Even a quick glance at Jeff Bussgang’s resume reveals a deep commitment to entrepreneurial innovation. After playing a leading role at Open Market, an Internet commerce software firm that grew to $100 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 1996, Jeff cofounded Upromise, the loyalty marketing and financial services firm that is helping more than 12 million families save over $20 billion for college. Since January 2003, he has been a partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm that Jeff helped start. While at Flybridge, Jeff has led investments in breakthrough businesses such as BzzAgent, DataXu, digitalArbor, Simple Tuition, Transpera and many others.
Yet, Jeff has found time in his schedule for an additional commitment: serving as an HBS Entrepreneur-in-Residence sponsored by the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship.
The best way to learn entrepreneurship in the best place to fulfill it
As a member of the graduating MBA class of 1995, Jeff’s residency marks a return to HBS. In his mind, HBS represents a special opportunity for eager entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is really hard to learn – you just can’t get it from a text book,” notes Jeff. “The case method is the only effective proxy for actually doing it yourself. It’s this simple – HBS really taught me how to become an entrepreneur.”
Jeff dismisses the misperceptions some business professionals have regarding Boston as a suboptimal location for entrepreneurship. “If you look at the sum total of venture capital, it’s true that Boston is second to California,” says Jeff. “But when you look at the funding per capita – money funded per entrepreneur – Boston is actually number one. And the metropolitan area has strong clusters in a very diverse set of industries: life sciences, consumer marketing, e-commerce and energy, to name a few. In my judgment, Boston is the absolute best place to run a start-up.”
As an MBA student, Jeff says, “I was able to plug into the entrepreneurial community – to talk to VCs, and even work at a start-up while I was attending classes.” Now as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for 2009-2010, Jeff wants to give back while gaining something for himself as well. Every week, Jeff comes on campus for a half-day, making himself available through office hours to “anyone interested in starting a business or joining a start-up. But I get something too. Remember Stephen Covey’s seventh effective habit: ‘sharpening the saw’? By interacting with people like Bill Sahlman, Noam Wasserman and Joe Lassiter – among many other terrific faculty, staff and students – I learn from current research and case studies to improve my ability to support entrepreneurs as a venture capitalist.”
Part of the network
Jeff doesn’t hide his passion for supporting entrepreneurship. In his role at Flybridge, he created a partnership with local business associations, StayInMA.com, that provides scholarship money for Massachusetts undergraduate and graduate students who want to participate in local industry conferences and trade shows. These students, Jeff anticipates, will strengthen the state’s growing network of entrepreneurs – many of whom will emerge from HBS.
“Unequivocally,” says Jeff, “HBS is a world-class leader in the entrepreneurial environment. Four out of the five Flybridge partners are HBS graduates. And when I look for executives to run our portfolio companies, I’m always pleased to invest behind HBS alumni."