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Innovation and Startup Advocate Tim Rowe Keynotes 2017 Academic Convocation

September 13, 2017

What are the jobs of the future, and how does a liberal arts and sciences education prepare students for them? What are the keys to launching a successful startup? What are the ethical and moral challenges facing inventors and innovators?

These are just a few of the questions that Tim Rowe, founder and CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), addressed at Emmanuel College's 2017 Academic Convocation, held on September 7.

Innovation, Rowe noted, doesn't only drive business success. It creates jobs, advances economic health, ensures the stability of communities and can "make the world a better place." For young people seeking work with purpose, Rowe said, innovative enterprises are "the best things you could possibly be working on."

Rowe explained how his own company, CIC, fosters entrepreneurship and helps companies grow. Founded in 1999, the firm boasts "more startups than anywhere else on the planet" and offers flexible workspaces that allow individuals and companies to network and grow their business in the heart of thriving, nearby Kendall Square. This approach has helped build more than 3,000 startup and technology companies, including Hubspot, Uber, Pandora, Square, Google/Android, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Over the years, Rowe has seen the nature of innovation change. At one time, he said, inventors and innovators worked slowly and in isolation, but new technologies and techniques have made innovation faster and far more collaborative. Traditional work arrangements have changed radically; today an office can be a smartphone, a seat at a coffee shop or even a beach in Costa Rica.

Because of these changes, Rowe said, "You don't have to wait" to act on ideas. "Technologies are so mobile, you can conduct business anywhere." Citing the example of Facebook, he added, "You can start an innovative company in your dormitory."

Rowe noted that liberal arts students are particularly well suited to succeed as entrepreneurs. "They tend to be the people who grow business, have people skills and set strategy," he said. "What you're really learning with your liberal arts degree is how to think, how to communicate, how to make your case, how to work with other people-all of those skills apply directly to entrepreneurship."

Rowe also discussed the ethical issues surrounding new technologies and innovations. Although there are "shadow sides or bad impacts of innovation," such as the creation of nuclear weapons, innovation has led to improvements in people's lives, including cures for diseases and decreased rates of violent death. To mitigate negative effects, Rowe encourages business and academic leaders to "communicate clear views" on how innovative work may impact society.

Emmanuel President Sister Janet Eisner, SND, opened the Convocation ceremony by welcoming the Class of 2021 to the College. She also congratulated the Class of 2018, who, wearing their caps and gowns, were convening for the first time as seniors. Sister Janet said that Convocation affirmed the College's mission as a liberal arts institution, committed to "new and alternative ways of thinking and creating." With this in mind, she encouraged students, faculty and staff to make the 2017-18 academic year "one of innovation, achievement and profound purpose."

Convocation also included remarks by William Leonard, Ph.D., Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean and an opening prayer by Eric Cote '18, President of the Student Government Association. Boris Perlovsky, Director of Innovation Strategy at CIC and a 2006 Emmanuel graduate, introduced Rowe at the ceremony.