Best Buy Co. Inc. founder Dick Schulze, who has pledged to give away up to $1 billion of his fortune to charity and education, is targeting entrepreneurship as one of his family foundation's initiatives.
The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation plans to spend about $500,000 annually in student scholarships, faculty support and a free online "innovation exchange" for budding entrepreneurs to connect with ideas from successful business owners and academic experts.
"Emerging entrepreneurs, especially those like me who came from working-class backgrounds, don't have ready access to the current thinking and tools to meet the rigors involved in launching a new venture," Schulze, who did not graduate from college, said in a prepared statement announcing the effort Monday. "We hope to change that through this initiative."
The "connective tissue" of the Schulze foundation's entrepreneurship initiative is the Entrepreneur & Innovation Exchange (www.eiexchange.com). The free online-and-interactive platform will be edited by Jim Wetherbe, an entrepreneurship professor at Texas Tech University.
"It brings pathbreaking research and ideas forward in a matter of days and weeks, rather than months and years, and it makes full use of Internet and social media technology to bring those ideas alive for everyone to access and use," Wetherbe said in a prepared statement.
The program also provides annual $50,000 research stipends to several professors over a three-year renewable term. Four recipients already have been selected at the University of Minnesota, Stanford University, Northeastern University and the University of Wisconsin.
The Schulze Foundation initiative is in addition to Schulze's support for the University of St. Thomas. Schulze donated $50 million more than a decade ago to found the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. He is a longtime board member and continuing supporter through his foundation.
Many business schools have embraced, to varying degrees, entrepreneurship and the whys-and-hows of turning a better idea or technological innovation into a commercial success as part of their curriculum.
Brad Lehrman, a veteran attorney who works with entrepreneurs, said the Schulze Foundation initiative will strengthen the innovation ecosystem and aid economic growth.
And Virteva CEO Tom Kieffer, a veteran IT entrepreneur, recalled that entrepreneurship wasn't taught when he earned an MBA at the University of Minnesota 35 years ago.
"Like any new business science, the support, resources and education supporting it are hard to find," said Kieffer of studying entrepreneurship and learning from successes and failures. "The work the Schulze Foundation is doing is Minnesota pragmatic and universally important as we advance the art and science of entrepreneurship."
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144