At the outset of the BrownTogether campaign, Jonathan M. Nelson ’77, P’07, P’09—founder and CEO of Providence Equity Partners—had a strong conviction.
He believed Brown was exceptionally well positioned to create a center for entrepreneurship that would capitalize on the interest in venture creation and problem solving that existed across the University.
“Brown is really good at interdepartmental collaborations,” says Nelson, who now serves as a fellow of Brown’s Corporation. “That's really important because innovation takes place at the interface of different disciplines. It was important that this center be at Brown, to do it the Brown way. In fact, I used to say that the surprising thing was not that we created a center for entrepreneurship, but that it hadn't been done before. The fit is so perfect.”
Prior to the launch of the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship in 2016, students developed their ideas through independent studies and collaborations across campus with the School of Engineering; the Program in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations (BEO); and the Swearer Center for Public Service, to name a few.
Successful ventures such as Casper Mattress, Rainwater for Humanity, 305 Fitness, and Premama maternity wellness products matured in this way. But, many at the University thought that uniting entrepreneurship resources and curriculum under one umbrella could attract a more diverse group of students and significantly expand the impact they could have on the world.
Five years—and additional campaign gifts from multiple donors—later, the Nelson Center is proving them right.