

The Smith Venture Practicum Program – A Student’s Perspective

One of my favorite things about going to school at Smith is the ability that we have to learn and grow outside of the classroom in a variety of ways. Don’t get me wrong, the classroom is a great learning environment. But in a job market where employers are constantly looking for “real life” experience, it’s necessary to have tangible application stories to tell. But I was also interested in seeing what it looked like under the hood of a startup. What are the building blocks? What is the mindset required? What are the challenges that they face every day?

That is why I took the Venture Practicum for my Smith Experience. Venture Practicum connects MBAs with startups sourced through the Dingman Center.  The course was the perfect combination for me to combine experience in marketing with exposure to an early stage venture. My team paired with DC tech startup Homesnap, which has an app that allows you to take a picture of any home to find out all about it. The project for the semester was to help drive downloads of the app at a make-or-break inflection point in their business. We did this by going to South by Southwest to promote the app (and winning awards in the process), launching new versions of the app and preparing for a round of fundraising.

134135_Homesnap-Logo-HorizontalWe worked hand in hand with the Homesnap team to develop digital ad campaigns, targeting strategies and analyze their effectiveness in driving downloads. It was a great way to learn about a thriving career area, digital marketing. At the same time we got an insider perspective on why the Homesnap team is so successful: the ability to think on the fly, experiment, and be adaptable are all critical elements to their success. What a great way to learn about “real life”!

0c24dbbShurid Sen is a 2014 Full-Time MBA Candidate at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. In addition to participating in the inaugural Venture Practicum program, Shurid is the 2013-2014 President of the Smith Entrepreneur’s Club as well as a regional finalist in the 2013 Venture Capital Investment Competition.

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Center Stage with Andrea Keating ’83, Founder & CEO, Crews Control

Recently, we caught up with entrepreneur Andrea Keating ’83, one of the newest members of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors. Ms. Keating shares her insights on building multiple businesses from scratch, her advice to young entrepreneurs, as well as what excites her the most about the Dingman Center’s programs and the DC startup scene.

What are you most focused on right now?

Growth. Every company needs to focus on growth at all times, whether its growth in brand reach, sales pipeline, contract numbers, or company size, you always need to continue growing.

The way that I have been able to grow my companies has been to develop companies that sell to the same pipeline. My first company was Crews Control, a video crew outsourcing service that provides over 2000 crews worldwide to in-house media departments of Fortune 500 companies. Those companies then approached me to handle their staffing needs for freelance production. So I co-founded Team People, a company that targeted the same pipeline, but with a slightly different product that my clients were looking for.

Fast forward to last year when I came across a tech company called Scenios that provides cloud-based production tools. I immediately saw that this product was applicable to my corporate clients, and now I sit on their board. This opportunity came about because the founders of Scenios knew that I was knowledgeable about the corporate media and that was the market that they wanted to target.

What is your involvement at Dingman and why is it a special place?

I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve founded or co-founded 4 companies and had the ideas for at least dozen more. When I was asked to judge my first Pitch Dingman Competition I was blown away by the knowledge, the creativity and the passion of the students and their business models. It’s so exciting to feel the startup energy of what could be the next great business. I have been so lucky to be successful in business and I am honored to be able to share some of the insights and lessons learned I have a gained over the past 25 years with other entrepreneurs.

What do you think of the DC area as a place to start a business?

I think the DC area is a great place to start a business. It is ripe with intellectual and financial capital and people who live and work in the area are driven to succeed. I also believe that there’s a different kind of energy here because it’s an international city with close proximity to the federal government while also being a growing tech hub. All of this combines into a perfect storm with opportunities in both the public and private sector. It’s one of the best kept entrepreneurial secrets, and by putting together programs such as the Dingman Center with what the tech community is also doing to establish its presence, it’s only a matter of time before the world recognizes DC as a top tier entrepreneurial region.

What Inspires you?

My fellow entrepreneurs are my biggest motivators. When you start a business, especially if you start it alone and without a partner, it can get very lonely. I made it a point to get involved with organizations such as YEO (Young Entrepreneurs Organization) and joined a forum, which gave me the opportunity to build a peer group to share ideas, challenges, frustrations, and successes. This led to me joining other groups such as YPO (Young Presidents Organization) and C200, an invitational only organization of women business owners worldwide. Surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs is the best way to grow.

What originally made you decide to start a business?

I saw a need and knew I could provide a better, more cost effective solution. I never set out to make money or to build a global company, but rather to fill a need in the industry. If you are providing potential clients with a great product or solution at a good price the rest will follow.

What has been your greatest entrepreneurial challenge?

Seeing the big picture. Often times I would get bogged down by a challenge or process and had to remind myself to step back and to look at the big picture objectively. By taking a look at the market, my client base and my vendors from a bird’s eye view, solutions suddenly become clearer.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to a young entrepreneur?

Follow your instincts. If it feels right it probably is. I’ve never made a business decision that I felt good about that ended badly… but I’ve ignored a few red flags or over – analyzed a few opportunities and later regretted my decision. Follow your gut.

Andrea has more than two decades of production management experience and is considered to be the founder of the crewing agency industry. In 1988 she founded Crews Control, the world’s first and leading crewing agency representing location talent worldwide. Today she guides the screening, management, scheduling and payment of more than 2,000 creative specialists worldwide. In addition, Andrea co-founded TeamPeople, a premier creative staffing company that provides on-site management of corporate, association and broadcast media departments as well as recruitment, paymaster and payroll services. Andrea graduated from the University of Maryland and is a member of the Dingman Center’s Board of Advisors. Connect with Andrea on LinkedIn.

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Center Stage with Doug Humphrey, CEO of Joss Heavy Industries

What are you most focused on right now?
Helping other people with their businesses — that’s not just being nice; it exposes me to a wide range of other entrepreneurial thinking. Some things can be invented by focusing on narrow subject matter but it’s not how I work. I’m more of a synergist. I like to understand broad areas and look for overlap. At a certain point in the discovery process, you hurt yourself a lot if you limit your areas of interest.

What is your involvement at Dingman and why is it a special place?
I don’t know if the Dingman Center is unique, but it’s very rare. This is a well-established organization, which has a good focus on true entrepreneurship.

What is “true entrepreneurship”?
An organization that is about true entrepreneurship cannot be too focused. The beauty of focus is that it allows you to get a lot done, but that can limit what else you see. A true entrepreneur is always heads-up, always looking for what he or she doesn’t know.

What do you think of the DC area as a place to start a business?
DC is a good place to start a company. It has a very, very different culture and mindset than Silicon Valley. It’s very different from Boston as well. DC right now is trying hard to move from the “good place to start up” to the “great place to start up”.  There’s a huge effort by cashed-out entrepreneurs and by company founders to coalesce around this region and to get it to the next tier.

What is the single most important piece of advice you could give going into an investor pitch?
Understand who your customer is. It’s usually the guy writing the check. Also, understand your cost inputs. Many, many people who are new at this show up and say, “I’m giving my labor for free”. You need to be sure to include those costs.

Also, it’s not just your business, it’s you. Many venture capitalists who I’ve met with say, “we bet on the jockey, not on the horse”. What I mean by that is that they’d rather have a great entrepreneur taking a shot at a decent opportunity than a decent entrepreneur taking a shot at a great opportunity. A startup company is the creature of the people who start it.

Mr. Humphrey is an Internet pioneer and “Father of Managed Hosting” who resides in Laurel, Maryland. He has been the CEO of Joss Heavy Industries since 2004 where he also directs the Joss Research Institute, a 501(C)3 non-profit doing scientific research in a wide array of subject areas. He also mentors startup companies at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Perhaps best known for co-founding Digex in 1992, Humphrey took the Internet Service Provider public and sold it in 1997 to Intermedia Communications Inc. WorldCom then bought Intermedia in 2001 and it is now a part of Verizon.

Connect with Doug on LinkedIn

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Center Stage with Glen Hellman ’78, Principal at Driven Forward

Glen Hellman is an active member of the Dingman Center Angels investor network and an expert on startups. Mr. Hellman is frequently quoted on corporate governance and entrepreneurship issues in print and broadcast media. In print he’s been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Week, The Washington Post and USA Today. He has been featured on radio programs including NPR Marketplace and Voice of America. Television appearances include NBC and FOX news.

Keep reading for Center Stage with Glen Hellman.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I work with experienced CEOs to improve their businesses. Essentially, I’m a coach and I help them learn from their experiences. We work together in groups, we hold each other accountable, and we try to avoid big mistakes. In addition, I’m an Angel Investor and an advocate for DC regional entrepreneurship, primarily focused on working with startups and small businesses that have a desire for growth.

As someone who provides guidance to entrepreneurs, what are the biggest mistakes they make?
The primary thing that causes a company to go bad is a lack of focus or casual, frequent changes in focus. One of the most common ways entrepreneurs do this is by chasing nonstrategic cash. Being too opportunistic by chasing a deal out of one’s chosen niche distracts from the mission and for a small company to be effective, they need to make a lot of noise in a very small time. You do that by sticking to your chosen niche.
Once you start chasing cash that doesn’t help your core business, then there’s an opportunity cost. And if you have to chase cash outside of your strategic goals, then you need to change your strategic goals because you either don’t have the wherewithal to execute or your strategy is flawed.

What do you think of the DC startup scene right now?
It’s as hot as it’s ever been in terms of numbers. There’s a hot, very healthy startup scene particularly in technology and software. It’s because there is strong momentum in companies that already exist, such as Living Social. There’s also the government scene which brings tech expertise. We’ve got a well-educated workforce and a tech-savvy population. The whole downtown scene for young entrepreneurs is a nice environment for people who want to start a business. DC has the quirky, hipster, SoHo feel. It’s happening in NYC and it’s happening here.

You maintain a blog, How important are social media outlets for today’s entrepreneurs?
Social media has shifted the power from the marketers and providers of product and service to the consumer. Advertising and marketing are less effective than they were 10 years ago.  Reputation is no longer managed by press releases, its managed by being a good corporate actor, delivering good product.

Companies must engage in social media. They must monitor social media to understand what’s happening in their field. Social media is the new source for market research on the market, competitors and the market perception of a company’s products. Companies must monitor conversations, engage in the conversations honestly and transparently and fix product flaws based on feedback.  You must build a better product, you can no longer PR your way out of having a crappy solution.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center and why is it a special place?
For me, the Dingman Center is one of the few places that’s not set up around making somebody rich and famous. It’s about doing good work for the entrepreneurial community. It’s truly the unselfish pursuit of promoting entrepreneurship.
When I decided I wanted to get out of corporate turnarounds, I decided I wanted to create employment and because of that I was naturally attracted to the Dingman Center. I got very active in the Dingman Angels and we have developed a healthy community that funds startups in DC. I think we’re the most active angel group in the city and we do as many deals in DC as the most active venture capital firms.

Glen is a Principal at Driven Forward LLC, a firm that supports entrepreneurs and venture investors by providing strategic guidance, interim executive leadership services, and executive coaching.  In addition he is a Chair for Vistage International where he serves as a professional facilitator for CEO advisory boards. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Driven Forward and on the Board of Advisors for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. He is an active member of the Dingman Center Angels investor network where he is responsible for deal flow, deal selection and coaching corporate executives seeking capital and in his spare time he writes for Tech Cocktail. Mr. Hellman has experience running operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Connect with Glen:   @glehel

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Center Stage with Rudy Lamone, Founder of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

At 80 years old, Rudy Lamone is still an active member of the Dingman Center team. Keep reading for Rudy’s reflection on his years with the Dingman Center as its founder and the Smith School of Business as dean for 20 years.

What keeps you interested in the Dingman Center at your age?
Students. My young entrepreneurs energize me all the time.

What has been your greatest accomplishment during your career?
The Dingman Center is my favorite accomplishment. Secondly, starting the Dingman Center academic program, and together with Charlie Heller, former director of the Dingman Center, helping to establish the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers. We started with about 30 schools attending the first conference. Today, the GCEC has over 220 colleges and universities worldwide as members.

Do you have any regrets?
My greatest regret is not being able to start a school for entrepreneurship in Baltimore years and years ago. I wanted very much to have a presence in Baltimore and my idea for a school for entrepreneurship was a way I felt we could get approval to start a program. For a number of reasons, mostly political, we were not able to get into the Baltimore marketplace. That has now changed as we have a physical presence with our Smith School campus at the University of Maryland BioPark which opened a few years ago.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Be passionate in what you believe to be a great entrepreneurial opportunity. Do what you have to do to make your dream come true.

What is your idea for the future of entrepreneurship and innovation on campus?
I am excited about the proposed new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship because I believe it will open up significant new pathways to explore ideas in entrepreneurship and innovation. The campus-wide center will open enumerable ways for students to pursue entrepreneurial dreams.

Dr. Rudolph P. Lamone is the Founder and member of the Board of Advisors of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and a Professor Emeritus at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. From 1973 to 1992, Dr. Lamone served as Dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business and as the first chair of the Program in Entrepreneurship. He is co-founder of the National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers and a founding member of the National Consortium for Life Science Entrepreneurship Programs.In 1996, Dr. Lamone was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young for his work in support of entrepreneurship. In 1998, Dr. Lamone was selected to receive the President’s Medal at the University of Maryland. In 1999, Dr. Lamone co-founded DirectGene, a biotechnology company that has developed gene therapies directed toward the treatment of metastatic prostate and breast cancer. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Dr. Lamone received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the business school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Center Stage with Harry Geller ’81, Entrepreneur-in-Residence

If you’ve ever been to a Pitch Dingman informal session, it’s likely you’ve met Entrepreneur-in-Residence Harry Geller. Harry generously volunteers his time every Friday to meet with students, providing advice and valuable feedback on starting a new business. He also helps prepare students for Pitch Dingman competitions, coaches students participating in the China Business Plan Competition, and mentors Cupid’s Cup finalists. Keep reading for Center Stage with Harry Geller.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?

About 8 years ago I worked with the Smith School of Business mentoring MBA students and at the time I was still quite busy with my various business interests. In early 2009, I sold my interest in a large restaurant group and approached [former managing director] Asher Epstein with the idea that I had more time and wanted to spend it helping aspiring entrepreneurs.

What do you look for in a good pitch?

An idea that is easily understandable within the first 15 seconds. The simpler the better.

How did you start your first business?

How most people do – after years working in a specific industry, in my case the logistics field, I became frustrated with the corporate world. I figured I could do it better than the company I was working for.

What has been your greatest entrepreneurial challenge?

My first startup experienced hyper growth. Being 20-something and virtually overnight managing hundreds of people and tens of millions of dollars in sales was quite a challenge.

What made you want to work for yourself?

My dad was an entrepreneur and I spent a lot of my early years around the various businesses he had in Washington, DC, so I had a good basis for entrepreneurship.

What makes a Cupid’s Cup winner different from companies that compete, but don’t win?

Showing passion for the idea, having a proven track record for execution, and being well prepared for the presentation.

What advice can you give to students entering a Pitch Dingman competition?

Use the resources at the Dingman Center to practice your pitch and develop your business idea. Have all your bases covered regarding what the idea is, what problem you’re solving, what market you’re serving, and what your competition is. Make sure the numbers add up, and refer to question 2, keep it simple so the judges understand right away what you are pitching.

Why do you spend so much time with the Dingman Center?

I’m blessed that I have the time, and I enjoy hearing business ideas and helping and learning from the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Harry Geller

Harry Geller is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and a member of the Dingman Center Board of Advisors. He is also on the University of Maryland, President’s Advisory Board and has been an active mentor of entrepreneurial students at the Smith School. Harry founded SoDel Concepts, a successful restaurant development company focusing on upscale, relaxed resort dining that has opened and operated five fine and casual dining seafood restaurants. Previously, Harry owned and managed seven multi-million dollar businesses, mostly in the logistics and distribution fields. He is the former CEO of the America’s of Deutsche Post, the world’s largest logistics company that now operates under the DHL/Global Mail name. Four of his companies have been named to the INC. 500 list of fastest growing companies, the most recent one in 2009. Geller is married to a successful entrepreneur Nicole, and they have two children, residing in McLean, Virginia.

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Center Stage with Dr. Gloria Jacobovitz, Tech Transfer Committee Member

What are you working on right now?

Right now I consult for startups in the USA, Brazil and Europe. Most recently I co-founded an LED lighting business in Brazil. With the fast pace of development and the World Cup coming up, the country is in need of better infrastructure. In fact, one of the reasons some of the Brazilian cities are so violent is that the streets are not well illuminated. We had eminent contract with six world cups stadiums, large shopping malls, and some cities but we had issues with the supplier and couldn’t move forward in an acceptable time frame.

Where are you seeing the most opportunity right now for entrepreneurs?

In today’s economy, the problem is investment. Software is a wonderful field to be in for an entrepreneur, it doesn’t require much investment and may address some of the major issues today such as harnessing and analyzing enormous volume of information. Some of the most successful companies in the world right now have the least amount of people working for them. It’s one of the only type of startups where  you can be in an early stage and not worry too much about investment.  Biotechnology is also an exciting field to be in.  All the recent innovations in therapeutics and diagnostics create an environment for disruptive technologies to surface.  However, it is a much more expensive, longer and riskier process. At the same time, the federal government is working on creating incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, but funding remains a problem.

Are there greater opportunities in emerging markets right now for entrepreneurs?

Oh yes. There are incredible opportunities, especially in Latin America and the BRIC countries, because a large number of poor people are moving into the middle class. There is need for everything; food, infrastructure, high tech and etc. It is much riskier, though.  There is high level of corruption in a lot of these countries.  You have to really understand the country you’re investing in before you decide to make a move.  The laws right now in many emerging markets are made to be very difficult for the entrepreneur. In Brazil, for example, you need a PhD to understand the tax code. Additionally, the laws are being adjusted and modified frequently. There is a risk of not understanding how the country works or not understanding the culture. In the U.S. people say “let’s make a deal” and they mean it. In Brazil, that may not be the case. You’re guilty until you’ve proven the contrary, especially if you are a “gringo”.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?

A friend invited me. I really enjoy it. It’s a great place to see innovation. I love technology and I love business. You can see the potential in some of the technologies. It’s a great way to use my experience and background top help the community.

From my own perspective as a PhD, the Dingman Center provides a great opportunity for the UMD students to become an entrepreneur. When I was a graduate student it never crossed my mind that I could use my ideas to start a company. If I had then the support that Dingman has to offer, I would have started a company a long time ago.

As an entrepreneur, it’s also great to help young people that are creating technologies and don’t know how to take it to the next stage. I’ve learned a lot from the Dingman experience, and I also hope we are adding value for these students. We want to be mentors and cheerleaders to help them succeed in ways they never thought they would.

What traits do all successful entrepreneurs have in common?

Persistence and a bit of shamelessness. If you want to do something innovative, everyone will say you’re crazy. You have to believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. You have to take a lot of “no” answers and be prepared to fail many times.

Gloria Jacobovitz

Dr. Jacobovitz has over 20 years experience in international entrepreneurship, business strategy and development, fund raising, and marketing with fortune 500 as well as startup companies. She has held senior management positions in Biotechnology, Telecommunication, and Biofuels, has co-founded and supported technology based start-up companies, and is an accomplished researcher with many published peer reviewed papers and 6 filed patents. She has extensively consulted, developed corporate and marketing strategy, business & investment plan for national and international companies that contributed to $1 billion IPO, and millions of dollars in private equity investments and International Development Bank loan.  She holds a MS in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Applied Physics from UNICAMP (Sao Paulo, Brazil).

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Center Stage with Michael Schwab, Co-President of D&H Distributing Company

What drives your interest in entrepreneurship?
From my vantage point, what is really tremendous is not only what I do, but what I get to see. Our company is a technology distributor of both software and hardware. I would say that 5-10 new companies a week come to D&H and present their innovative ideas. They need help with price points, marketing, and a number of other business problems.

What’s so encouraging to me is that these individuals come from all walks of life. Many of them have decided to leave large organizations, and have ventured out on their own to work on a product they believe in. When I think about that aspect of entrepreneurship, that’s what gets me excited.

Why work for yourself?
After graduating from law school and working for several large companies, I found that I was looking for something specific; the ability to control my own destiny and to have a positive impact on defining a firm. Entrepreneurship gives you the flexibility to make those decisions on your own. D&H’s business profile really lends itself to an entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve done it through shared ownership in the company. By providing employees with ownership stakes, we’ve created a business with more than 1000 entrepreneurs.

How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?
My son, Brett, is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland in the Smith School. The entrepreneurship program was a big part of his decision to attend. I now have a second son there as well.

Dingman has an entrepreneurial process and program far beyond what I had ever seen or experienced and I wanted to get involved. I wanted to help the Dingman Center grow by leveraging my own expertise. My goal was to help students understand the fundamentals of starting a business, and the importance of intellectual property in the marketplace.

I was also interested in Dingman’s efforts to bring many pieces of the University together, whether through Tech Transfer or through the annual trips to Israel and China. This is an important part of [University of Maryland President] Dr. Loh’s focus on the future of innovation and entrepreneurship on a global basis.

What type of business has the greatest chance of success right now?
I would say we are seeing strong growth in storage technology. In other words, how do you take all the information being created by individuals, corporations, etc. and make it readily accessible by a number of individuals on a number of devices? This is about the creation of a “personal cloud” instead of using another shared cloud solution.

What traits do all successful entrepreneurs have in common?
Diligence and Grit. As an entrepreneur, you can’t give up. The successful entrepreneurs understand that if Plan A doesn’t work, they need to deploy Plan B, C, or D. The most successful people we’ve worked with understand that running a business requires long hours and being in the right place at the right time. If the first opportunity doesn’t go quite as well as you thought it would, look to find a new strategy, always focusing on the long term. The reality is that for most entrepreneurs, businesses have the opportunity to grow exponentially, but not necessarily on a straight line.

Michael Schwab, Co-President, D&H Distributing Company

Michael Schwab runs D&H, a 93 year-old company which focuses on e-commerce solutions and the distribution of technology products to retailers, e-tailers, college bookstores, and solution providers. With annual revenues exceeding $2.5 billion dollars, D&H has expanded its operations almost ten-fold over the last decade. In 2009, Michael was named #15 on the list of the most innovative executives of the year published by ChannelWeb, a division of United Business Media LLC. This list also included John Chambers, Steve Ballmer, Mark Hurd and Paul Otelllini. As well, D&H was named Cisco’s Global Distributor of the Year for 2009.

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Center Stage with Wayne Kimmel ’92, Founder of Artists & Instigators

You’ve started, and helped start, a number of businesses over the course of your career. What are you working on now?
I’m building a new company, “Artists & Instigators”, which will be a consumer brand. To accomplish this, I’ve partnered with Marc Ecko, who founded the billion-dollar brand “Ecko Unltd.”  He is an expert in selling and marketing products.  More to come next year…

Over the last decade, I’ve personally run a venture capital fund, which has invested in close to 30 companies. Most of those startups have been consumer product and technology companies. We have been fortunate to have had a number of great successes over the last decade with several of the investments we’ve made like with SeamlessWeb that was founded by a Terp alum and was acquired by ARAMARK, Take Care Health Systems that was acquired by Walgreens, and NutriSystem that was the top performing stock in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years.

As the manager of a venture capital fund, you’ve seen dozens of entrepreneur pitches. What advice do you have for someone preparing for a pitch?
Passion is the most important part of any pitch. Anyone doing a pitch must truly believe in what they’re selling and that company they work for. They have to be personally involved. It’s obvious when people are pitching a business and they don’t truly believe in what they’re saying. Whatever you do, you’ve got to believe in it. If you don’t love it, and you’re not excited about it, then you’re doing the wrong thing. That’s the kind of advice I give to people all the time. It’s very, very important for you to believe in what you’re doing. You have to love it.

Given the state of the economy, what would you say to someone considering the launch of a business?
Why not? What’s the alternative? These are the times when some of the best businesses are built. Follow your passions, follow your dreams. This is the time to go and make things happen. Yes, there are a lot of problems out there today. At the same time, it’s not like there’s a safety net in having a job. There is no loyalty from employers. It’s not personal; it’s just the way it is today. The pundits out there have dubbed this generation of kids, “The Lost Generation.” That’s just not true. Students today have skills that other generations are not capable of having because of the technologies they’ve grown up with. The employers that embrace this will be successful. Now is an opportunity for young people to go make their mark.

Why is the Dingman Center a special place?
[Managing Director] Asher Epstein and Dean Anand have really been the driving force behind entrepreneurial opportunities that you typically don’t get at other universities. The entrepreneurial spirit that Asher brings to the table is contagious. He has a real passion for helping students achieve their own goals; whether during the MBA summer trip to Israel, the various programs at Dingman, or as an advisor. Students look at him as a peer because he’s approachable. That kind of a relationship that he’s been able to have with students is a major feather in the cap of the Smith School and the University of Maryland in general. It’s a major selling point for the University.

Wayne Kimmel '92, Founder and Managing Partner, Artists & Instigators

Wayne D. Kimmel is a Founder and Managing Partner of Artists & Instigators with Marc Eckō and Tony Bifano. Wayne is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, philanthropist and tireless networker. In 1999, Wayne founded a venture capital firm that invests in startup and early-stage companies. Some of his successful investments included, SeamlessWeb (acquired by ARAMARK), Take Care Health Systems (acquired by Walgreens), and NutriSystem (NTRI), (top performing stock in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years). Currently, Wayne serves on the Board of Directors of Ecko |Code, OrganizedWisdom, Ryzing, meetMoi and KGRA Energy.

Follow Wayne on Twitter @waynekimmel

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Center Stage w/ Steven Begleiter ’92, CEO of KBL Group International

Why did you start your own business?
I worked for my dad after graduating from the University of Maryland. He owned a sweater manufacturing company but two generations have two different points of view. He made the decisions and the rules, so I decided to go out on my own and start KBL. About five years later, I acquired his company.

How is the economy affecting KBL right now?
People are worried about their rent and mortgages. Apparel doesn’t make the top of the list, so we try to focus more on specialty items. The economy affects us as it affects everyone. It’s tough out there, but you can’t wave the flag and give up. You have to find new avenues for doing business.

Why are you involved with the Dingman Center?
There is a group of us that were in the TEP fraternity together at the University of Maryland and we’ve all been fortunate in our professional success. I wanted to get involved in working with students to help them start businesses. It’s is enjoyable to meet bright kids with fantastic ideas.

What is your greatest entrepreneurial challenge?
As an entrepreneur, you have to believe in your vision. A lot of people will want to tell you the way it should be, but you have to be willing to take the road less traveled.

For those who don’t want to start their own business, why is entrepreneurship important?
An entrepreneurial attitude is always important.  Right now you really have to think outside the box to do business.  The only constant in business is change.  Things that have been successful for the past 20 years aren’t working anymore.  Many companies are taking new avenues that they didn’t have to in the past.  Whether you are starting your own business or working for others, new ideas are a company’s lifeline connecting the past to the future.  It is entrepreneurship that drives these ideas which in turn creates new business opportunities, revenue streams, and jobs.

What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
Change always creates opportunity. The financial aspect of starting a business is a huge distraction because you need a lot of money these days. But being small and nimble today is an easier way to manage in this environment. As new opportunities evolve, you have to be flexible.

It’s always difficult to start a business. But if you have something you believe in, today’s the day to do it. As an entrepreneur, you’ll always have to overcome hurdles.

Steven Begleiter '92, President & CEO of KBL Group International

Steven Begleiter is third generation in the garment business and is the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of KBL Group International. Steven is responsible for KBL’s overall vision, strategy, and execution. Having been a kid in the shipping room working for his father, starting his own business, and now running a multinational company; Steven has taken on many jobs in his career. He graduated from UMD in 1992 and lives in New Jersey with his wife Karen, and 2 children, Alex and Corey. Connect with Steven on LinkedIn

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