Release Date: October 28, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Eric Reich knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship.
The University at Buffalo alumnus is co-founder of Campus Labs, a multimillion-dollar company and one of Buffalo’s most successful startups.
That’s why he was brought in by UB to teach in the Introductory Academy Seminars, which will expose 170 students to the Undergraduate Academies this fall. The academies — Entrepreneurship, Civic Engagement, Global Perspectives, Research Exploration and Sustainability — are five small, themed living and learning communities within the larger university.
“Even the most successful of entrepreneurs was inexperienced at one point,” says Reich, who graduated from UB with a law degree and an MBA in 2002. “Those humble beginnings are circumstances similar to how students may see themselves today. We want to encourage them that it can be done… and to dream big. Maybe it will inspire them to start a company one day.”
Undergraduates have access to Reich’s wisdom for four of the seminars’ 14 weeks this semester.
“The presence of an accomplished entrepreneur, such as Eric, is an inspiration to our students,” says Yong Li, PhD, associate professor in the UB School of Management and Entrepreneurship Academy academic director. “They will realize that it is not beyond their reach to start a business, make it a success and have a positive impact on society.”
Campus Labs provides universities with data analytic platforms that support student retention and resource allocation decisions. In 2012, the company was acquired by Higher One Holdings for more than $40 million.
Reich and co-founder Michael Weisman, also a UB alumnus, launched the company in 2001 using a $25,000 prize from the Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition, held annually by the UB School of Management and UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR).
Now, in addition to managing Campus Labs as president, Reich is spending his free time helping potential startup moguls achieve similar success, in and out of the classroom.
In the portion of the Undergraduate Academies introductory seminars that deals with entrepreneurship, students learn the basics of launching a business. Topics include different company models, raising capital and examining target markets.
Students also study prominent entrepreneurs from different eras and prepare a report identifying the circumstances and environment that led to a turning point in the history of the entrepreneurs’ startups.
One exercise Reich employs is asking students to examine an object in the classroom and brainstorm about the time, planning and people involved in creating it.
“Even though they might see a chair, a marker or a computer, the reality is that between research, manufacturing, marketing and logistics, many companies representing hundreds of thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars went into that product,” says Reich.
“We want to open students’ eyes to realize that those companies at one point didn’t exist; someone created them from nothing, and they can do the same."
Reich is one of five instructors for the introductory seminars. The other academies are represented by their academic directors. Reich is teaching the entrepreneurship portion of the class usually taught by Li.
After completing the course, students are expected to enroll in classes focused around a specific academy.
“Students come into the university with a thought about what global perspectives or research perspectives is, and may not realize what it truly is,” says Hadar Borden, Undergraduate Academies administrative director. “We want to introduce them to all of five Academies, so they can see a topic from all five areas, but also make an educated decision about the theme they want to focus on.”