• WPI has named Jim Giza, entrepreneur and former vice president of technology at KAYAK, as the university’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence. In this role, Giza will interact with undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni to identify early-stage technology startups and guide them through WPI’s Tech Advisors Network (TAN) to help accelerate company growth.
“Jim Giza is spending time networking with entities across the state. Through that, he is identifying candidates for TAN,” says Mark Rice, vice provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WPI. “His primary focus is on UMass Medical Center, and how to connect WPI to medical people to create new medical products.
“The growth of interest from alumni in entrepreneurism and innovation has been accelerating so fast, we’re trying to get volunteers to take control of these initiatives. Jim Giza is one of the key networkers and will manage the internal processes.”
Giza, who earned a master’s degree in computer science from WPI in 1995, is a founder and past vice president of technology at KAYAK, holding a technology leadership role with the company from its inception through its initial public offering and eventual acquisition. He is also principal owner of Throughput LLC, a consulting business for early stage startups.
While at KAYAK, Giza first visited WPI’s Career Development Center, then started attending the Tech Advisors Network meetings. “It has a lot of early-stage startups,” he says of the TAN program. “I’m a startup guy. The whole point of TAN is connections.”
“As I see the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, a large part will be getting companies into TAN,” Giza says. “A lot of people come through here [WPI] with ideas, but don’t know how to implement them. … I want to see more stuff happening in Worcester, and I want to see grads staying in Worcester. There are a lot of people looking for resources, and don’t know where to find them. I’m trying to find structure for them, and I want to help the School of Business. For me, it’s great to see these companies come through here. I want to see a few successes come out of TAN.”
TAN is a virtual incubator comprising about 40 entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders who advise and support students and faculty who hope to turn ideas and research into commercial ventures. TAN members offer experienced advice on business plans, marketing strategies, and potential partners and funding — bolstering WPI’s role as a hub of innovation and bringing jobs and economic growth to the region.