Boston College is latest university to form entrepreneurship center

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Entrepreneurship is trending in Boston, and universities are rushing to join the party. The latest is Boston College, which plans to open the new Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship this winter.

The center was established with a donation from the family of Shea, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who died in 2010 at age 80. His notable investments included Adobe, Compaq, Activision, and Peet’s Coffee & Tea.

Boston College plans to officially open the center in December or January, executive director Jere Doyle said Thursday. In the meantime, it has assembled a staff and is planning a pair of warm-up events in the fall.

Once opened, the Shea Center will be a space for undergraduate and graduate students to study entrepreneurship and prepare for starting their own companies or joining a startup after graduation. The center also plans to be a focal point for entrepreneurship research at the school.

Doyle, who has founded marketing companies and is an investor and advisor to young companies, said his activity in the startup world convinced him that BC needed to ramp up its efforts.

“I started talking to some of the administration at Boston College and said, `we’ve got to do more with entrepreneurship at BC,'” Doyle said at an event for Soaring Startup Circle, a startup accelerator created by BC alumni.

The same idea has caught on around the greater Boston area’s higher-education sector in recent years, and Doyle said he spent time at Harvard to gain insight into launching the new BC effort.

Harvard’s Innovation Lab was founded in late 2011 as a resource for its students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation, offering office space, startup coaching, and guest speakers. Some of its notable alumni include on-demand home-services startup Handy and personal assistant service Hello Alfred.

Northeastern University’s IDEA, a student-run venture accelerator, was founded in 2009. The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, meanwhile, has been around since 1990, while Babson College has operated a highly ranked entrepreneurship graduate program for many years.

The spread of college entrepreneurship programs is spurred in part by the current surge in tech startup investment: more than 3,000 startups have been created in the Boston area in the past seven years, according to online investment service AngelList.

Colleges hope that formal entrepreneurship centers can keep those entrepreneurs in the fold, rather than seeing them flee campus to pursue their dreams — two of Harvard’s more famous dropouts are Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Boston College already lays claim to some startup success stories, including liquor-store delivery app company Drizly, which was co-founded by two alums. On its website, the school says that it has tracked more than $100 million in startup funding for companies launched by recent graduates.

Doyle said the Shea Center hopes to boost that track record.

“The idea is to really teach students at Boston College and expose them to entrepreneurs,” he said. “My big belief is there is truly only one way to learn entrepreneurship. That’s by hearing other entrepreneurs.”