David Bougard ’14 ’19 M.Eng. took his business instincts to the next level with a professional master’s degree in Technical Entrepreneurship

David Bougard always excelled at “the pitch.”

While majoring in theater at Lehigh University, he also designed and sold his own T-shirts, and built a business selling late-night snacks to his peers. After graduation, Bougard pitched himself, despite limited technical experience, and scored a freelance camera-operating gig at ESPN. He landed the job, he says, because he was “the first, second, and third person to apply.”

Over the next five years, he continued to land pitches and close deals—forming a production company in New York City and becoming a standout salesman at Yelp. Yet while his college friends were hitting their stride in the corporate world, Bougard felt like he had hit a ceiling.

“I had the entrepreneurial spirit, I just didn’t know what to do with it,” he says.

Bougard sought greater success than just being his own boss and realized that relying on his ambition and talents wasn’t getting him there. “I finally figured out that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’” he says, “and I decided to do something about it.”

That “something” was returning to Lehigh to earn a professional master’s degree in Technical Entrepreneurship (TE). The 11-month, 30-credit program equips students to launch their own companies, products, and ventures; take leading roles at startups; or work in product development for larger companies.

“Many people out there have something like my T-shirt business, or build websites, or do something extra on the side,” Bougard says. “A lot of people are entrepreneurs at heart, and they just don’t realize there is a science to what they are doing.”

TE is creating the next generation of innovative problem solvers. Students in the program learn by experiencing the idea-to-venture process in an educational environment that's hardwired to support the development of novel, innovative, and commercially viable technologies.

Coursework and mentorship offered by Technical Entrepreneurship faculty showed Bougard how the pieces of a successful company fit together, while providing a balance between classroom learning and practical application.

“You can learn to ride a bike by reading it in a textbook,” he says. “But you won’t actually know how until you get on one.”

As they develop their ideas, TE students enjoy access to Lehigh’s extensive laboratory and shop resources and are connected to tech incubation resources such as meetups, venture pitch competitions, hackathons, and economic development organizations.

Bougard used those networking connections to land an internship that would complement his studies. He ended up at UBMe, a social-networking platform for live events and festivals.

“I was in school and I was also working at UBMe,” he says. “I could apply the things I learned in real time. It was awesome.”

Today, less than two years after completing his M.Eng., he’s the company’s vice president of growth.

One of the biggest lessons he learned in the program was how to set an end goal. “If you told me, ‘Hey I have an idea for this product,’ I can now run you through what I think it would cost to make at scale, how many you would need to make, how much you need to sell it for, and why I think it is a good idea or not,” Bougard says. “I didn't have that ability before I got my master’s.”

In his current role, Bougard is now directly applying that lesson—figuring out how to acquire new clients and scale up the user base of UBMe’s mobile app.

“I know how to measure success,” he says, which for him equates to generating steady growth as the company aims for an acquisition or IPO within the next few years. As he strives for that goal, he says his degree in Technical Entrepreneurship has given him the skill set to know the path forward.

“It’s like I am playing a card game,” he says. “Before the degree, I didn’t know the rules. But this program taught me those rules—and how to win.”

—Kit Fox is a freelance contributor for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science

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