Launching a startup is often risky, but doing it while worrying about college loans and attending class can frighten away even some of the boldest aspiring entrepreneurs. 

The Professor Vrinda Kadiyali Student Entrepreneur Fund provides stipends to MBA students so they can continue building momentum with their startups while they participate in the Johnson Summer Startup Accelerator between their first and second years. The stipend empowers MBA students to stay focused on their startups, while reducing the financial pressures they may face to accept a paid corporate internship.   

The Kadiyali Fund gives MBA students the opportunity to move their startups forward with coaching, connections, and training from the Johnson Summer Startup Accelerator—a cutting-edge program dedicated to helping MBA students confidently accelerate the launch of their startups.  

Application and Selection

MBA students who have completed their first year and have applied to the Johnson Summer Startup Accelerator will be evaluated for the award by a committee under the administration of the Dean. Students who wish to apply for Kadiyali funding in addition to JSSA can apply here.

Inspired by Professor Kadiyali

Alumnus Stephen Smith ’91, MBA ’95 established this fund in honor of Vrinda Kadiyali, the Nicholas H. Noyes Professor of Management that inspired him to launch his own startup.  

Stephen Smith spent his own MBA summer working at the Engineering Multimedia Research Laboratory, a National Science Foundation-funded center based in what is now Rhodes Hall. Through the experience, he discovered solutions that ultimately became the basis of his future startup, Naviance, and he met his long-time business partner, Shaun Fanning ’94. During the next few years, they developed Naviance, a software framework that helps middle school and high school students plan for college and career goals. They launched the business in 2001 and it was acquired by Hobson six years later. Now, the duo is working on a new entrepreneurial ventureIntellispark: an online platform that helps school districts and community organizations coordinate academic and extracurricular support for students.

Smith believes that the summer between first and second years for MBA students is a key time to plan, research, collaborate, and explore ideas and he wanted to remove some of the burden students faced financially when choosing to pursue their entrepreneurial ventures vs. taking a paid internship.  

Vrinda Kadiyali Headshot


Entrepreneurship is a big force to improve customers’ lives, to enliven capitalism with ‘creative destruction.’ It allows our students to take control of their work lives.” – Professor Vrinda Kadiyali