University Entrepreneur Spotlight: Columbia University

Columbia University

With over 7 billion dollars raised in funding in the last 12 months by Columbia Startups alone, and 2.4 million dollars in awards granted to those startups, Columbia University is preparing the entrepreneurs of the future to the utmost of the universities ability.

Columbia University, a nationwide standard of excellence maintained for over 200 years, resides in New York City. This establishment is a true supporter of innovation through its multiple startup funding opportunities. Columbia University is an institution that is focused on building a brighter and better future. With over 7 billion dollars raised in funding in the last 12 months by Columbia Startups alone, and 2.4 million dollars in awards granted to those startups, Columbia University is preparing the entrepreneurs of the future to the utmost of the universities ability.

Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center

The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center is responsible for more than twenty years of grooming and guiding generations of up and coming entrepreneurs. The center strives to achieve social and economic progress through the innovative opportunities that are unique to the field of entrepreneurship.

Columbia’s approach to developing the entrepreneurial mindset is both broad and deep. Entrepreneurship is fully integrated throughout the core MBA curriculum, crossing all disciplines and touching all students. For students interested in launching their own ventures, the School offers a comprehensive program of specialized courses, labs, workshops, and funding opportunities.

Courses & Cost

The cost to attend Columbia University is an estimated ,430, with a total enrollment of over 25,000 students.

CU’s Entrepreneurship program offers a system that helps students to maneuver through the program requirements and find out what courses best fit their ultimate entrepreneurial goals. The Course Roadmap is composed of four parts:

  • THINK Course
    This course focuses on the basics of entrepreneurship and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. This track is recommended for students seeking to adopt “an entrepreneurial way of thinking, problem solving and business growth.” The importance of entrepreneurial thinking in the current economy is key. This track also prepares students for the other three tracks: START a business, SCALE an existing business, and INVEST in startups.
  • START Course
    This course is all about students incubating and developing their own startups. This course is especially beneficial to students who intend to start their own business during or after graduation. Students who take this course will have access to programs and courses that are tailormade to aid students in their specific entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • SCALE Course
    This course is all about taking an existing business and taking it to the next level. Students who are already in pursuit of growing their own business, or even students that will assume control of a family business or an existing startup that was founded by someone else, are encouraged to take this course in order to hone their leadership and organizational skills.
  • INVEST Course
    This last course is available to students who are looking to invest in other entrepreneurial companies.

Olivier Troubai

Olivier Troubia, Faculty Director for the Lang E.ntrepreneurship Center, came to Columbia University in 2004. Also a professor of Business at Columbia Business School, Troubia has focused his research on various aspects of innovation through social and data sciences in order to study human processes such as motivation and creativity. His areas of expertise include Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Market Research. 

A Large Ivy League university with an amazing breadth of expertise… all in one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world. I could not think of a better place for budding entrepreneurs interested in tackling big, challenging, societal problems.” Olivier Troubia on Columbia University

Troubia ensures that “the Lang Center will continue to do its share by helping connect students, scholars, and alumni from various parts of campus and enable them to tackle challenging problems” (Troubia, CU).


The Columbia Venture Competition (CVC), which takes place on the first day of the StartupColumbia Festival, is made up of four separate challenges. Each challenge has a total of $50,000 which will be distributed among the top three winners of each challenge. A panel of thirteen judges are present to determine the winners. The four challenges are:

  • StartupColumbia Challenge
    This challenge focuses on customer development and demonstrating a product that fits the current market. Winners of this challenge present empirical evidence indicating market acceptance of their proposed product/venture.
  • Technology Challenge
    The focus of this challenge is to provide solid, well prepared models of technological innovation. Entries are encouraged to have a team consisting of cross-disciplinary members in order to fully fill the requirements of the competition: not only an actual technologically focused design, but also data analytics.
  • Sipa Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant
    The Public Policy Grant Program of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) invites students to form teams to propose student-designed projects and prototypes that use ICTs and/or data analytics to solve urban problems around the world. Solutions may be market-based, public/philanthropic supported, or a mix. The Program encourages the formation of teams that integrate students of public policy, computer science, engineering and other fields across Columbia University. All teams must include at least one SIPA student in a substantive role.

Successful Columbia Startups

CU is responsible for countless startups, one of which being a company called BrainCeek, which was started by CU alum Jason Fan and Soonkang Soh, both of which graduated for the university in 2018. The goal of this startup is to aid investment bankers in doing what they strive to do—invest.

BrainCeek provides simulation programs that allow the participants to experience and explore the roles and responsibilities of the job positions that best suit their interests—with not prior experience necessary. This provides individuals the opportunity to experience the job without actually being on the job. The simulations have been sponsored by such groups as Rise New York / Barclays.

Fan worked through much of his initial business plan through the Design Studio provided by the Entrepreneurial Center. The Design Studio, which encourages and focuses on hands-on activities, “…really helped push this from an idea and a deck to reality,” Fan remarks. The method of instruction within the Design Studio pushed him to do more than just plan, but to actually starting building towards his goal of establishing his venture.

“The thing about startups is not to just think, you have to do.” -Jason Fan, CU alum

Columbia University is an institution that takes their dedication to the fueling the futures innovators to the next level not only through their prestigious academic standard, but also by encouraging students to dive head first into what inspires them the most.

Emily Welch

A twice published author in poetry, Emily is a creative writer with an extensive background in English Literature. Since graduating from Lincoln Memorial University, she gained experience as a Translator and Staff Writer for a variety of Appalachian Projects across East Tennessee. Her work has been featured in The Anthology of Appalachian Writers: Nikki Giovanni Volume VIII and Hollow Volume IV with awards in poetry and creative nonfiction.