Gatepost Interview: Robert Krim, Professor and Director Entrepreneur Innovation Center
By Kaila Braley
Can you briefIy describe your resume and educational background?
Let’s see. How can I do it briefly? So I’m somebody who has had two or three parallel careers. And one of them is an entrepreneur. I’ve started two companies, and ran each of them for about 10 or 12 years. The second of those companies is one that focused on why eastern Massachusetts is one of the most innovative places in the world. So, I’ve done that piece before. And before I founded those two companies, I taught at Roxbury Community College. I taught economics. And I taught at MassBay in history, which is one of my parallel interests. And when I closed my business in 2012, I was hired at Clark as a visiting full-time professor for about three years, and I taught innovation and social entrepreneurship mainly to MBAs and I taught organizational entrepreneurship undergraduate. And I also taught business ethics. So I’m probably best known around the area as a person who’s put together why this region has been innovative for the past three or four centuries, and why it’s one of the most innovative places in the world. So it combines history and business, or history and innovation. So on the
degree side, first, I’m from the area originally. I grew up in the MetroWest, and I went to Harvard as an undergraduate. And then I did three different bouts of graduate studies. So I have a master’s in American History from the University of California, and I have a master’s in economics, and then I did a joint MBA and Ph.D. at Boston College in what’s called organizational studies. While I’ve done a lot of degrees, I’ve generally worked most of the time.
What courses do you teach at FSU?
So I’m teaching this spring two new courses, which are two courses in entrepreneurship. The first one is ENTR – entrepreneurship 300, and that is called Entrepreneurship: Starting Your Business. ... We had more students apply for the course than there were seats. It was the first time we ever offered it. And then I’m also teaching a second course, which is what we call an intern practicum. It’s a seminar for the six interns where we look at what they’re learning about entrepreneurship from the entrepreneurs as well as how we’re running the center. And the center, of course, is a new business. Everything sort of loops back in some ways, it seems.
Why do you think business and entrepreneurship is an important area to study?
I think that entrepreneurship is particularly important right now because the United States has either automated our way out of a lot of jobs, or a lot of jobs have migrated to China and India, and other places. And if we as an economy, and we as a society, are going to be strong enough to provide jobs for most of us here and most students who are now going to be graduating from Framingham State over the next couple of years, we need to start a lot more businesses that are doing things which are innovative. And in the fast-paced economy that we have, world-wide, we may only keep those jobs for 20 or 30 years, but that’s a lifetime of work for a lot of people. So that’s one side of it. And the other is there has always been in the United States a strong sense that starting your own business is a good thing, and people who come up with new ideas are seen as heroes. So I think that’s why it’s important.
Are you currently working on any projects?
The biggest project is to start a center and recruit entrepreneurs who live in the MetroWest and want to grow a business in the Metrowest – to recruit them and to have them work successfully at building the business. That’s project number one. Project number two was to get through our curriculum committees the new concentration in entrepreneurship, and to do it in time where we could offer courses in January. And the third is to work with the entrepreneurs and the student interns so that the entrepreneurs get their projects done that they need for their business, and second, that the students are not just doing the projects, but are thinking of what the bigger picture is about – what stage the business is at and where it’s going. So that’s too much, but those three projects at the same time.
Do you have any hobbies?
I suppose the biggest one – I’m a huge Red Sox fan. And second, I spend a lot of time with my kids, who are in middle school, and one is in high school now. And third is, I like to cook – though I have never made a chocolate chip cookie.
What was your favorite college course you took and why?
Can I be candid? So I started working when I started college to be a newspaper reporter, and I eventually spent half of my college class days travelling to cover newspaper stories, which didn’t make me the best student in the world. And I was really lucky because I got hired freshman year by The New York Times to cover what was going on in Boston and Cambridge, in particular. And then The Washington Post offered me a job at the same time. ... In the end, I didn’t enjoy writing that much. I enjoyed seeing. The Washington Post in the end let me cover the 1968 presidential campaign, so I got a chance to meet Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, and various other people. I spent an afternoon with King when he was campaigning. So it was great for that, and writing stories was sort of secondary.
What would students be surprised to know about you?
That I was very involved with all that happened in the 1960s in the United States, and 70s. So at one time, I was sort of a hippie, and at other times, I was a union organizer. Those are some things along the way.
Do you have any advice for students?
My advice for students is take classes in which you really enjoy the content and the professor. You get the most out of that, and you’ll get far more out of that than taking it because you should for some reason.