Q&A: A History of the Lassonde New Venture Development Center

Scott Holley was the first student director of the Pierre and Claudette MacKay Lassonde New Venture Development Center, a division of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, and one of the first student leaders at Lassonde. He graduated from the University of Utah in 2002 with a BS in finance.

The New Venture Development Center provides an opportunity for graduate students to work side-by-side with faculty inventors, industry professionals, and entrepreneurs, providing them with business advice and strategic planning to bring their products into the marketplace.

As the first student director, Holley shared his experience helping to grow the program.

How did you get involved in student leadership at Lassonde?

Holley: My junior year at the U I was selected to be the vice chair of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. After the awards were handed out, I heard that Jack Brittain and Pierre Lassonde had reached an agreement to fund a New Venture Development Center at the David Eccles School of Business with Troy D’Ambrosio leading it. I lobbied Troy and Jack for a chance to be involved, and they selected me to be the first student director.

Why did you want to get involved?

Holley: This was an opportunity to create a program from the ground up with two mentors that I respected greatly – Troy and Jack.

What did the early days look like for the center?

Holley: It was the wild west! We had two donated computers and one small office next to MBA Career Services. My first job was to select a cohort – we recruited and held interviews and had a mix of students from all over campus – graduate and undergraduate, business and sciences. Next, we set up a curriculum and invited guest lecturers to come and talk about various aspects of technology commercialization. One of our guest lecturers was a popular MBA professor named Taylor Randall. Finally, we sent the students out to do a canvas of technologies with commercial potential at the University. Some researchers were intrigued and excited to work with us, some chased us off!

What were the initial key features of the center?

Holley: I just remember a ton of enthusiasm for the potential of what we were building. I was a senior, and for those of us in the first-year cohort that were graduating, we wanted to stick around and see what else we could accomplish!

How is LNVD different currently from when you participated?

Holley: I never could have imagined that the Lassonde New Venture Development Center would have grown to be a part of something as large as the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. The program is now limited to graduate student participants, which makes a lot of sense, and there are so many other programs available for aspiring entrepreneurs.

What is it like seeing the center grow into what it is now?

Holley: I feel privileged to have been a small part of the origin story.

What is it like seeing student leadership and programming, in general, grow into what it is now?

Holley: Student leadership has always been the genius of the programs that Jack and Troy have built. It creates a differentiated experience for students, setting high-performing student leaders up for career and entrepreneurial success right out of the gate.

Learn more about the Lassonde New Venture Development Center at lassonde.utah.edu/new-venture-development/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *