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Published November 08, 2018
A successful businessman who has personally founded multiple companies and helped establish many more has been hired to serve as chief operating officer of the University of Wyoming’s new Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE).
Jack Mason, who most recently was director of entrepreneurial studies at the Palumbo Donahue School of Business Administration at Duquesne University, began his work at UW this week.
The IIE aims to help create a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem across the university and the state, including enhanced public-private partnerships, best-of-class technology transfer and commercialization, innovations and more university-based startup companies.
Mason earned his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to earn a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in engineering from MIT. At Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, he redesigned and repositioned the entrepreneurial studies program over the past five years. Before that, he taught at the University of Colorado.
Mason entered academia with a goal of sharing his expertise with the next generation.
“I thought it’s about impact at this point in my career,” Mason says. “I think teaching students how to think and act like entrepreneurs is a huge value we can bring to them.”
Mason comes to UW as a successful intrapreneur and entrepreneur. An intrapreneur is an employee who promotes innovation and creates new ventures from within the organization. Mason has 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. He served as principal of the energy and management consulting firm Mason Energy and Management, vice president of E Source LLC, chief executive and founder of Energy Window Inc., senior vice president of Indus International and principal of PRISM Consulting Inc.
As part of the IIE, principles of entrepreneurship will be embedded and integrated across campus. Students will learn to be agile and adaptable to help lead the businesses of tomorrow.
Mason’s 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.
Because of Wyoming’s support for UW and entrepreneurship efforts, Mason believes the IIE can have a broad and significant impact across the state.
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.”
His first task is 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.”