By Ed Brennen
Sarah Elie will be the first to admit that working on a team has never been one of her strong suits. Which is ironic, the senior business administration major says, because “I chose to concentrate in entrepreneurship, which involves a lot of teamwork.”
Elie says she feels more like a team player, though, after participating in UMass Lowell’s Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) virtual summer workshop.
Working with two students from Japan and another from the U.S., Elie’s team created a business plan to provide online training for workers in developing countries. In the workshop’s week-ending venture pitch competition, they finished third out of 13 teams.
“The competition not only helped me to improve my ability to work in a team, but it allowed me to be part of something greater and see the outcome of our hard work,” says the Lowell native, who also learned how to navigate opposite time zones for online meetings.
Since GE2 launched in 2014, more than 1,000 students from 22 countries have participated in the program, which promotes global collaborations on entrepreneurship education and research between the Manning School of Business and international institutions.
Visiting Lecturer Bill Yelle, who took over as GE2 director this year following the retirement of founding director Ashwin Mehta, hopes to see the program return to an in-person format next summer — with summer sessions in Lowell and winter sessions abroad.
Regardless of the format, Yelle says the multidisciplinary workshop is a valuable way for students of all levels — from undergraduate to Ph.D. — to learn entrepreneurship concepts, receive mentoring, conduct market research and assemble a global venture plan.
“It’s important for students from different disciplines to work together, because that’s what happens in venture development.”
-GE2 Director Bill Yelle
“It’s important for students from different disciplines to work together, because that’s what happens in venture development,” says Yelle, co-director of the Jack M. Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship
. “You don’t have to be an engineer, but you need to know how to work with them. And if you’re a scientist or an engineer, you need to know how to work with businesspeople.”
This summer’s workshop drew attendees from Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Venezuela.
Of the 530 students who registered for workshops, 63 participated in the venture pitch contest.
“My Health,” a team made up of Sai Praveen Kondapalli and Ganesh Gollakoti, who are from India, and Hanyu Du, Chang Gao and Yu Yan, who are from China, won the competition for an app that recommends healthy diet plans based on local cuisines and users’ preexisting health complications.
Second place went to Manning School students Jinhua Yan, Colleen Vazquez, Rooby Denaud, Chiyako Yamano and Mariko Sugiyama for their face-scanning app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a cosmetology treatment plan.
Vazquez, an online MBA student from New Jersey, and her teammates participated in the workshop as part of Yelle’s Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation summer course.
“It gave me networking opportunities and interactions with people from different cultures, different perspectives and different generations,” says Vazquez, who works as regional procurement category manager for Sandvik, a Swedish engineering firm.
Following the workshop, Vazquez and her teammates continued developing their venture model in their course with Yelle, writing a final report that analyzes the industry, target markets and key partners.
“I think that my teammates’ ideas, coupled with my practicality, got us to where we are,” she says.
Idea pitch judges included Patrick Abouchalache, a lecturer of strategy and innovation at Boston University; Alex Sun, a faculty member at Nanjing University of Postal and Telecommunications in China; Rist DifferenceMaker Institute Director Holly Lalos; Manning School faculty members Deborah Casey, Michael Ciuchta, Chan-Wung Kim, David Vatalaro and Yi Yang; and Ph.D. student Yiping Li.
Dean of Business Sandra Richtermeyer thanked students for participating and partner universities for their support.
“This is what it’s about for us — building relationships, serving the global community and developing the entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.