Entrepreneur and AOL co-founder Steve Case called on the undergraduate Class of 2019 to redefine entrepreneurship and lead innovation in cities and states throughout the country at Saturday’s Centennial Commencement.
“The most important thing you learned at Babson is that entrepreneurship isn’t a career path. It’s a state of mind,” he said to the graduating class of more than 550 students and their hundreds of friends and family members in attendance. “That mindset will prove to be what makes you different … and you’re going to need it, because our nation needs a reset.”
Case co-founded AOL in 1985, and under his leadership, it became the world’s largest and most valuable internet company. At its peak, about half of internet users in the United States used AOL.
In 2005, he co-founded Revolution Inc., an investment firm which over the past several years has backed multiple companies, including Zipcar, sweetgreen, and DraftKings.
Case opined that the internet will soon become integrated into all aspects of American life, “changing how we think about health, education, food, and transportation.”
“For entrepreneurs, this is an unbelievably exciting time, as some of the industries up for grabs are massive,” Case said. “It’s going to require a different entrepreneurial playbook. … It will require collaboration.”
Rather than health care revolution through software for example, Case said innovation will come through working with doctors and hospitals to integrate software, and finding health plans to pay for it and regulators that will allow it.
“Similar dynamics will exist in other industries,” Case said. “The invention will be the easy part—driving adoption, and acceptance, will be where the rubber meets the road.”
More than 75 percent of venture capital went to the three states of Massachusetts, New York, and California in 2018, according to Case. Less than 10 percent of venture capital went to women, and just 1 percent went to African Americans.
With startups creating the most jobs in the United States, successful entrepreneurs in this new era will understand and embrace the idea that innovation needs to happen throughout the country instead of mainly the Northeast and California, he said, before reflecting on his investments in more than 100 startups across more than 60 cities.
“If as a nation we pivot to back more entrepreneurs in more parts of the country, the cities that have been left behind will have a bright future—and our nation will have a brighter future, as well,” Case said.
At her final undergraduate Commencement ceremony at Babson, President Kerry Healey petitioned graduates to remember Roger Babson’s pledge to “embark on a business career as a means of rendering service to humanity” and to “use the unique power of entrepreneurship to generate positive economic and social change around the world.”
She also challenged them to embrace the College’s alumni network of more 41,000 graduates in 119 countries.
“The Babson community can go with you everywhere you go,” Healey said. “It will respect your individual aspirations, but also support them. That is the ideal definition of a community: a group of people who appreciate your aspirations, provide encouragement and guidance, and support you in times of difficulty.”
Dean of the Undergraduate School Ian Lapp advocated graduates to break boundaries in society, referencing historical figures and moments like Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the woman’s rights movement.
“As you hold your Bachelor of Science degree from Babson College, remember it is not only the degree you earned, but the deeds you do with it,” he said.
Case, Gustavo Cisneros ’68, Linda Pizzuti Henry ’00, and James Herbert II ’66 received honorary degrees from the College at the ceremony, and Arts and Humanities Professor Elizabeth Swanson was named professor of the year.
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