Innovators Who've Created Jobs

Source: Boston University
October 28, 2011

They include a biomedical engineer whose prowess at helping medical start-up companies was honored by an invitation from the Red Sox to throw out the first pitch at Fenway; a man who launched a sports cap retail business - in his junior year at BU; a philanthropist who honed her generosity skills at that citadel of capitalism, the School of Management; and a fellow SMG alumnus who founded a data appliance company and made it successful to the point that it was bought by IBM.

Today BU tries to interrupt the relentlessly downbeat economic news with a sunbeam of hope: a panel featuring these alumni and faculty whose imaginations have created jobs. The President's Panel, The Many Faces of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: A Perspective from Boston University, convened by President Robert A. Brown, will discuss trends in entrepreneurship throughout the world.

"Entrepreneurship flourishes in economic downturns, and there is no better time to start a company than today," says panel moderator and SMG lecturer Vinit Nijhawan, who has helped build five start-up companies himself. The panel is for "students who are considering start-ups and want to hear from role models, or who are interested in learning about entrepreneurship," says Nijhawan, managing director of BU's Office of Technology Development and director of enterprise programs at the Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization at SMG.

This is the third presidential panel to be held on Alumni Weekend, with previous discussions focusing on health care and energy. This year's panel features the following speakers:

James Collins

A William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, James Collins has worked on several start-ups and has seen his inventions licensed by biotech and medical device firms. The number of firms he serves as a scientific advisor is rivaled only by the honors he's amassed at BU, among them the 2000 Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the University's highest teaching award. Oxford- and Holy Cross–educated, he also won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Ben Fischman (COM'96)

Ben Fischman is chief executive officer of Boston-based Rue La La, an invitation-only, private sale website for clothing and accessories that he helped start. While still a student, he founded Lids Corp., which he grew to 350 locations before selling the company in 2001. He's on the boards of Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Children's Hospital Boston.

Meera Gandhi (GSM'89)

Meera Gandhi founded the Giving Back Foundation, which seeks to aid women and children globally facing poverty, sickness, and educational disadvantage. Last year, she produced and directed the documentary Giving Back, profiling her philanthropic friends, from Cherie Blair to Kerry Kennedy.

Jitendra Saxena (SMG'72)

Jitendra Saxena is the founder and former CEO of Netezza Corp., which provides appliances to help companies improve their databases. Before that, he led Applix, a performance-management applications company, acquired by Cognos and then by IBM. He serves on the boards of several companies and nonprofits.