TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More
Ellen Rudnick, MBA ’73, Executive Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the Booth School of Business, works to further University innovation by fostering collaboration both inside and outside of the university.
There are many untapped opportunities at the University of Chicago that, through collaborations, could become significant technological and business innovations.
So says Ellen Rudnick, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Executive Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the Booth School of Business. Rudnick sees her role there primarily as a connector, and few people bridge the worlds of academia and business, theory and practice, as well as she does.
Rudnick spent 25 years in business management and entrepreneurial endeavors, primarily in health care and information services. Prior to joining the Polsky Center in 1999 she was president and CEO of Healthcare Knowledge Resources, president of HCIA, chairman of Pacific Biometrics, and corporate vice president of Baxter Healthcare. Her extensive management work, governance activities, service as a venture partner, and start-up interests help her connect people and enterprises.
Rudnick connects people and departments across campus, too. Such work comes naturally to her since she received her MBA at Chicago Booth in 1973 and credits the University with much of her success in the business world. She cites the disciplined and analytical approach to business problems; the relationships and network of contacts that have provided support and assistance throughout her career; and the idea that one has to keep an open mind and challenge the status quo.
The Polsky Center works closely with UChicagoTech, the University of Chicago’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property. Among other things, the two organizations partner on the Arch Venture Partners Innovation Workshops, which bring together students, faculty, researchers and business professionals to foster collaborations between them.
The Polsky Center is always on the lookout for promising innovations from UChicagoTech for students to work on as part of a class, internship or Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge business plan competition designed to teach students how to build a business from an idea or intellectual property asset.
A few years ago, a team of students involved in the competition worked on a possible product for alcoholism. More recently, students created a business plan around a technology developed by University’s radiology professor Maryellen Giger, PhD, that UChicagoTech fostered. This plan was a finalist in the 2010 New Venture Challenge and led to a startup called Quantitative Insights. At the end of the academic year, some of the team members continued to work with the company, which recently won a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovative Research grant. UChicagoTech has provided industry mentors to the team, and the Polsky Center has provided industry and investor contacts.
Research has proven that most successful entrepreneurial endeavors are created by teams of people, not individuals, Rudnick says. “To increase the success of innovation at the University we must increase cross-campus initiatives and collaborations. We must leverage our strengths, from research labs, to support resources, to alumni networks, to business connections.”
The Polsky Center, she adds, attracts bright, energetic students — often with specific industry experience — to help researchers analyze the market dynamics for their ideas; help develop the appropriate business model; determine financial viability; and, if appropriate, build a business plan. It also has networks of mentors, investors and industry coaches who can be called upon should the business move forward.
“Our staff is here to answer questions that faculty may have if they think they have a promising idea,” Rudnick says. “While we may not be able to answer each question we often know people who can.”
“I love working with our creative students and enterprising faculty in taking an idea or concept and making it into a viable business or product,” she concludes. “It’s extraordinarily rewarding to watch these ideas grow from concept to reality.”
By Greg Borzo
*UChicago Tech is now the Tech Commercialization team at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in recognition of a $50M gift from Michael Polsky in 2016 to expanded the Polsky Center in order to unify and enhance UChicago’s leading venture creation initiatives. Learn more about this transformational gift. >>