College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering

Putting Knowledge to Work


By Joel Hoekstra

Five CSE alumni harnessed their education and entrepreneurial ambitions to start new businesses and transform existing industries

Entrepreneurs and gamblers have at least one thing in common: they’re willing to take risks. Sometimes those risks are calculated. Sometimes they’re based on nothing more than gut instincts. But the entrepreneur who takes the right chances—like the gambler who bets everything—stands to win big.

Alumni are among those who have bet the house at one point in their life—launching businesses on a shoestring, and investing their careers in technologies they felt could change the world. Collectively, alumni in the College of Science and Engineering have founded more than 4,000 active companies located worldwide, employing 551,000 people and generating annual revenues of $90 billion. In Minnesota alone, they have founded 2,600 active companies that employ more than 175,000 and generate about $46 billion in annual revenues.

Their experiences, like their backgrounds, vary considerably. But such differences matter little when you look for the common thread in their tales: all of them took risks and hard work to transform a great idea into a viable business. The five College of Science and Engineering graduates profiled here saw their education pay off.

Harold Hamilton: Listening Is Key

Jeff Dean: Google’s Unsung Hero

Jason Xiangbing Li: Building Better Batteries

Larry Lehtinen: A Life in Metal

Prem Jain: India’s Air Conditioning Expert

On July 1, 2010 the Institute of Technology changed its name to the College of Science and Engineering.