They graduated from West Point, served as U.S. Army officers in Iraq and started two companies. Now, brothers Chris and Jon Boggiano are bringing their experience to Davidson College to help students turn their own ideas into successful business enterprises.
The Boggianos are the newest entrepreneurs-in-residence at Davidson, where they will work with faculty to cross traditional classroom subjects with modern-world opportunities.
“The Boggianos will help to infuse innovation and entrepreneurship into our curriculum in unprecedented ways,” said Hannah Levinson, Davidson’s director of innovation and entrepreneurship.
After their military service, the brothers earned MBAs at the Stanford Graduate School of Business before starting and eventually selling their first company, Everblue.edu, which focuses on training in sustainability and renewable energy.
Their latest business, Charlotte-based VersaMe, also is focused on education and learning. They are creating the “Starling,” a wearable device for babies that encourages parental engagement by counting the number of words a child hears. They said the idea springs from research that shows the profound effect verbally rich parent-child interactions have on brain development in infants.
The New Jersey natives said they were inspired to start VersaMe by memories of childhood trips to the woods with their parents. The conversations and connections they made as a family then helped shape who the Boggianos are today, and they want to help other parents make the same connection to their kids, the brothers said.
When a business pursuit is also a passion, the everyday challenges are easier to overcome, they added.
“If you can feel good about what you’re doing, it gets you through the down times,” Chris Boggiano said.
Davidson’s Levinson said the Bogianos’ purpose-over-profits philosophy makes them a perfect fit for the school.
“Their entrepreneurial perspective – that entrepreneurship is, fundamentally, one of the primary grounds where progressive social change and creative problem-solving takes place – is what we hope to foster in our students,” Levinson said.
The Boggianos will be on campus multiple times a month in a number of capacities, Levinson said. They will visit classes, collaborate with professors and students on projects, lead information sessions about working in an entrepreneurial venture and introduce a conversation series called “Five Questions for an Entrepreneur” at the campus location of Summit Coffee. They’ll also mentor students over the course of the school year.
Davidson created its Innovation and Entrepreneurship program two years ago in response to what the school’s leaders saw as a shifting professional landscape and students’ growing need to find and create real-world applications for their skills in leadership, critical thinking and innovation. The college continues to expand its co-curricular offerings and complement its arts and sciences curriculum with opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures, as well as quality interactions with innovative professionals.
“Chris and Jon have naturally incorporated Davidson’s mission, values and vision into their everyday work as entrepreneurs,” Levinson said. “Their venture creation process – first properly articulating and framing the problem their company will address, then building a solution that can change the world positively and at some degree of scale – embodies Davidson’s goal of fostering humane instincts in its students that, upon graduation, can be translated into disproportionate and meaningful impact.”
Davidson sophomore Allison Cowie already knows the Boggianos. She’s an intern at VersaMe, part of the dozen-person team working on the company’s startup phase. The Spanish major and economics minor said she was instantly struck by the brothers’ commitment to a venture that will make a difference in people’s lives, which has inspired her to find new ways to overlap social mission with business opportunities.
“I’ve seen that no idea is impossible, and that you can make a difference if you’re willing to invest the time and create a strong team,” she said. “Chris and Jon expect a lot, and they get everyone excited to collaborate and make things happen. They’re the perfect people to work with Davidson students.”
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org