Andrew Hill Named Inaugural Director of the New Lehigh Ventures Lab

Lehigh establishes its first startup accelerator for pre-seed and seed-stage enterprises.

Andrew Hill, startup founder and former chair of strategic leadership and professor at the U. S. Army War College, has been named inaugural director of the new Lehigh Ventures Lab, a startup accelerator for founders in the early stages of launching their ventures.

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

Hill began his tenure July 25. His hiring also marked the launch of Lehigh Ventures Lab, which will drive entrepreneurship at the university, by supporting founders who are working full-time to take their products and services to market and developing the business model and strategy necessary to successfully acquire customers, raise capital and achieve product market fit.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill

Hill’s research interests focus on strategic analysis, and on the intersection of strategy, innovation and organizational behavior. He has been published in Harvard Business Review and top national security journals. He also brings experience as an entrepreneur, having joined Lehigh after co-founding a startup that provides training programs and content to nonprofit organizations.

"Andrew’s scholarship and deep expertise in strategy for innovation combined with his experience as a startup founder made him uniquely qualified to take on the role of inaugural director of Lehigh Ventures Lab,” said Lisa Getzler, Executive Director of the Baker Institute. “As we prepare to open the doors to Lehigh’s first startup accelerator, we are fortunate to have Andrew in place to not only establish a framework of operations and best practices as he develops the organization itself but also to design and develop the programmatic offerings and resources that will guide Lehigh's full time founders on a path toward success beyond anything we've been able to offer to date."

During his eight years at the U.S. Army War College, whose graduate level students are colonels and lieutenant colonels in the prime of their careers, Hill founded War Room, the online journal of the Army War College, and the Carlisle Scholars Program for a select group of senior leaders, who focus on consulting and advisory projects on current national security challenges. In 2014, he served as a special advisor to the head of the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response.

Hill holds a doctorate from Harvard Business School, a master's in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor's degree in Latin from Brigham Young University.

As director, Hill oversees all Lehigh Ventures Lab entrepreneurial support programs while cultivating relationships, growth, and deal flow in support of founders.

The launch of Lehigh Ventures Lab signals a new era of entrepreneurial resources at Lehigh, namely those that extend to alumni for the first time. The Baker Institute has long served as an incubator for entrepreneurship and innovation projects on campus and currently offers funding, mentoring and pitching opportunities to students who are starting businesses through its Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer '55 EUREKA! Venture Program. The Institute is also a hub on campus for all students who want to learn to think like an entrepreneur through its immersive, hands-on experiences, such as its flagship LehighSiliconValley program, now in its 12th year.

Lehigh’s College of Business also encourages students to explore entrepreneurship, offering an entrepreneurship and innovation track within its management major and partnering with Lehigh@NasdaqCenter to offer Startup Academy, a summer internship program for business students. Lehigh Business also offers a minor in entrepreneurship to students in any of Lehigh’s colleges.

Now, the partnership between the Baker Institute and Lehigh College of Business will maximize untapped potential for entrepreneurship by channeling resources to full-time founders at Lehigh Ventures Lab, which will be housed in the newly constructed Lehigh Business Innovation Building, set to open in late 2022.

"It's perfect that the Lehigh Ventures Lab is located in our new Business Innovation Building," said Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business. "Innovation is the foundation of entrepreneurship and this undertaking will drive entrepreneurship at the University to a new level.”

Lehigh Ventures Lab is designed not only to service full-time founders, but also to generate a pipeline of founders through resources tailored to support students and faculty with earlier stage ideas as they move their concepts forward.

The lab’s Boost program includes students and faculty with venture projects that are well beyond the idea stage. Many, if not most will have already utilized the Baker Institute’s resources available through the well known EUREKA! Pitch competitions, but now are in need of a more advanced level of support. Those who have been building ventures without the help of Baker resources will also be welcome to apply. Regardless of how they got to the point of readiness, the Boost Lab will help entrepreneurs build their teams, their company structures, their minimal viable products, and early business models to hopefully graduate into the Launch Program for full-time founders, Getzler said.

Full-time founders with companies that are operating at the pre-seed or seed stage of development will be ready for the Launch Program when they have a founding team, corporate structure, minimal viable product and early business model. Once accepted into Launch, they will have access to a solid support infrastructure and deep network to continue building a sustainable business model, further develop their product or service, achieve product market fit and prepare for seed-stage investments.

The program offers physical space; workshops, coaching and other resources in go-to-market strategy; access to knowledge networks in finance, management, marketing, technology and other areas; matching of student interns with ventures through Lehigh Business’ Startup Academy East; access to seed-stage investors; and guidance through a partnership with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Makers venture building program.

“When we formally open Lehigh Ventures Lab to our first group of entrepreneurs in residence, I want to provide them with effective and impactful resources and support,” said Hill. “Lehigh has for some time now been engaged in a number of impactful activities that encourage entrepreneurship. Lehigh Ventures Lab will extend support for entrepreneurship after a student graduates, but I also think Ventures Lab has an important role to play in working with faculty members and graduate students who want to create businesses built on their research. Right now, I'm learning as much as I can as we develop our initial operating concept for Lehigh Ventures Lab.”

Initial funding for Lehigh Ventures Lab is through the newly established Thalheimer Enterprise Alliance, an expansion of the Baker Institute’s resources under benefactor Joan F. Thalheimer and her late husband John M. Thalheimer '55. The Alliance’s purpose is to support students during the later stages in the idea-to-enterprise continuum, elevating and expanding the scope of entrepreneurial endeavors at Lehigh in ways far beyond what’s possible today.

Hill’s hiring as director comes after a group of Lehigh alumni participated in a comprehensive design sprint and planning session this spring, led by Baker Institute 2022 Farrington Award honoree Jamie Flinchbaugh '94 '24P '26P. The working group consisted of Sue Baggott '83, Moe Rinkunus '02, '04G '14G; Wayne Barz '87, '03G, '19P; Scott Gruninger '20; and Kimmy Paluch.

This summer, the lab’s Boost program was itself “prototyped” as three graduating Lehigh student entrepreneurs, Brian Quispe '20 '22G, Sareena Karim '22, Giana Jarrah '22 worked closely with Flinchbaugh to further develop their ventures and test out the Boost support model for future cohorts of students in the program.

Quispe is the co-founder of Ocutrap, a smart animal capture system. Quispe and his co-founder Graham Patterson ’20 won the Baker Institute's Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer '55 Grand Prize in 2021 – the top honor awarded annually by the Institute to student founders in its EUREKA! Venture Program. Ocutrap is now accepting pre-orders.

Karim '22 launched her venture Foli-Q in 2020. The company sells personalized hair care products, including an advanced bioengineered hair testing service to customers with various hair-care needs.

Jarrah was the Baker Institute’s winner of the Joan F and John M Thalheimer '55 EUREKA Grand Prize this past April, earning $5,000 for her venture With Meraki Co., a probiotic supplement designed to support women's urinary and vaginal health. Her grand prize earnings combined with Boost funding and mentorship this summer have helped Jarrah prepare for her first launch of product to consumers this month.

Lehigh Ventures Lab is on track to welcome its first full-time founders in 2023. The Baker Institute and Lehigh College of Business will host a launch celebration on campus during the fall 2022 semester.

Story by Brittany Pierzga

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