Lassonde donates to facility

lassondec Colby Patterson

Pierre Lassonde, entrepreneur and U graduate, recently announced his donation of $12 million dollars toward constructing a new entrepreneurship facility at the U.

The new building, which will be known as the Lassonde Studios, is scheduled to open in fall of 2016 and will include student housing, modern design and a 20,000 square foot workshop wherein students may develop and launch business ideas. No other entrepreneurship education center in the nation has all of these components.

Over the past decade, Lassonde has been working with staff members of the David Eccles School of Business to establish an elite entrepreneurship program at the U. In 2000, he established the Lassonde New Venture Development Center to help aspiring entrepreneurs at the U turn their ideas into reality. In 2006, Lassonde donated $13.25 million toward the construction of the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, which is currently one of the largest entrepreneur centers in the United States.

Lassonde’s vision for the center is to establish an institution where students will be able to create thousands of new businesses.

“The idea was to create … something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the U.S., or anywhere else on the planet, for that matter,” Lassonde said. “It had to be an iconic building.”

Students who are involved in the program will have opportunities to build prototypes and start companies and will have 24-hour access to the workspace, which will be stocked with 3-D printers, student office spaces and other tools for developing prototypes and business models.

“The No. 1 quality of the program is the hands-on student experience,” Lassonde said. “We’re teaching you by having you do what other people just teach you, and that is the key to the success of the program.”

Unlike other buildings on campus, the new facility is not a set of classrooms and faculty offices, but is designed to integrate multiple aspects of student life into one facility. This distinctive design will give entrepreneurs greater opportunity to collaborate with their peers in developing and launching their entrepreneurial ideas.

U president David Pershing said he is excited for students to gain the real-world experience the new institution will offer.

“I love this because it’s the perfect embodiment of what I’ve been talking about as far as deeply engaged, hands-on learning experiences that I’ve been promising our students,” Pershing said. “The Lassonde Institute provides valuable, real-world experience that you can’t get just by sitting in a class.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in Fall 2014 and is estimated to cost $45 million in total. The Lassonde Studios will provide housing for more than 400 students.

Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, said he believes the new building will distinguish the U’s entrepreneurship program from other programs across the nation.

“We’ve [established] a top 25 program already,” D’Ambrosio said. “I think [the Lassonde Studios] really just takes us to an entirely different level.”

a.jose@chronicle.utah.edu