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Sunday, 08 January 2017 17:09

CMU considers grad program in entrepreneurial transactions

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MOUNT PLEASANT — Central Michigan University may launch a new graduate program later this year that would add to entrepreneurial education in the state. 

The planned Master of Entrepreneurial Transactions would focus on how to structure a business venture and set up governance, as well as detail the process to secure seed financing and raise capital. 

The program would also cover recruiting and motivating talent, protecting intellectual property, managing growth and risk, and approaching acquisitions and exits.

While a lot of college programs teaching entrepreneurship are geared toward having students work on a business plan and pitch an idea at a “Shark Tank-type of event” before they graduate, “that’s going to be more of the starting point” at CMU, said Jeff Thomas, chairperson of the two-year-old Entrepreneurship Department at the university’s College of Business Administration.

“We’re going to go well beyond the pitching and planning and we’re going to look at transactions that impact entrepreneurs,” he said. “Our goal is to teach very transferrable skills. We want to create entrepreneurs and we want to influence them.”

The online graduate program is going through the final approval process on campus at the Mount Pleasant-based university. Thomas hopes to launch it late this coming summer.

The graduate program would require 36 credit hours to complete and begin with one cohort a year. CMU would add cohorts as demand dictates, Thomas said.

Participants may come from a variety of backgrounds, although Thomas hopes to attract people “who want to be part of a high-growth venture,” whether as a founder or employee.

Many colleges and universities in Michigan over the last decade-plus have elevated their programs to train would-be entrepreneurs through new undergraduate or graduate degrees, or by embedding lessons in entrepreneurship into the curriculum of programs such as engineering or business management.

Across the state, entrepreneurs today also have a bevy of university-backed business incubators and accelerators where they can apply to base their startups and access support, as well as an assortment of business plan competitions to pitch their ideas and hone their skills.

The addition of the Master of Entrepreneurial Transactions program at CMU reflects the growth and evolution of entrepreneurial education, Thomas said.

“Entrepreneurship education is very big and still growing rapidly, but it’s still really new, I believe,” said Thomas, a former attorney in Chicago and Silicon Valley who worked with clients on business formation, angel and venture capital investments, and intellectual property issues.

“How it will look in a few years might be really different than it does today,” he said.

CMU’s formation of the Master of Entrepreneurial Transactions follows a heightened interest in entrepreneurship in Michigan after the state’s economic decline and rebound from the Great Recession. The graduate program also would play directly into the growing angel and venture capital industry that’s been rising in Michigan for more than a decade.

The graduate program’s creation shows “the (entrepreneurial) ecosystem is pretty well functioning today,” said Tim Streit, a partner who runs the Grand Rapids office of Ann Arbor-based VC firm Huron River Ventures.

Individual lessons in the graduate program will focus on issues such as fiduciary duties, negotiating term sheets with prospective angel and venture capital investors, using different capital structures, and employee equity and stock ownership, Thomas said. The program will cover how an entrepreneur’s early decisions to structure a venture could affect other business decisions down the road, he said.

“All of those things are related, if it’s done right,” Thomas said. “It’s the very meaty aspects of entrepreneurship.” 

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