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October 2, 2013 - 10:43pm

Alumni Profile: Brad Keywell


Brad Keywell is the co-founder and managing partner of Lightbank, a venture fund investing in technology businesses. He’s also co-founder and director of Groupon, co-founder and director of MediaBank and co-founder and director of Echo Global Logistics. He is a trustee of the Zell Lurie Institute of Entrepreneurship at the University's Ross School of Business, and is also on the Advisory Board of the Directors’ College for Global Business at the University of Michigan Law School.

Are there any experiences you had during your time as a student that you use in your career today?

There were many experiences. I started in the LSA program then I switched into the BBA program, and I also went to law school at Michigan. The same time that I was going to school, I was starting businesses; I had five different businesses that I started over the course of my time in Ann Arbor, and I had a number of employees by the time that I was a senior. And the process of starting and growing businesses across various disciplines while at the same time going to school offered me lots of experiences and lessons that I still use.

How did you balance school and entrepreneurial businesses while in school?

I think that every person who’s in university has a choice. They can either take advantage of the structure of university life, in which you’re only in class some of the time — you’ve got plenty of other time in which you can start things or peruse passions or try out ideas. Or they can simply waste their time and then regret a missed opportunity. So, I chose to take all the time I could find, in which I was not going to class or studying, and I used that time to try out my ideas, start businesses and reach out to people that I thought were interesting or that I thought I would like to meet. And I did not find that balance overwhelming, and I believe that all students, if they appreciate the opportunity of using their time at the University of Michigan to not just go to school but to pursue their passions and try out ideas, they will find that they used their time productively.

As both a professor and entrepreneur, how do you bring some of your personal experiences into your instruction?

I lecture at the University at least once a year, and I also teach an MBA-level class on technology and entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and I try to bring as much of my experience as an entrepreneur and my experience building business into the classroom. I both tell stories from my business life and use real-world examples from growing businesses as the context of discussion in the classroom and the students really appreciate having that type of access and interaction around things that are going on in the real world right now.