Bringing Industry to the Classroom: A Board Director’s Perspective

Professor of the Practice Frank Apeseche brings his experience spanning across decades and industries into the classroom to develop highly sought-after skills in Tufts students.

As some measures suggest, a gap exists between employer and student perspectives on career readiness, resulting in a divide between academia and industry; key skills could face more than a 40 percent disparity. To bridge the divide, Tufts Gordon Institute faculty like Frank Apeseche are leveraging their field experience to give students the insight and understanding of both realms to succeed.  

Frank, who was named to Launchpad Venture Group’s Board of Directors earlier this year, teaches several courses in strategy and finance at Tufts. From “Business Strategy,” to “Financial Management of Technology Firms,” and even “Entrepreneurial Finance,” the Professor of the Practice’s courses are tailored to give students in-demand skills.

For MS in Engineering Management students, like those enrolled in his Business Strategy class, simulations of conversations in industry are common.

“MSEM students look at the world from a different set of eyes,” said Frank. “They’re looking around their companies and are trying to understand how they can elevate their careers. In a simple way, what I’m trying to do is give them more awareness of what goes on at the highest levels within the company and beyond.”

Understanding the inner workings of a company is key to Frank’s day-to-day responsibilities at Launchpad Venture Group. “What we do at Launchpad Venture Group is source opportunities to make investments. We’re looking at approximately 800 to 1,000 opportunities per year,” said Frank who is also Chairman of Amstar, an international real estate private equity firm, and Co-Founder of merchant bank J. Locke and Company. Launchpad is the most active angel group in the Northeast with over 150 members and 70 companies in its portfolio. 

With each company that pitches to Launchpad and moves forward, a due diligence period ensues. In the due diligence period, a comprehensive examination of the business is completed including assessing a company’s management team, technology, intellectual property, market opportunity and go-to-market strategy, and more. This summer, despite all of the varying challenges presented during the global pandemic, Frank completed this process for two such companies.

“When Launchpad makes an investment, we like to have at least one member, if not two, join the Board of Directors so we can add direct value to the enterprise and its management team,” said Frank. “These individuals are also the representatives for the other shareholders.”

Several Tufts alumni are members of Launchpad alongside Frank, including many who actively provide mentorship and support to students involved with Tufts Entrepreneurship Center. 

“My Launchpad experience has taught me how to apply some of the early stage start-up and lean management strategies to the nonprofit sector as well. When I was on the Board of Directors of Circle of Hope, a Needham, Mass. nonprofit that provides clothing to those who need it, I did a number of things to help strengthen the company’s impact and financial sustainability. These were based on concepts and experiences taken from Launchpad and Tufts,” said Frank. “Subsequently, I developed a strategy case about Circle of Hope and managing/growing a nonprofit that I use in both my Finance and Strategy courses at Tufts.”

With the dynamic circumstances of the world come opportunities to learn alongside students. Launchpad, which has its hands in several industries like life sciences, technology, and cleantech, is seeing how changes in these landscapes will play out as a result of hot topics like COVID and social justice. 

“[This field] is really interesting and so applicable today. As an example, we just completed a review of our Launchpad portfolio where we looked at our 70 companies from multiple dimensions. One of these dimensions was how favorably a company was competitively positioned in the COVID environment. I was amazed to see how many of our companies provide unique, value-add services that are in particular demand during COVID.”

For students, as society continues to navigate new challenges and opportunities, simulations and classroom experiences will continue to mirror the real-world. Alongside faculty like Frank, who come to Tufts Gordon Institute with vast real-world experience in industry, students will continue to close the gap between employer and student perspectives on career readiness.