Up Close: Andrew Hill, Director, Lehigh Ventures Lab

Andrew Hill

Photo by Marco Calderon

Andrew Hill joins Lehigh Ventures Lab‚ the University’s first startup accelerator for early stage enterprises‚ fresh from founding a startup that provides leadership training to nonprofits. Previously‚ he was at the U.S. Army War College‚ teaching leadership and management‚ advising senior leaders in the U.S. DoD and the U.N. He received his doctorate from Harvard Business School.

>My dad worked for Citibank. I was born in Greece‚ lived in Bahrain‚ Riyadh‚ and Connecticut. I graduated high school in London. As an adult‚ I worked in Mexico and I went back to the Middle East to work in finance. When people ask me where I’m from‚ I honestly don’t know. I decided home is where the people you love are.

>Founding a startup three years ago has been a fantastic learning experience and I would love to say it has given me the expertise to help everybody else be successful. For certain‚ I am still a work in progress. I can relate to the challenges that entrepreneurs face in developing their businesses. It’s also made me enthusiastic about helping other business owners achieve their goals.

>One of the other things I bring to this position is empathy for just how emotionally and psychologically taxing it is to start a business. Entrepreneurs operate in a realm where so much is not under their control.

>My first real job was in finance. I went back to graduate school to get my doctorate. My focus there was the interface between organizational behavior and strategy. The way organizations interact with strategy interests me. One thing I noticed when working in finance was how little things would actually shape our ostensibly rational investment choices.

>There’s a planning element in strategy but a lot of strategy is unintentional. Things happen. The technical term is “emergent strategy.” And in entrepreneurship‚ there are aspects of this emergent strategy all the time. Sometimes, the product you’re selling is not even close to the product you originally envisioned. That’s the path of innovation and discovery.

>You can have great people in a terrible system or a great system with mediocre people. The great system is more likely to produce good results than the bad system with good people.

“What I’d like to do with Lehigh Ventures Lab is create structures that foster innovation and entrepreneurship.” - Andrew Hill

>The university’s leadership is committed to providing the structure for promoting entrepreneurship and innovation at Lehigh. Creating Lehigh Ventures Lab shows that commitment. Lehigh has made a choice about what kind of university it wants to be. I think Lehigh is so much better for having the Baker Institute‚ the Technical Entrepreneurship Master’s‚ Lehigh Silicon Valley‚ Lehigh Business entrepreneurship program and others that enable and empower entrepreneurs.

>Entrepreneurs are often motivated by a desire to improve the world. They don’t get enough credit for the social change that arises from their entrepreneurship. It’s inspiring to work with people who are both passionate about getting their technology out there‚ and are themselves engines of social change.

>If you look at entrepreneurs in this country, they often come from first- or second-generation immigrant families‚ and I see this multicultural aspect as a superpower of the
United States. When you walk around Lehigh and you see the diversity‚ you realize it’s an incredibly powerful asset for doing what we want to do with Lehigh Ventures Lab.

>When you watch films about business founders often the movie ends with the discovery of the great idea. Roll credits. In reality‚ ideas are easy. What comes next is the most difficult and interesting part—making the ideas a reality.

As told to Rob Gerth.

Lehigh Ventures Lab is a joint initiative between Lehigh College of Business and the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship‚ Creativity & Innovation.