Partnering with The Swartz Center

Origin Story - How It All Got Started

TL;DR The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University was established in 2015 from the support of Jim Swartz. Dave Mawhinney, Executive Director of The Swartz Center, talks about the university's journey towards expanding entrepreneurial education.

  • Dave Mawhinney worked to develop entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University
  • After continued effort from Dave and others, new leadership at CMU began to see the university experience as a combination of academics, research, and entrepreneurship
  • Jim Swartz, a Pittsburgh native and founder of Accel, became interested in building an entrepreneurial center at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Once proof of concept was established, Jim decided to invest in an entrepreneurial center 
  • In 2015, Jim donated $31 million to fund The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and support the university's commitment to entrepreneurial activities

While we all know the importance of entrepreneurship now, academics were quite different in the past. Luckily, as times change and new leadership arises, novel and audacious ideas have the spectacular opportunity to become reality. That is exactly what happened when The Swartz Center at Carnegie Mellon University began 10 years ago.

Dave Mawhinney initially propositioned Carnegie Mellon University in hopes of starting a comprehensive entrepreneurship program for students. He believed in the university's ability to showcase the pioneering spirit of go-getting students and wanted to provide resources for those who were interested in pursuing their dreams. 10 years ago, this became a reality when Dave and the new CMU leadership team began to see the university experience as a combination of 3 pillars.

3 Pillars Of The University Experience

    • Research & Scholarship
    • Teaching & Academics
    • Entrepreneurship 

    As entrepreneurship became recognized as the third pillar of the university experience, Dave saw an opening to make a recommendation. Dave suggested that the university combine the individual, siloed entrepreneurial centers on campus into one centralized unit that students could easily interact with. The first step was initially taken by the McKeown Foundation, funding the original concept and paving the way for other interested investors to get involved.

    Intro: Jim Swartz

    Jim Swartz was the founder of Accel, a global venture capital firm that works with startups in seed, early and growth-stage investments. Accel was the first investor in companies like Facebook and Slack. Their impressive list of investments also include companies like:

    As a Pittsburgh native, Jim Swartz saw the vision that Dave Mawhinney and the CMU leadership team had for an expansive entrepreneurial center but like any good investor, he needed proof that the concept could be successful. Dave and the Carnegie Mellon University team worked to build evidence that showed that an entrepreneurial center at CMU would not only be successful, but would be transformative for everyone involved. In 2015 Jim Swartz donated $31 million to support the university's commitment to entrepreneurial activities.

    We are now fortunate enough to have The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship as a result of Jim Swartz' commitment to the entrepreneurial success of students and the community. To learn more about Jim Swartz, check out his bio page at Accel. As always, feel free to reach out to to learn more!

    Adam Paulisick

    Founder at SKILLBUILDER & (fmr @BCG @Nielsen — acquired 3x). Prof @teppercmu, MHCI & exec ed at Gates School of Comp Sci. Founder @TheShopPgh

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