Katharine "Kit" Needham has been named the inaugural assistant dean for entrepreneurship initiatives for Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science.
Needham, who also serves as the director of Project Olympus , joined Carnegie Mellon in 2008 to work on the then newly formed startup incubator with its founding director Lenore Blum.
"Even today, many people don’t know what Project Olympus is," Needham said. "Hopefully, this will give a little more visibility to our programs and what we do. It sends a strong message."
Project Olympus isn’t just a startup accelerator. It also serves as a sounding board for students and faculty - especially those with questions about how their ideas might translate to the market.
"What we try to do is create a safe space for students and faculty to explore the viability of their ideas at the lowest possible bar," she said.
Needham came to CMU having worked primarily in the banking industry, including stints at the American Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, Mellon Labs and the Allegheny Conference. It was while at the Allegheny Conference that she started looking deeper into Pittsburgh’s startup community.
"That’s when I met Lenore," she said. "When I got to Project Olympus, it was still early on. It was kind of a startup for me, which I really love. I love doing things for the first time."
Since then, Needham says that Project Olympus’s startups have secured $574 million in funding. In her new role, she hopes to help increase that number by making students and newer faculty members more aware of entrepreneurial resources in SCS and at CMU.
"In some cases, we’ve been game changers. Most of the people behind our startups are not from Pittsburgh. We’re keeping students here, and they’re creating jobs. We’re like a little economic development engine."