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Farley Center Year in Review: 2017-2018

Northwestern's Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation


During the last academic year, Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation saw record enrollment growth. This growth was bolstered, in part, by seven new entrepreneurship courses, the launch of a full-fledged Undergraduate Minor in Entrepreneurship, and the hosting of over 70 student-facing events that featured notable guest speakers, many of whom were NU alumni. Increased student diversity across all schools and student backgrounds during the past year is a hallmark of this enrollment growth and correlates with the center’s focused efforts to expand its educational initiatives in the areas of creative and artistic entrepreneurship, marketing, personal branding, and socially-impactful entrepreneurship.

Farley Center enrollment growth from 2017 to 2018

RAPID Growth

In the  2017-18 academic year, Northwestern University’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation saw its largest increase in student enrollment since its endowment in 2007. Up from serving 519 undergraduate and graduate Northwestern students in the 2016-2017 academic year, the Farley Center served 743 students between Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. These numbers reflect a 50% enrollment increase over the previous year.

Farley Center's total enrollment from 2001 through 2018

Farley Center’s enrollment increase is accompanied by an increased diversity of students taking our entrepreneurship courses. Up 10% from the previous year, women students now comprise approximately 40% of all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Farley Center courses.

Farley Center enrollment data by gender


The number of undergraduate versus graduate students has also increased, meaning that a more diverse array of students at various grade levels are pursuing FCEI’s entrepreneurship education courses.

Farley Center enrollment data by grade level

As in previous years, Farley Center courses continued to see increased attendance by schools outside as well as inside of the McCormick School of Engineering, the Farley Center’s home school. Enrollment data in eight NU schools, including the Engineering School, showed the notable increases from 2016-17 to 2017-18:

 Farley Center enrollment by school comparison of 2017 versus 2018

For FCEI, record enrollment growth and diversity increases signify that diversification of Farley Center programming and initiatives are resonating with a wider pool of NU students. Additionally, the data suggests that the growing trend of students interested in university-level entrepreneurial education opportunities is finding roots across all schools, grades, majors, and backgrounds. As recent 2018 data shows, diversity within business teams leads to higher profitability and value creation for businesses and is a healthy component of any entrepreneurial endeavor.

Farley Center Faculty Highlights

Farley Center’s leading faculty of expert entrepreneurs and innovators continued to impress in their fields. The following are a few FCEI faculty highlights that caught worldwide attention in 2017-2018:

NEW Courses and Initiatives

With a total of 22 entrepreneurship-focused courses—including seven newly launched courses and/or courses featuring redesigned curricula—plus the creation and launch of a new Undergraduate Minor in Entrepreneurship in Winter 2018, the Farley Center continues to improve its offerings to meet the growing demand generated by the entrepreneurial-minded students across all schools on campus.

New FCEI courses unveiled in the past year include:

Farley Center’s new courses spearhead a growing variety of entrepreneurship avenues emerging globally including creative entrepreneurship, socially impactful entrepreneurship, personal branding, marketing, design, entrepreneurial management, and emerging biotechnologies. These new courses deliver the skills and experiential learning opportunities that appeal to all Northwestern students working in all fields of study.

NOTABLE Events and Guest Speakers

Farley Center's Ice Cream Social event was a popular spring event that introduced a number of students to our center and our famous Farley Center unicorn mascot

Throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, the Farley Center hosted over 70 student-facing events in collaboration with student groups and other departments, featuring leading industry experts and entrepreneurs. As part of Farley Center’s continued outreach efforts, our events have engaged and educated thousands of students and members from the local community. These attendance numbers indicate a healthy and rapidly growing interest in entrepreneurship among the Northwestern student base and surrounding NU community while also reflecting the Farley Center’s persistent efforts to provide students with the skills and practical knowledge they need to succeed in their future endeavors.

Farley Center and Black House members meet to discuss diversity issues in the entrepreneurship environment

A number of notable guest speakers visited Northwestern to share their personal experiences and advice with Farley Center students:

NUvention: Wearables faculty with guest speaker, Facebook's Erick Tseng (second from left)

After attending a Farley Center guest speaker event, students leave with practical business advice and insights they can directly apply to the startups or class projects/school work they were working on.

IMPACTFUL Entrepreneur-In-Residence

The Farley Center seeks to ensure that students benefit from Northwestern’s vast ecosystem of innovators and entrepreneurs. Our Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) program provides one-to-one meetings in which participating students receive coaching, networking, and guidance from alumni and industry experts involved in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Farley Center EIRs come from a variety of backgrounds including successful startups, large established companies, angel and venture investment firms, and the local community. The program allows students to start conversations with EIRs, and give them the opportunity to develop ongoing business relationships with prolific industry leaders.

This year’s EIR, Taphandles' Founder/CEO and double NU alum, Paul Fichter (BS ‘94, MMM ‘97), visited Northwestern's campus in May 2018. As the well-versed owner of a company that generates upwards of $25 million annually in sales revenue, Fichter was able to provide students with valuable, personal insights about the experiences he had during his own university career that allowed him to spearhead a successful venture post-graduation. Fichter spoke about how he positioned his company, Taphandles, as a “beer storyteller” in ENTREP 395, Storytelling for Business. He also offered one-on-one business mentorship to several current NU students involved in the startup space, giving them feedback on their strengths and weaknesses and growing their communication and managerial skills. Helpful business networks like these keep entrepreneurial students connected to Northwestern and supported in lasting ways.


Snapshot of EPIC's 2017-2018 members
The Farley Center remains committed to supporting student-led initiatives for furthering entrepreneurial interests and efforts. Invigorated with winning the Entrepreneurship Club of the Year award from Future Founders in April of 2017, student entrepreneurship group, EPIC, continued its 2017-2018 academic year with the same boundless enthusiasm that earned them top recognition the previous year. EPIC continued its mission to broaden its student and community member engagement through their flagship events including WildHacks, Launch, Sprout, and Nest. Seeing considerable increases in membership year-over-year, EPIC continues to grow its event profile with improved/targeted events that impact NU’s student entrepreneurs. Farley Center’s continued commitment to EPIC allows student involvement in entrepreneurial activities to extend beyond the classroom and further create opportunities for experiential learning in a real-world business setting.

GROUNDBREAKING VentureCat 2018 Results

VentureCat's 2018 winning prizes went to Farley Center alumni

Northwestern’s annual flagship entrepreneurship event, VentureCat, showcases Northwestern’s most innovative and promising student startups. A pitch competition that features a prize fund of over $100,000, student teams of graduates and undergraduates network, rehearse and pitch their businesses to panels consisting of prolific judges well-known for being leading experts in their respective industries. As in previous years, this year’s teams that performed exceptionally well in the preliminary rounds were named semifinalists and were selected to compete in “industry tracks” pre-designated business specializations including B2B, B2C, Energy + Sustainability, Food + Beverage, Life Sciences + Medical Innovations, Social Impact + Nonprofit.

First-place winners in each industry track then took the main stage for the highly-publicized VentureCat finals to compete for the competition’s grand prize in front of an audience of hundreds of students, alums, and investors.

This year, the top three finishers at the finals were all Farley Center alumni: NUMiX, BrewBike, and Rhaeos.

SUCCESSFUL Startup Milestones

A number of Farley Center startups continued to hit impressive business milestones during the 2017-2018 year.

Ullo's CEO, James Kornacki, and CTO, Joe Rasosavich enjoyed another successful year in 2018

PREPARED for Next Year

Looking ahead to the 2018-19 academic year, Farley Center remains committed to equipping Northwestern’s students with the experiences and the practical skills they need to succeed in a multitude of business environments.

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