A Chat with iSelect Technology Selection Committee Member Ken Harrington
A serial entrepreneur, Ken Harrington has built, managed, and advised startups for over 30 years. Most notably, Ken served as Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University St. Louis, a role that helped put St. Louis’ entrepreneurial ecosystem on the map. Since retiring from Washington University in 2014, Ken has focused his efforts on advising startups as President of The Bayberry Group, an entrepreneurship-focused consultancy. Ken is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Vermont.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in entrepreneurship?
Serving as the Managing Director for the Skandalaris Center at Washington University for 14 years was quite an accomplishment – when I started (in 2001), [Washington University] was a nobody in entrepreneurship. Today, Washington University’s entrepreneurship program is consistently ranked in the top 10.
So, how did you do it?
We approached it like a startup. The entrepreneurship program we created wasn’t just in the Business School, it was a campus-wide initiative – we consciously created entrepreneurial courses and content across all schools. We also made the conscious effort to connect with the community, opening a wider door between greater St. Louis and Washington University. We really created the next generation of higher education in entrepreneurship and I believe that’s why we see more graduates choosing to stay in St. Louis.
What excites you about iSelect?
iSelect has the capacity to release a large amount of capital that wants to invest in startups, but is currently on the sidelines. As both iSelect and the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem mature, more capital will flow through iSelect and into startup ventures – that’s good for all of us. We need more capital – especially at the Series A round – and iSelect will be a part of that.
What’s the state of the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Our entrepreneurs are getting better. As they improve, deals get better and as the deals get better, the entrepreneurs again improve – it’s a virtuous cycle. Our community entrepreneurial IQ is so much higher than it was 10 years ago. As our momentum builds, we spin off more talent and capital – and that capital reinvests. It feels like in another 3 years, we’ll hit another tipping point.