Towson University is getting more serious about entrepreneurship on campus, and Frank Bonsal III will play a big role in that new focus.
Bonsal has served as interim director for TowsonGlobal, the university's business incubator, since June. Earlier this month, he became the university's first director of entrepreneurship.
He'll work with faculty and staff to develop entrepreneurial learning activities that can take place both in and out of the classroom, developing curriculum and overseeing initiatives for students to start businesses.
At a time when entrepreneurs likely have backgrounds as disparate as software engineers and educators, health care professionals and artists, the goal is to provide entrepreneurial experience for all students, not just those with business-related majors, Bonsal said.
And it's a good time to start a business — technology, software, cyber security and health care are hot — because of the availability of co-working facilities, incubators, mentor and angel networks and Small Business Administration loans.
Bonsal will continue to head TowsonGlobal and work part time in his job as a venture partner with New Markets Venture Partners in Fulton and with Bonsal Capital, which invests in education technology and service companies.
The thought of starting a business may never have occurred to many college students. Why is it important for students to have some exposure to and/or experience with entrepreneurship?
Millennials change professional roles today every 4.5 years. They expect work-from-home flexibility, social impact, closer workplace connections. Change is constant.
A student who has the flexibility to build her own business and succeed versus constantly look for employment has independence, fortitude, peace of mind.
Entrepreneurship rates have risen to their highest levels in more than a decade, according to recent studies. Why do you think that's the case?
Entrepreneurship fosters economic and social independence. It is cheaper and easier to start a business than ever before.
It induces a greater connection to an end user, an increased impact and purpose, increased wealth and workplace flexibility potential as sustainability and scale are attained. Most startups are lifestyle businesses that are sustained or morph into something else. Entrepreneurs are today's greatest job, wealth and ecosystem creators.
What is the best source of ideas for a new business? What is the worst idea you have heard that turned into a successful business? Why do some seemingly great ideas end up failing?
The best business ideas are born from experience, from real problems, from deep, investigative research into the needs of people, communities, and institutions or enterprises, from white-boarding or ideation sessions with willing participants.
I focus more on markets and people more than good or bad ideas. The right team will find the right idea. Businesses fail because of people, poor planning or lack of execution on a plan and an inability to focus or pivot/refocus.
Have you ever started your own business? If so, what were some mistakes you learned from?
Not in the classic sense. I started some summer learning and sports-related experiences in [my] high school and college days; one of them is sustained even today.
I co-founded two venture capital funds that are fulfilling most expectations. Focus and vision are everything and the ability to step outside the box and assess people, passion, performance and alignment of the same.
What is one thing most people do not know about you?
I am right dominant, was an ambidextrous [lacrosse] midfielder in high school and college but played goalie [left-handed] up to that point.
Frank Bonsal III
Title: Director of Entrepreneurship, Towson University / Venture Partner, New Markets Venture Partners
Previous job: St. Paul's School for Boys
Education: Vanderbilt (MBA./ M.Ed.), UNH (B.A.)
Residence: Baltimore County
Family: Wife (Helen Baker Bonsal), and three children
Hobbies/interests: Sporadic golf, tennis and fishing / education innovation and philanthropyCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun