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University’s New Venture College to Nurture Entrepreneurs

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 2:35 pm / March 18, 2013


A growing number of Idaho college students want to break the mold, and Boise State University wants to help them do it.

The university is announcing the innovative new Venture College, which will bring a select group of students out of the classroom and into the heart of Idaho’s business community, where industry leaders and entrepreneurs will guide them as they start their own businesses and nonprofits.

“Venture College is yet another way that Boise State is developing new education models that prepare our students to excel in a changing workplace,” said Boise State President Bob Kustra. “By helping prepare our students to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and leaders, Venture College is supporting economic development in the Boise Valley.”

Led by business executives, Venture College offers students an opportunity to compete for limited start-up funding and invaluable experience. The non-credit program is open to full-time students from any major and is accepting applications this spring for the first class, which will be admitted for the Fall 2013 semester. The main requirements: entrepreneurial drive and a great idea.

“You don’t join this program to get a job, you join it to make a job,” said Mark Rudin, Boise State’s vice president for research and economic development, whose division will administer Venture College.

Students who complete the program will receive a Venture College Badge, a new way to measure achievement being implemented by a number of universities across the country.

Kevin Learned, who created Idaho’s first commercial software company and co-founded two angel capital funds that invest in Idaho entrepreneurs, is the program’s director. Learned served as president of the College of Idaho from 1999 to 2003 and is a former professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Boise State.

Ed Zimmer, who as CEO grew the ECCO Group from 20 employees to the world’s largest manufacturer of back-up alarms and warning lights for commercial vehicles – with more than 500 employees in Boise, England and Australia – was named associate director, along with Mary Andrews, director of the Office of University and Industry Ventures at Boise State.

Local business leaders and entrepreneurs, called Venture College Angels, will guide the program. Key elements include individual coaching from experts, weekly colloquiums and opportunities for internships.

“Venture College is designed to help students gain skills such as communications, critical thinking and creativity that are needed for success in the 21st century,” Learned said. “Some students will apply those to launching and growing a new enterprise; others will add value as employees of entrepreneurial firms they will join after graduating from Boise State.”

For more about Venture College visit