U-M’s MADE Program Aims to Train Entrepreneurs in Developing Nations

This week, the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute announced a new program called Michigan Academy for the Development of Entrepreneurs (MADE), which aims to help business owners in developing nations to grow and thrive.

The program, which has been established in partnership with the William Davidson Institute and Aparajitha Foundations, will work with local entrepreneurial development organizations (EDOs) in developing countries to share knowledge and best practices with company founders to help them move their businesses forward.

MADE is led by U-M alum Mike Pape,  a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded several life science companies, including Esperion Therapeutics, which went on the be acquired by Pfizer in 2004 for $1.3 billion, and Durham, NC-based drug discovery firm Nymirum.

“With MADE, we want to create a platform that could be adopted by an EDO and make it repeatable, scalable, and transferrable,” he says. The idea is that entrepreneurs trained through the program will go on to start their own EDOs and share what they’ve learned with other business owners.

MADE first came about after a series of meetings between the William Davidson Institute’s Paul Clyde and Aparajitha Foundations’ Bharath Krishna Sankar. Sankar, a successful entrepreneur himself, had been running his own program in India training 30 people at a time, which Pape describes as “quite a load for one person” on top of running a business full-time.

Pape says part of what made Sankar’s task tough was the enormous amount of time spent writing grant applications to get funding, which is typical of entrepreneurial training programs. What differentiates MADE, Pape adds, is that it’s intended to be profitable.

“We want to implement a model that entrepreneurs in emerging economies would pay for because it has such value,” he explains. “We want to bring the depth and breadth of the University of Michigan’s resources to develop a platform that could be utilized across cultures. MADE is itself entrepreneurial because we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before.”

Oftentimes, when a university conducts entrepreneurial training overseas, Pape says, it sends its most esteemed faculty and delivers the programming in English. That has a self-selecting effect, he says—the programs tend to attract people who are fluent in English and perhaps have already been exposed to some of concepts being taught. With MADE, the intention is to hire local coaches to perform training in the local language while U-M provides curated educational materials.

“We can help diagnose challenges and opportunities using pretty standard business frameworks,” Pape says, describing a five-step process that mimics the doctor-patient relationship. Coaches will first take a company’s “vitals” to get a baseline picture of the organization, diagnose its challenges, prescribe and test solutions, implement the solutions, and measure the outcomes. “We want to tie in the local community through EDOs, which will have insights into the nuances of local laws and regulations.”

The MADE program will launch in India in mid-2018, after finishing the research necessary to flesh out the curriculum. Two teams of business school students have already traveled to India to conduct extensive interviews and tease out the entrepreneurial landscape on the ground, and a third team will be heading there soon. As part of U-M’s emphasis on action-based learning, students will not just work on projects but will help run MADE, with Pape providing continuity from year to year.

Pape says MADE has also identified people interested in establishing future EDOs through the combined networks of the Zell Lurie Institute, the William Davidson Institute, and Aparajitha Foundations, plus Pape’s personal contacts. A significant number of U-M graduates return to their home countries after they finish college, and MADE hopes to bring some of them into the fold as well.

Across the globe, Pape points out, there are all kinds of different entrepreneurs. Some start businesses for subsistence purposes, some start them to address unmet needs in the community, and others just want to be their own boss. In the West, he says, we’re used to what he calls “win the world” entrepreneurs who are fighting to develop a product or service that is the best of the best.

“Ours is an expansive program, but we probably won’t focus much on win the world types,” he says. “We really believe MADE needs to be evidence-based—not just what we want it to be, but something that has been tested and refined. It’s particularly important for us as Westerners to listen to what [participants] want. We’ll have an online presence, but we want the EDO websites to be in the home country’s language so it really connects and resonates.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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