Kevin Gadd served as director of information technology commercialization at TechColumbus from September 2007 to August 2010. During that time, Gadd says he advised more than 200 companies on growth and commercialization strategies and helped his client companies raise more than $5 million.
However, Gadd, a Lewis Center resident, wanted to do more to help businesses reach their goals and in July he founded Venture Highway, an online resource for entrepreneurs.
“Prior to TechColumbus I had started and led a national mentoring program for the Air National Guard, so I wanted the new business to focus on mentoring, too,” he says.
“NCT [Ventures] had been thinking of funding a company devoted to entrepreneurial education and they had some curriculum already created over their years of growing successful companies,” he continues. “We discussed our aligned goals and my passion to help entrepreneurs, and the idea was born for Venture Highway. Our mission is to continue creating more successful entrepreneurs through education, tools, resources, and coaching.”
Read our interview with Gadd to learn what he plans to add to the Venture Highway website in the months ahead, who can benefit from the site, and how the Venture Highway system can be adapted for the classroom.
Melanie McIntyre: Venture Highway went live December 30th. What is currently available on the website?
Kevin Gadd: We have opened up the first two modules of our curriculum: Innovation and Viability. There is a lot of great information in those modules to help people come up with innovative ideas to start a business and then to test whether it is a viable business. Each page also has a lot of great resources to further explain the concepts and add value. We have spent a lot of time researching the best resources. We also have our bookstore, blog, and a few other pages talking about our offline services.
MM: What will be available on the site as this year unfolds?
KG: We will add technology tools to aid in the Innovation and Viability modules. These will help the entrepreneur innovate for new ideas. Then, as they test the viability of those ideas, they will record those key learnings in the database. The tools will make it easier for them to create a venture summary. We are also adding a business document library and a better resource library.
Next, we should see the first undergraduate entrepreneurship classes using curriculum developed with Professor Sharon Alvarez at Ohio State University and utilizing our platform as the online textbook. Then, we plan to add a very cool tool to allow professors to more easily select and utilize this curriculum in classrooms teaching undergraduate courses in entrepreneurship. Later in the year, we will add the content, tools, and resources for our other modules: Planning, Operations, and Exit.
MM: You say the Venture Highway system can be adapted for the college classroom. What makes it adaptable?
KG: In the classroom, students need to innovate for a new idea and test the viability of that idea in a relatively short period of time. They need to capture the things that they find during research and share this information among team members, too. Normally, the students must also create a business plan or at least a business summary.
Using technology tools to augment the curriculum helps to make this process smoother and more successful. We also provide so many external resources that the students can use to better understand complicated ideas. Also, we can allow the professors to upload material that is specific to their course quickly.
MM: Can you talk a bit more about those technology tools you mentioned?
KG: Right now, those tools are being finished in development. We plan to release these over the next couple months. The tools will allow our members to capture valuable information as they go through the process.
One tool takes key information and displays it in a way that helps the entrepreneur see connections that might lead to a new venture idea. Another tool will make it easier to record and use valuable data in the creation of the venture summary. This helps the entrepreneur to continue growing and validating their idea. They can easily include team members, coaches, incubators, or investors in the process, too.
For students, they can use this information for a subsequent class on entrepreneurship or to really start a business. They can continue to update the information and add other resources to their team.
MM: Tell me a bit about working with Ohio State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
KG: The center played a big part in the formulation of many of the ideas and content in our curriculum. Rich Langdale helped to found the center and spent a couple years there making it successful, so we have great contacts there still. We continue to work with professors at the center to update and enhance our content. Professor Alvarez leads our curriculum development for universities. We are also involved in the business plan competition. This helps us to stay in touch with the academic leaders, as well as young practitioners of this very important subject.
MM: How much does it cost to use the Venture Highway system?
KG: Right now, the entire site is open and free. As we add the technology tools over the next couple months, we will begin charging for access to Module 2: Viability. This will cost $100. Students will get a discount to use the curriculum that is designed for undergraduate education.
MM: Who is the ideal Venture Highway user?
KG: Right now, it is someone that is looking to become an entrepreneur. This includes undergraduate students in entrepreneurship. Our Innovation and Viability modules are designed to help someone come up with potential ideas and test to see if they should make the leap. Our resources and tools are designed specifically to help those folks. Soon, we will focus on undergraduate professors in entrepreneurship. We think we can really help them have better classes and more successful students.
MM: Is there anything else you think I should know?
KG: One thing you might notice is that we capitalize the word “entrepreneur.” This is on purpose. It is our way of showing that this profession needs more value, especially these days when small business creation is widely viewed as the primary way to grow the economy.
To learn more about Venture Highway, visit VentureHighway.com.