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Next-Generation Workforce

January 7, 2019
man standing in front of trees

Jack Mason aims to impact future generations as chief operating officer of UW’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

By Micaela Myers

As a successful intrapreneur and entrepreneur, Jack Mason founded eight businesses, including a firm in Boulder, Colo., that provided an electronic commerce platform and services to support energy procurement. Mason led the acquisition of more than 30 Fortune 1000 clients and fundraising of $1.1 million in venture capital. In another example, he led the turnaround of a $50 million public firm. The list goes on. But he left all of that to have a larger impact on the next generation of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs—an intrapreneur is an employee who promotes innovation and creates new ventures from within the organization.

“I thought it’s about impact at this point in my career,” says Mason, who will serve as the University of Wyoming’s chief operating officer of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE). “I think teaching them how to think and act like entrepreneurs is a huge value we can bring to these students and graduates.”

Did generations before ever think Uber, Amazon and Airbnb would be the successes of today? His message to students: “There are things you’re going to deal with in the middle of your career 20 years from now that you can’t even imagine, and a lot of companies really want employees who will help them reinvent themselves.” Whether students want to start their own businesses or not, thinking entrepreneurially will help them succeed in the business world, he says.

Mason holds doctoral and master’s degrees in engineering and a master’s degree in management. Most recently, he served as director of entrepreneurial studies at the Palumbo Donahue School of Business Administration at Duquesne University, where he redesigned and repositioned the program over the past five years. Before that, he taught at the University of Colorado.

Because of Wyoming’s support for UW and entrepreneurship efforts, Mason believes the IIE can have a broad and significant impact across the state. The IIE aims to help create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, including enhanced public-private partnerships, best-of-class technology transfer and commercialization, innovations and more university-based startup companies. You can read more about the IIE here.

Mason’s position at UW began in November, and his first task was to meet with stakeholders internally and throughout the state to develop a strategic plan for the institute. Like a startup, the IIE will grow and change over time.

“The plan won’t be cast in concrete forever,” Mason says. “Being entrepreneurial means we have to try some stuff and see how it works out. Each year there will be an opportunity to review progress and adjust.”

While the IIE will help generate new startups, the affiliated curriculum and hands-on learning will also produce a more prepared workforce, Mason says.

Part of his research has looked at knowledge-based services including banking, finance, insurance, management, law, engineering, architecture, education, higher-value components of health care, arts and entertainment, and sports—businesses that don’t produce a physical product. “About 40 percent of all businesses and about 27 percent of the workforce are involved in the knowledge economy,” Mason says, noting this is one area where the state can grow. “With these kinds of businesses, you could live and work in Wyoming but create value globally.”

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