Regina Ryan: Taking Great Ideas and Helping Them Become Successful Companies
Hi there, my name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist hanging out on Planet Earth. Today I’m interviewing Regina Ryan, the President of the Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs.
Spiffy: Welcome, Regina! What can you tell me about the work you do at the Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs?
Regina: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs takes great ideas and helps them become successful companies. We do this through a simple strategy: connect entrepreneurs, empower them to build a community, and offer the tools, resources and expertise to grow faster and better. Being an entrepreneur is tough. However, entrepreneurs are resilient. Our goal is to focus on getting them past the hurdles and looking to the future because we know that entrepreneurs have what it takes to make a real impact in the world.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Regina: I've been an entrepreneur all my life. It can be exhilarating and lonely. Finding like-minded people and trusted counsel hasn't always been easy. Finding like-minded female entrepreneurs was nearly impossible. A couple of years before I went to Harvard, I had to 'pull the plug' on my startup. I was devastated. That experience is the reason why I do what I do today. I wanted to build a global network of people who understood 'the journey'—the ups and downs; that failure is inevitable and okay. A group to share stories with and learn from, to help other entrepreneurs... and to have some fun.
Spiffy: How is the organization working towards a more equitable world?
Regina: Working towards a more equitable world is hard and important work. We have intentionally diversified our leadership, programming and speakers. We sponsored a special series about the challenges faced by black entrepreneurs, how bias affects every aspect of their journey, and how investors, founders, and companies can be catalysts for change. We launched an internship program for female college students. An equitable world also means access to knowledge: free membership, a podcast series featuring inspirational entrepreneurs—and we have a YouTube Channel where we post many of our webinars. There's still more to be done.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative and the impact it makes.
Regina: A great idea can happen at any time and any place. In order to help great ideas become successful companies, we launched our first ten-week virtual Accelerator Program (2022). Ten promising early-stage startups were selected from a field of 136 applications from 22 countries. During the Accelerator program, each of the ten startups were able to raise money that will help grow their companies.
Spiffy: Tell me about a startup or project you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make.
Regina: Women’s inequality is still a big business problem. Women are still underrepresented in key fields. However, for a growing number of women, the fastest route to being in business is launching their own business. The HAE Innovation Fellowship, in collaboration with Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business, was a six-week program for ten undergraduate students to get real-world work experience. They worked at startups on meaningful projects, participated in weekly speaker series on innovation, and blogged about their experience with our community.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Regina: Starting and running a business can be a lonesome pursuit, but it doesn't have to be. Recognize that camaraderie and collaboration are essential ingredients for a successful venture.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Regina—it’s been an honor!
Regina Ryan is President of the Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs, a role she has held since 2012. Prior to this role, she led a number of start-ups primarily in the education/learning sector. She has held management positions in higher education, technology and interactive services, trade associations, and nonprofit organizations. Currently, Regina is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Brookstreet Capital Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm based in London. (First published on the Ladderworks website on July 19, 2022.)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.