A Bridge to E-Ship

Tuck’s Business Bridge Program is providing undergraduate entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully launch their own ventures.

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Tuck’s Business Bridge Program is providing undergraduate entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully launch their own ventures.

It’s a trend the Tuck Business Bridge Program admissions committee couldn’t help but notice: a small but growing number of applicants running food delivery or bike rental businesses out of their dorm rooms, or dreaming of launching the next big tech startup.

While Bridge graduates pursue a diverse array of career paths, its alumni most commonly head into consulting, banking, or other corporate roles. “In the last year, there’s definitely been an uptick in applicants who are saying, ‘I want to start my own business and I think Bridge will help me do that,’” says Nicole Faherty, director of the Business Bridge Program.

As students show more interest in entrepreneurship, the program itself has expanded to build those skills. Bridge now includes a session on entrepreneurship with Tom Naughton D’89, T’96, executive director of Tuck’s Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship, and hosts guest speakers like John Pepper T’97, CEO and co-founder of the burrito chain Boloco, who can share their experiences in the trenches of a startup.

Each Bridge session culminates with a team capstone project, and while traditionally that has been a company valuation exercise, students now have the option to instead assess the potential of an emerging market or new product. Over the past year, Bridge teams have done market analyses for self-driving cars, 3D printing, concussion sensors in sports helmets, and a new pharmaceutical drug.

Christine Souffrant D’11, who completed the Bridge Program in 2010, spent two years in banking before launching her own startup, Vendedy, a social enterprise that uses a mobile network to connect street vendors with shoppers in real time. Bridge, she says, helps boost the confidence of people with a liberal arts background who might otherwise second-guess their business skills. “By doing Bridge, you may not become an expert in finance or valuation, but you understand the fundamentals,” she says. “The program didn’t prepare me to be an entrepreneur, but it gave me the skillset to be a better entrepreneur.”

Other recent Bridge alumni who have pursued entrepreneurial paths include 2005 alumnus Vasilios Alexiou T’12, co-founder of FirmPlay, a career website that helps companies showcase their workplace culture to applicants using video, photos, and other content, and Steve Dean, a 2011 Bridge graduate and co-founder of Jobsuitors, a website that uses online matchmaking technology to pair jobseekers with employers.  

“No matter what type of business our graduates want to pursue, Bridge provides a very good foundation based off the Tuck curriculum,” says Faherty. “And for those who want to start their own businesses, Bridge provides a foundation to create a marketing strategy and business plan, to know at least on a surface level what needs to get done to make their new venture succeed.”