Educating the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs through Research

SIPA's Entrepreneurship & Policy Initiative is focused on four core areas of research: 1) Global Education Technology, 2) Digital Currency, 3) Urban Innovation in Cities, and 4) Internet of Things.

The four thematic areas of research include:

Global education technology

Sarah Holloway, Director of SIPA’s Management Specialization, in partnership with Columbia Entrepreneurship, has launched a year-long global education technology (EdTech) initiative to explore innovations in K-12 education across the globe that leverage technology and entrepreneurship. Sarah brings to this initiative over 25 years of experience in the public and nonprofit sector and as co-founder of three EdTech nonprofits including the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC) and MOUSE.org

[email protected] launched as a multi-year initiative in October 2017 with a Global EdTech Forum on “democratizing education” which brought together entrepreneurs from four continents: Kago Kagichiri, CEO and Co-Founder, Eneza Education (Kenya); César Wedemann, CEO, Qedu (Brazil); Pranav Kothari, Domain Expert, Mindspark (India); and Miriam Altman, CEO and Co-Founder, Kinvolved (US). In a panel discussion, moderated by Anna Laura Schmidt from Fundação Lemann, the four entrepreneurs discussed how innovative startups and progressive policies are disrupting antiquated school systems. The panel discussion was followed by a keynote presentation by Yin Lu, Director of International Education at Khan Academy.

A centerpiece of [email protected] is the Ed Tech Design Challenge, which took place over 8 days starting on October 13, focused on deeply entrenched issues in education in Brazil and included 24 of our students from 7 Schools across the University — SIPA, Teachers College, Columbia Business School, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Columbia College and Barnard. The students were matched with 12 education entrepreneurs from Brazil to form interdisciplinary teams to generate innovative solutions around three key themes in Brazil K-12 Education: Remediation (students who are not on track to graduate); Students with special needs/disabilities; and family engagement.  After 8 days of research, dozens of interviews and iterating on their ideas, teams presented ideas for education technology products and services.  Teams presented these ideas to experts from UNICEF Innovation, Fundação Lemann and to a former Brazilian education leader and Mayor.  Teams will continue to work on their idea through a SIPA course called Creating a Social Enterprise taught by Professor Sarah Holloway and continue to work with their counterparts in Brazil throughout the process leveraging technology tools such as Skype and Google. The Columbia cohort will also be given the opportunity to visit Brazil to do further research and customer development during March break. Teams will be required to develop prototypes as well as pitch decks and business plans and the winning ideas will split a $25,000 prize and possibly have their venture backed by the Fundaçao Lemann.

[email protected] will also include the development of a body of research on innovations across the globe that leverage technology. A white paper and article will be produced in early 2018 coauthored by Professor Holloway, Teachers College, UNICEF Innovation and the World Bank.

[email protected] is a partnership between SIPA, the Center for Development Economics & Policy, Columbia Entrepreneurship and Teachers College with generous support from Fundação Lemann, Unicef Office of Global Innovation, and the NASDAQ Educational Foundation support of SIPA's Entrepreneurship & Policy Initiative.

The New Technologies of Money

Columbia Business School’s Professor Eli Noam is conducting research on entrepreneurship in payment systems and the impact on macroeconomic policy. The emergence of such trends in monetary technology in Distributed Ledgers (known as Blockchain, and most popularly used in Bitcoin) opens up new opportunities for entrepreneurs, such as stock transactions, but also in supplanting the previous transfer payment systems of ACH (automated clearing house) and credit cards. As part of the wider SIPA Project on Entrepreneurship and Policy, the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information will research and report on the emerging dynamics of new-style money, its business opportunities, market structures, social effects, macroeconomic impacts, and policy implications. This will also include a conference, webinars, and academic papers. Professor Eli Noam, Senior Scholar Leon Perlman, and Associate Director for Tele-Information Jason Buckweitz, Columbia Business School.

the urban innovation environment

SIPA Post-doctoral Fellow and Lecturer Hollie Russon Gilman is researching the relationship between urban policy and the start-up ecosystem. In particular, she is exploring how cities can serve as experimental laboratories for technology, innovative policy methods, and entrepreneurship. Cities are emerging as experimental laboratories for technology, innovative policy methods, and entrepreneurship. This research and cluster of deliverables seeks to address the research question: How does a city government drive innovation and serve as a catalyst for new models of entrepreneurship, engagement, and innovation? What are the implications for entrepreneurs? How can industry and civil society best promote and support cities for incorporating new models of innovation? Initial research findings were published in Spring 2017 in a top political science journal. Research includes a state of the field workshop on subnational innovation; bringing together multi-sector leaders from across government, industry, academia, and industry for a half-day workshop at Columbia to discuss current literature and cutting edge research. Dr. Hollie Russon Gilman's book chapter "The Future of Civic Engagement" was published in the book "Government for the Future" as part of the IBM Center for the Business of Government's 20th Anniversary. Post-doctoral Fellow and Lecturer Hollie Russon Gilman, SIPA.

The Internet Things (IoT) and Public Policy

Ronaldo Lemos, SIPA Visiting Professor who serves as Professor and Director of the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro, is advising and conducting research on the Internet of Things and national policy plans. As connectivity continues, national governments will increasingly need to develop policy plans to govern the Internet of Things (IoT). Professor Lemos is conducting research into Brazil’s National IoT Plan and hosting a workshop at SIPA, "Building National IoT Plans," including the perspective of US, China and Brazil. The Brazilian National IoT Plan is the result of a bid for proposals commissioned by Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) in partnership with the Federal Government and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Communications and Innovation. The initial results of this research will be published in October 2017. Based on the study, the government will implement a comprehensive IoT strategy, which will include credit lines, amendments in regulation or deregulation, and a permanent governance structure to allow better coordination between all the stakeholders involved.  SIPA is exploring collaborating with McKinsey and other entities to participate in the workshop in spring 2018 and to address approaches across several jurisdictions. Visiting Professor Ronaldo Lemos, SIPA

Initiatives funded by the grant will emphasize entrepreneurship and innovation stemming from both information and communications technology (ICT) and digital technology, along with the intersection of global public policy.



Programming began in Fall 2016 and will last for three years through Spring 2019.

The grant will support a variety of programs and initiatives. Most significantly, SIPA will:

  • Create a global ideas forum including a University-wide seminar on entrepreneurship.
  • In partnership with Columbia Entrepreneurship, SIPA will examine the conditions that give rise to entrepreneurship and the relationship worldwide among entrepreneurship, digital technologies, and data.
  • SIPA and Columbia Entrepreneurship will host a series of public seminars and events each year and commission papers from faculty and U.S. and international experts to anchor discussion.
  • Foster thought leadership through global fellows in residence.
  • SIPA will recruit short term visiting global entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and innovators in residence to bring the latest lessons from the field.
  • SIPA will also recruit a postgraduate fellow in residence to pursue policy research and provide organizational support for the entrepreneurship program.

SIPA will promote innovative approaches for educating the next generation of entrepreneurs through experiential learning and case study-based teaching, including:

  • A new course designed to prepare students to launch a new enterprise, including social enterprise.
  • Enhancement of the existing Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant to include mentorship by global entrepreneurs and innovators in residence, and
  • Development of case studies to help students explore contemporary issues in entrepreneurship, digital technology, and public policy.

As the Entrepreneurship & Policy initiative develops and pursues activities with the grant’s support, SIPA will engage other units at Columbia University and work in consultation with distinguished colleagues including Professor Eli Noam and Richard Witten. Professor Noam is the Paul Garrett Professor of Public Policy and Business Responsibility at Columbia Business School and the director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information. Professor Witten is a special advisor to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and director of Columbia Entrepreneurship, a Presidential initiative and umbrella group that supports entrepreneurship University-wide.