Forbes magazine recently ranked UCSB as a better university for entrepreneurs than Harvard and other Ivy League institutions. The ranking system, which established UCSB in 20th place, was based on university ratios of students and alumni that identified themselves as business founders and owners through the website LinkedIn, compared to the total population of students and alumni.

Vice Chancellor David Marshall attributed much of UCSB’s success in fostering startup businesses to its “interdisciplinary environment,” as well as to the university’s highly acclaimed entrepreneurial education program, the Technology Management Program (TMP).

“There are specific programs that can help — most obviously our exciting and cutting-edge Technology Management Program,” Marshall said in an email.
TMP, which was officially launched in 2004, is available to students of all majors, focusing on project-based education and cooperation among separate startup teams.

Marshall said he is confident TMP will propel UCSB to an even more competitive standing in the future.

“This interdisciplinary program will cause us to rise in those Forbes ranking from the top 20 to the top 10 universities known for entrepreneurship,” Marshall said.

TMP Vice Chair Dave Seibold said the “extraordinary mentoring and support” TMP students receive from local attorneys, investors, successful entrepreneurs and numerous retired executives from companies large and small give students that competitive edge.

“TMP faculty members are intensely committed to the success of TMP students, and they bring a unique combination of scholarship, teaching excellence and relevant practical experience,” Seibold said in an email.

Seibold also said the collaborative TMP environment allows students from many different disciplines to collaborate and thus intensify their achievements.
“Students, who are among the best of the best internationally in their respective disciplines, forge interdisciplinary ties that foster even better work,” Seibold said.

UCSB alumna and former Bren School of Environmental Science student Gina Auriemma is a former TMP entrepreneur who worked with two other Bren School students to found the company Salty Girl Seafood, a sustainable seafood distribution company providing fresh seafood to restaurants with data about the catch, such as fishing methods used. This information allows restaurants and consumers to make environmentally conscious decisions about their purchases.

Auriemma said she and her colleagues attribute their practical knowledge on starting and maintaining a business to their time first developing the startup with TMP.

“One of the most important skills we learned through our experiences at the Bren School and through TMP was that of customer discovery – getting out of the building to talk to customers in order to test and validate the hypotheses we have around our business model,” Auriemma said in email.

According to Auriemma, entrepreneurial students looking to create their own startup should branch out, start early and learn coding.

“Get out of the building, ask open-ended questions, keep an open mind and in doing so, build your customer-base early,” Auriemma said. “Also, learn how to code.”

UCSB alumnus and entrepreneur Justin Ratowsky founded the company Organic Seed Cards, which prints business cards, flyers, DVDs and albums with vegetable and wildflower seeds printed in them, turning potential pollution into products of environmental renewal.

Ratowsky said the most important habits for any potential entrepreneur involve their interactions with clients and colleagues.

“Be straight-forward with everyone you are doing business with and be honest about your expectations and what it is that you have to offer,” Ratowsky said in an email. “Give yourself worth, because if you don’t, why should anyone else believe in the service or product you are providing?”

Chancellor Henry T. Yang accredited the university’s success as a breeding ground for successful business ventures to the “bold vision, collaborative spirit and persistence” of UCSB students.

“I want to express my thanks for the vision and generosity of our philanthropic donors, the participation of many alumni and industrial leaders, the leadership of administrators and faculty, the development of an interdisciplinary culture and the entrepreneurial spirit of all disciplines of our entire campus,” Yang said in an email.

This story appeared on page 1 of Thursday, September 25, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.