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NH's New Leadership: Ian Grant
 
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017

So an art student, a techie and an engineer wannabe walk into a building …

If the building happens to be at the University of NH, it’s likely all three have come to see Ian Grant, who has made it his mission to bring together students from different disciplines to brainstorm, learn creative problem-solving and, perhaps, become entrepreneurs.

Grant is the first director of the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center, commonly called the ECenter, which—though just a year old—has grown rapidly. Created with financial assistance from Peter T. Paul and the Wildcatalysts Network, the center has seen interactions with students, faculty and alumni  grow from 2,000 its first semester to more than 4,000 in the second semester.

The center is unique in that it is independent of the business school, and students who use it receive no academic credit. Rather, they, as well as university faculty, staff and alumni, can avail themselves of free coaching from experienced entrepreneurs, boot camps on multiple subjects, “hackathons” on problem-solving and a variety of grants to help fund potential projects.

Students also have access to the center’s makerspace with laser and vinyl cutters, 3D printers, sewing machines, tools and more to help bring ideas to fruition. It also has an Idea Connection Board where seekers use old-fashioned index cards to connect ideas looking for people and people looking for ideas. Grant says the board is intentionally low-tech to encourage students to interact.

Grant embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. A high-energy entrepreneur who sleeps just five hours a night, “my most productive times are from 1:30 to 3 a.m.,” he says.

He founded or co-founded three companies that were acquired and led innovation projects within Fortune 500 corporations.

Many students are following suit. Plaques on one wall of the center show logos from the businesses started by student entrepreneurs. Other plaques feature the logos from some of the 3,600 UNH alumni who have founded, co-founded or started their own businesses.

Grant says he likes to have such reminders for students and others that “it’s okay to get out of your comfort zone.”


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