New Shea Center resource program

by Sean Hennessey | Office of News & Public Affairs
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Brian Harrington ’89 will be the Shea Center’s inaugural entrepreneur-in-residence. Photo by Lee Pellegrini
Nation, World & Society / Business & Management | January 22, 2016

The Shea Center for Entrepreneurship is kicking off the semester with a new addition to its staff and a new program to help students move forward with business ideas they formulate.

Joining the Shea Center as entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) is Brian Harrington, who will advise and mentor students interested in entrepreneurship as well as those students pursuing their own ventures.

A 1989 Carroll School of Management graduate, Harrington boasts 25 years of experience in start-ups, early-stage companies and more established companies. He previously served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Zipcar. Harrington also ran his own consultancy, Little Harbor Group, and held leadership roles at Boathouse, a brand communications agency, and I’m in!, a leisure travel website he co-founded.

“It’s great to be here and I look forward to contributing,” said Harrington. “I’ve seen and done a lot, and I’d like to use my experience to emphasize thoughtful decision-making by founders during the early stages of a company’s existence.”

Officially launched last November, the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship supports the growing start-up culture at BC by fostering collaborations between students, faculty and private sector experts. Shea Center Executive Director Jere Doyle, a successful entrepreneur himself, said adding Harrington as the entrepreneur-in-residence means more real-world bench strength that can only help students.

“We are very excited about our EIR program, and Brian is the perfect person to kick this off for us at the Shea Center,” said Doyle. “He brings a wealth of entrepreneurial experience to campus and students will get immediate and up-close personal access to him through office hours, drop-ins and larger group sessions.  The consistent mentoring that Brian will provide will be invaluable.  The EIR program is something we want to build and expand on at the Shea Center, and we hope to bring in multiple entrepreneurs across a wide range of functions and experiences.”

Harrington sees himself as a sounding board who will help students navigate the complexities of turning an idea into reality.

“Sometimes, students get caught up in the perceived attractiveness of an idea without really asking basic questions such as: Does the idea solve a problem for a customer? How large is the addressable market? What factors influence whether the business can scale successfully? I want to expose students to this broader level of thinking when they come to the Shea Center,” he explained.

“It’s also very challenging to take an idea that has potential and give it the support it needs to grow and thrive. The Shea Center helps answers questions such as how to sell an idea to investors, what’s the right product feature set, how to acquire customers, and how to hire employees and get them to believe in the idea. Decisions on these issues happen quickly in an early-stage company. Our goal at the center is to provide guidance on how to think about and act on these critical questions.”

Harrington will also assist with the pilot accelerator program’s curriculum, speakers, and content. He says coming back to BC was an easy decision, given all that he has to offer.

“Business schools traditionally have not done a great job on educating students on the skill set needed for start-up environments. I’ve always been passionate about innovation, challenging convention and thinking of things in different ways. There’s a ton of smart students with smart ideas on campus and I want to help them succeed.”

The other new addition to the center is Accelerate@Shea, a seven-week program that provides student start-ups with mentors, space, and money to launch and grow their ideas. More than 30 teams went through an extensive application process involving interviews and assessments on the viability of their start-up ideas. The 15 teams accepted will participate in a round-robin workshop, where they will meet with experts in a format similar to speed-dating. The experts come from various fields including venture finance, tech and law. The startup teams will rotate through and talk to each for a few minutes, receiving feedback and guidance on their idea.

Teams also will take part in four speaker sessions, be paired with BC alumni who will be their mentors, and take part in several class bonding sessions with other members of the entrepreneurial teams who are going through the same challenges to help develop their ideas.

“It’s important to build on the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists at Boston College,” said Kelsey Kinton, the center’s assistant director. “Those class bonding sessions are really important. We want teams to start talking to other people on campus that are working on other ideas and build that community within BC.”

While the center’s speaker series and office hours are open to all students, teams accepted into Accelerate@Shea will receive more hands-on assistance with mentorships, space and funding to help fast-track their ideas.

"We are excited for the accelerator as it gives students another opportunity to learn what it takes to launch a business," says Doyle. "The emphasis on mentoring and office hours from experienced alumni is exactly the type of thing that we want to build on and expand at the Shea Center."