26 Oct 2018

Harvard Business School Entrepreneurs Shine at Rock 100 Summit

Alums gather at biannual event to learn from HBS faculty and each other

BOSTON—Ten to fifteen years after graduating from Harvard Business School, fifty percent of HBS alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs. But many don’t wait that long. In fact, with the help of a broad portfolio of programs offered by the School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, including the Rock Accelerator, summer fellowships, and the annual New Venture Competition (co-sponsored by the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative), more and more Harvard MBA students are launching enterprises while they’re still in school or newly-minted alums.

On October 18, some 100 of these HBS entrepreneurs gathered from near and far at the Harvard University Innovation Lab on the HBS campus for a two-day learning and networking conference (held every other year) called the Rock 100 Summit, chaired by HBS professors Tom Eisenmann and Shikhar Ghosh (a serial entrepreneur in his own right) and Rock Center Director Jodi Gernon.

Also present for advice and counsel was an extraordinarily talented and experienced Advisory Board comprising 18 HBS graduates who have founded, scaled, and nourished a slew of companies, from Sam Clemens, now founder and chief product office of Boston-based business analytics company InsightSquared and Sarah Leary, co-founder and vice president of marketing and operations at Nextdoor, the free and private social network for neighborhoods, to Matt Salzberg, founder and first president and CEO of Blue Apron, and Alexandra Wilson, a cofounder of online fashion retailer Gilt and now senior vice president of consumer strategy and innovation for the global pharmaceutical company Allergan.

After a welcoming dinner on the evening of October 18 featuring remarks by HBS professor Frances Frei, a service management expert who during a recent leave of absence served as senior vice president of leadership and strategy at Uber, participants hit the ground running on the morning of October 19 at a series of “Flash Talks,” curated presentations by HBS faculty members and/or advisory members regarding frameworks, strategies, and research aimed at helping founders advance their ventures.

Topics included Brand Storytelling with Senior Lecturer Jill Avery; Hiring, Firing, and Building a Killer Team, with Prof. Ghosh; and Pathway to Exit with Senior Lecturer Bob Higgins. Other presentations were Building a Metrics-Driven Salesforce with Senior Lecturer Frank Cespedes; Developing Effective Managers in High-Growth Companies with Associate Professor Ethan Bernstein; Managing Your Board with Senior Lecturer Jeffrey Rayport; and What Non-Technical Founders Need to Know about Product Roadmap with Senior Lecturer Julia Austin. The afternoon involved participants in a number of small-group discussions.

“The success of the Rock 100 Summit reflects the very high level of interest in entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School and the remarkable achievements of our young alumni in this space,” said Gernon. “Legendary professors Bill Sahlman and Howard Stevenson started us down this path several decades ago, and now with an entrepreneurship faculty of over 30, more than 300 of our current MBA students participate in entrepreneurship programs. The School’s focus is global rather than centered on one or two geographical areas, and we teach our students how to lead and scale their companies, not just start them. The variety of enterprises they have founded is awesome, from new satellite technology and better weather forecasting to tiny houses and platforms for interior design.”

As one participant put it, “The Rock 100 Summit is truly a Disneyland for both aspiring and accomplished entrepreneurs.” Stay tuned for the next one in 2020.


Jim Aisner


The Rock Center for Entrepreneurship was made possible by the generosity and vision of pioneering venture capitalist Arthur Rock (MBA 1951), who helped launch, among many other enterprises, Apple and Intel Corporation. The Rock Center offers a broad array of programs to encourage and support the pursuit of entrepreneurship by Harvard Business School students and alumni, including an annual New Venture Competition, the Rock Accelerator program to facilitate and financially support the execution of new ideas, The Rock Summer Fellowship program to support founders pursuing business ideas and internships with new ventures, a loan reduction program to help ease the burden of recent graduates starting their own enterprises, and access to an array of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence who offer advice and counsel throughout the school year.

The Rock Center is closely affiliated with the School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit, which includes some 33 HBS faculty members dedicated to research, teaching, and course development in the field of entrepreneurial management. Harvard Business School’s first-year curriculum requires a full-semester course in Entrepreneurial Management. The second-year curriculum provides students with a wide selection of electives. The lessons learned serve students well after they have earned their degrees. Ten to fifteen years after graduation, fifty percent of Harvard Business School alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs. For more information, visit hbs.edu/entrepreneurship or @HBSROCK.


Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and HBX, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.