Wednesday, February 18, 2009

President Hennessy Opens E-week, Stresses Innovation

President Hennessy kicked off E-week with a short, inspirational speech on entrepreneurial leadership followed by an open Q&A session.

"The biggest challenge," Hennessy said, "is how to nurture and grow innovation... It is the challenge that all small companies face, it is the challenge that all universities face, it is the challenge that big companies face," he said.

Hennessy explained the importance of nurturing innovation in the context of the University.

"The heart and soul of this institution is its entrepreneurial way of thinking. We are pioneers," he said.

He referred to great Stanford entrepreneurs Larry Page, Sergey Brin, William Hewlett, David Packard, David Filo and Jerry Yang.

He characterized successful entrepreneurs as optimists about what they are working on.

"That characteristic comes from young people who are willing to go down the path, unaware of the fact that other people might have already gone down that path, and find new opportunities," he said.

For the second half of the hour-long event, Hennessy fielded questions from audience members. Questions ranged from what to look for in a venture capital firm, advice on starting a job vs. starting a company, entrepreneurship in developing countries, how the bailout has affected entrepreneurship, and advice on starting a new university.

"First, find billions of dollars," he said with a laugh, and "draw from the best talent from all over the world."

Julie, a Stanford CS Alumnus and current GSB student asked Hennessy what Stanford is doing to, "create cross department synergies... in order to create long lasting relationships and truly innovate."

The question elicited a "Here here!" cheer from a crown member in agreement.

"In the end what we want to do is to get people to work together," Hennessy said.

He mentioned joint degree programs, joint-teaching opportunities, classes on entrepreneurship, and joint research programs as ways to bridge segregated departments within the University.

Hennessy referred to this same point at the end of his speech.

The solutions to world problems,  "do not require just one innovation, but many along the way... It requires people to cross disciplinary boundaries and it requires the University to encourage that kind of behavior," he said.

Katherine O. Lampe
Stanford University
M.A. Journalism '09
B.A. International Relations '09

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