Director's Message

March 2014



Dear Friends,

The past year has been a time of tremendous growth for the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, and our list of accomplishments continues to grow. We have expanded our leadership team and launched a range of new programs, adding to Duke’s already impressive list of activities advancing innovation and entrepreneurship. We write today to bring you up to date on just some of those activities, and to tell you about new resources designed to help you stay up to date on all of our activities.

The most comprehensive source of information about Duke I&E is our website, and I am pleased to announce that our new site is now live at The site includes a flipbook of the new Duke I&E brochure, which provides an overview of our mission and goals.

We continue to staff the initiative, and we are pleased to announce two new members of the leadership team:
David T. Robinson, Professor of Finance and William and Sue Gross Distinguished Research Fellow at the Fuqua School of Business joins Duke I&E as senior strategist for research. Under David’s leadership, Duke will strengthen its reputation both nationally and internationally as a thought leader in research around all aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bruce Sullenger, Director of the Duke Translational Research Institute, and Joseph and Dorothy Beard Professor in the Department of Surgery, has been appointed senior strategist for translation and will help identify additional strategies and tools to increase the effectiveness with which innovations are translated out of the university and into the marketplace.
The past year has also seen the roll-out of a series of new programs and initiatives. Just a few of these activities include:

  • Maya Ajmera has been appointed the university’s first social entrepreneur in residence. Maya, a Duke graduate (Sanford ‘93), founded the Global Fund for Children, an enterprise that has invested in more than 500 projects in over 80 countries. Maya engages with all levels of the Duke community in social entrepreneurship and is helping create a learning environment that inspires and prepares future social entrepreneurs. Throughout 2014, she will speak at campus events and in classes, work with students and potential employers to foster career placement, and collaborate with Duke faculty to promote the inclusion of social entrepreneurship into the curriculum.
  • We are developing a new undergraduate Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship that is currently under review by Academic Council. This certificate will provide undergraduate students with a pathway to pursue a rigorous cross-disciplinary study of innovation and entrepreneurship that is complementary to any major. Students will follow an in-depth course of study examining the theories of innovation and entrepreneurship, coupled with hands-on practice in both areas.
  • The first cohort of undergraduates has been selected for our new year-long Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs program, established through a generous gift from Melissa (Trinity ’87) and Doug Bernstein, who will both be active participants in the program. The program is designed to give students the mentorship and support they need to become effective entrepreneurs, and is open to students who are either currently working on a startup or who will intern at a startup during the summer. Students receive summer stipends through the program, and participate in workshops, visit startups, receive one-on-one mentoring from alumni, and have VIP access to visiting speakers.
  • Professors Jon Fjeld, PhD, and John Supko, PhD have created a new Arts Entrepreneurship Course – offered for the first time this semester – that provides students an opportunity for experiential learning in the context of entrepreneurship in the arts. The students form teams to work on specific arts-based projects, and create a business plan for those projects. The course combines the creativity of the arts with the energy and discipline of entrepreneurship to produce goods and services that make a tangible, positive impact on society. The course was oversubscribed in its first year, despite students having to attend planning sessions in the fall semester and apply for admission with a portfolio.
  • Professors Jon Fjeld and Alex Rosenberg have developed a new Philosophy of Entrepreneurship course, also running for the first time during the spring semester. This course investigates the nature of entrepreneurship, including its psychological foundations and its relation to science and technology, implications for economics, and ramifications for morality and ethics. The course considers such topics as the nature and identity of entrepreneurs, what entrepreneurs do and the consequences of their actions.
  • The inaugural HackDuke 24-hour hackathon assembled students and individuals from regional colleges and universities in November for a mad dash to create innovative technology. 540 student competitors produced 102 projects in that 24 hour window. The winning team, from Duke, developed a battery-powered glove that converts sign language first to text and then to speech. The hackathon will be a regular event on campus.
  • StartupConnect – Duke’s first-ever job fair bringing together startups and students interested in working at small companies – was held February 20. The event was co-sponsored by the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke Student Affairs and UNC, and drew over 400 students and more than 25 companies, most with a connection to Duke.
  • Duke in Chicago, a new six-week, two-credit summer program offered in partnership with Duke Global Education, launches this summer. This first of a kind program targets student with an interest in the arts and entrepreneurship. Students will gain valuable exposure to arts entrepreneurship through project-based work, meetings, internships, mentorships and site visits. Special guests include The Second City, Harpo Creative Works, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Leo Burnett Advertising and Joffrey Ballet.
  • DukeEngage in Detroit also kicks off this summer and will partner Duke students with seasoned social entrepreneurs to tackle Detroit’s greatest challenges, including economic development, food security and health.
  • The wildly popular Duke in Silicon Valley program, a four-week, one-credit program again offered through Duke Global Education, enters its second summer. This program provides students with an intensive experience in creating new ventures, and runs in Silicon Valley, one of the most entrepreneurial environments on earth. The program is based on Clay Christensen’s Harvard Business School disruptive innovation curriculum, and is taught by Clay’s son Matt, an alumnus of both the Pratt School of Engineering and the 2001 Duke men’s basketball National Championship team. The program includes site visits to well-known startups such as Facebook and LinkedIn and visits from prominent local alumni.

For more information on these programs and all the programs and activities that are part of the innovation and entrepreneurship at Duke, I invite you to visit our newly re-designed website at None of what we do would be possible without all of your help and support, and we thank you deeply for your continued interest in Duke I&E.

With best personal regards,
Eric J. Toone, PhD
Vice Provost and Director,
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative