Entrepreneurship Faculty Profile: Andrew Corbett
I recently sat down with Professor Andrew Corbett to discuss the start of the school year and plans for Babson’s Butler Venture Accelerator. As part of the Accelerator program, the Blank Center works closely with the entrepreneurship faculty in curating, building and innovating the resources for student and alumni entrepreneurs. As Professor Corbett shared what his view on entrepreneurship and what the world needs from entrepreneurs today, it reminded me how influential he and other faculty are in building Babson’s entrepreneurial community, both inside and outside the classroom.
What is your role at Babson? How long have you been at Babson?
This is my sixth year at Babson as a professor of entrepreneurship. I am currently Chair of the Entrepreneurship Division and also Faculty Director of the Butler Venture Accelerator.
Why did you come to Babson?
I came to Babson because it is the number one place to do the things: research and teach entrepreneurship. I’ve been fortunate to be at the University of Colorado, RPI, and I do fair amount of work with programs at Syracuse: all really good places. However, there is no better place to be than at Babson. Our focus and the energy at Babson just takes entrepreneurship to another level. Babson matches what I want to do in entrepreneurship perfectly!
What classes do you teach?
Currently I’m teaching New Venture Creation, which is a graduate elective. I also teach at a number of programs for corporations at Babson’s Executive Education. This includes teaching entrepreneurs to start their businesses and training other professors to teach entrepreneurship. I’ve taught a number of other classes in both the undergrad and grad programs, but my current role at Division Chair requires that I focus just on the New Venture Creation classes right now.
What area of research do you focus on?
My research looks at the learning and cognitive aspects of entrepreneurship. I look at how entrepreneurs make connections based on various bits of data and how they process that information to find and develop opportunities. I look at constructs such as cognitive style, learning style, perspective-taking, mindfulness, and others. So I examine how these different construct affect whether or not someone can find or develop entrepreneurial opportunities. I also look at similar concepts within the corporate entrepreneurship environment.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Someone who creates and develops an opportunity, builds an organization or infrastructure around it, and then executes on it.
What does the world need from entrepreneurs today?
What the world needs from entrepreneurs are solutions to our biggest problems – economic problems to be sure but also social problems, problems around health, poverty, and human relationships between each other. At Babson, we are about building businesses, but it’s more than that: it’s about finding solutions to those bigger problems. I firmly believe that there is a strong relationship between entrepreneurship and freedom. Wherever you see freedom there is entrepreneurship and wherever there is entrepreneurship freedom will follow.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs?
Network – and when you’re done networking, network some more. That is the rocket booster that gets companies going. When nascent entrepreneurs network and find successful professionals in their own space is when their businesses take off. At the beginning we don’t even know what we are supposed to know. Finding experienced folks as mentors is invaluable.
What do you think makes Babson unique?
The culture, but that is hard to define. So I think about what drives that culture and I believe it is because Babson has a clear sense of identity and focus. Babson is the best place to learn and practice being an entrepreneur. And we teach it really well. But we have people who are doing great research but we try to be sure that that research is applied in some manner. We don’t specialize in theoretical stuff but we make no apologies for what we’re not. So our identity comes from a clarity surrounding our outlook on how we teach and what and how we research. And then I believe our size – we’re relatively small – allows us to focus.
What do you do for fun?
Mostly spend time with family. My wife and I have two boys who are both teenagers and we spend a great deal of time outside with them skiing in the winter and hiking and doing other outdoor activities in the summer. Lots of sports, scouts and other activities with the boys. I also like to run, golf, and play hockey. And then there is good food and great wine.
Describe yourself in four words.
Learner. Focused. Disciplined. Mentally-tough.
Anything else people should know?
I’m here to help. A big part of the student experience – and certainly a big part of the budding entrepreneur’s experience – is what happens outside of the classroom. Students should find professors and others that they can call on as mentor and guides. Find seasoned people you can connect with and like, then go ask them for help. At the end of the day, that is why we are here.