As the first and longest-running Living Learning Community at Babson College, eTower is celebrating 20 years of history in 2021. A few of its residents have dedicated weeks of research in relearning its rich history in helping over 200 student entrepreneurs connect and grow with one another. Read on to rediscover with the rich history of this vibrant community.
eTower was founded in 2001 by Andrew Foley, then a sophomore at Babson College. Andrew realized that there was a small subset of Babson students who were actively pursuing startups while in college, and had one big question:
What if we created a live-in incubator of the best entrepreneurial minds on campus?
With his fellow startup friends and support from administration, Andrew found a space on the second floor of Van Winkle Hall and moved in as the first of Babson’s several living-learning communities. And thus,
eTower Was Born.
Founding Cohort Moving In
Early Days in the Tower
It didn’t take long for this group to realize the power of having so many motivated, entrepreneurially-minded students living together, as the founding team found major growth in their venture ideas. One of which was IdeaPaint, one of the first of the many companies to come out of eTower, co-founded by residents Andrew Foley, Jeff Avalon, and John Goscha.
Throughout the times, many eTower residents have had an attitude of “better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.” The IdeaPaint founders were no exception, and painted the entire tower walls with their prototype, making the eTower space uniquely suited for innovation fully covered in white-board erasable walls that are still used to this day for ideation and announcements!
Knowing the future potential that eTower has, the community became more formalized in a 2004 retreat which established eTower’s mission statement that still holds true 20 years later:
A community of students committed to becoming successful entrepreneurs.
The group quickly gained traction not only in their business but also in the Press, being featured in several publications.
eTower in the Press
Perspectives on Impact
“I really saw what kind of impact the e-tower has been having on the school when I was personally contacted by the head of admissions, and asked to consider Joel Holland, an incoming freshman for admission. Joel, a student who had taken a year off before college to run his very successful footage business, had specifically asked about being in the e-tower when interviewed.” – Michael Mandel, ‘05
“When the e-tower hosted overnight students recently, one of the students came up to me and said, ‘I chose Babson because of the e-tower.’”
- Tyler Saldutti
“I knew about the e-tower before I applied to Babson, and the e-tower was one of the major reasons why I chose to transfer to Babson. I came to e-tower meetings and events to get to know the members so that they would admit me in my second semester at Babson.” – Tyler Saldutti, e-tower Community Manager, ‘06
One thing that should be noted about getting a group of 20-23 year old founders in one space together: they work extremely hard, and they play extremely hard.
Around ten years after its founding, eTower had become a group that was extremely competitive, pushing each other as founders to the max. This environment, while good-intentioned, went to some extremes. It was very exclusive to those who were only currently creating companies, and the Tower became isolated from the Babson entrepreneurial ecosystem at large. The pressured environment on the work side was paralleled on the play side, and the group lost the sense of supportive community that bonded it together to begin with.
This led the organization to lose housing for two semesters, which really served as a wakeup call.
eTower stood at a pivotal crossroads here... Where was the organization headed?
The group took a step back and thought about where they’ve been and where they wanted to go, and with the leadership of Diana Yuan ‘15, thoughtfully developed community guidelines that would ensure that eTower didn’t lose its supportive community environment again.
Some highlights from this newly developed constitution included:
Be passionate about entrepreneurial thought and action.
Strive to create economic and social change.
Support each other to promote personal and professional growth.
Work hard to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Help the organization run smoothly by successfully carrying out their roles/responsibilities.
Not only build up the Etower community but also aim to give back to the Babson community.
Collaborate with other on campus and off campus organizations to promote entrepreneurship.
Reach out to Babson faculty to leverage resources to make the organization the best it can be.
eTower then reintegrated itself into the Babson entrepreneurial ecosystem and opened up its common room to the general community in what is now a keystone of eTower’s contribution to campus: weekly learning and networking events.
Renewed Community Focus
"The collaboration of e-tower members is the biggest benefit of e-tower. Members must be willing to help one another at all times by sharing ideas, contacts, and resources."
- Article 9 of the 2013 Constitution
This began a cultural shift from being completely entrepreneurially-focused to finding a balance between entrepreneurship and community.
The Growth Era
After establishing a newfound foundation in the balance of entrepreneurship and community, a renaissance era of eTower blossomed. Our community began an outward expansion with the proper execution of big ideas, including the Young Entrepreneurs Conference (a cross-collegiate entrepreneur conference) and ePitch (Babson's biggest to-date student run pitch event). Additionally, we bolstered our own internal community with the creation of the Seed Fund, the Professional Development Fund, and renewed Executive Board Responsibiltiies.
One of many packed Wednesday-night speaker events.
ePitch was a watershed moment in eTower history. President Sumukh Setty and his eBoard organized an incredible pitch competition that made eTower as visible and prominent as it ever had been. With an audience of hundreds of eager-eyed participants, three incredible entrepreneurs pitched to a panel of judges similar in caliber to those of Shark Tank. eTower resident, Ryan Laverty '20, pitched his text message learning company, Arist, and brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the judges to raucous applause from the crowd. eTower's reputation reached its zenith from this event.
eTower began hosting an annual YEC (Young Entrepreneurs Conference) every year to bring in speakers that residents and the Babson community would get tremendous value from. These events also allowed eTower to organically fundraise money for internal initiatives such as retreats and community bonding.
The creation of the seed fund allowed for residents to apply for funding up to $1,500 to help move their ventures forward. Companies like Goba Tea, founded by Noah Doris '20, were beneficiaries of this new program thanks to the hard work of the eBoard in this era.
Professional Dev Fund
The Professional Development Fund allowed eTower residents to subsidize costs of attaining professional skills. The residents pictured here took full advantage of their professional development funding to travel to Startup Grind 2019 Global Conference.
With renewed campus-wide support, internal growth, and phenomenal recruitment cycles, eTower blossomed into the the campus-wide hub for entrepreneurship.
Despite being fully virtually, eTower couldn't be stopped from hosting a pitch competition/workshop!
The COVID Era
March 2020 - Summer 2021
eTower's exuberant expansion showed no signs of stopping. However, there was no warning in sight for a worldwide pandemic that would affect everyone on Earth: COVID-19. A week after a new recruitment cycle just ended, in March of 2020, eTower would undergo challenges it had never seen before.
eTower went from a 21-person, living and learning community to a 15-person in-person community, with many residents scattered across the country.
Gone were our in-person Wednesday night speaker events, in-person resident meetings, or any social gatherings. eTower had to transition to being an entirely virtual community.
How did eTower Stay Relevant Through COVID?
As a community, eTower had to rally behind one another and show the younger Babson student body what they really were about. They created an incredible, high-production recruitment video (right) leveraging the digital media and videography talent we had in the community. They hosted two rounds of successful, virtual recruitment and event held COVID-compliant, in-person open house events to bring ourselves to the Babson community.
The two semesters of effort paid off. eTower was continuing in its mission to provide value to the Babson community as well as its residents despite all of the challenges we faced. Additionally, eTower was the winner of SGA's Most Creative/Best Event of the Year for our event with the Founder of Rolling Loud, Tariq Cherif. Though most of what happened during this era was virtual, we clearly made the most of it as a community and came out of COVID with an incredible foundation strengthened through adversity.
Community Paint night in March 2021, when COVID rules slightly softened to allow common room activities
Emerging out of the COVID era, eTower is excited to come back in-person with a bang celebrating their 20th anniversary in the Fall of 2021 hosting a first-ever Alumni Gala celebration to bring back all eras of eTower to celebrate the organization's success.
eTower sees itself as an example of what is possible when like-minded students come together with the intention of growth, and is excited to see what else is possible.
eTower's 20th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign launched in Summer 2021 with the intention of raising $100,000 by the end of the year with a matching contribution of $40,000 by Professor Len Green, who has been a long-time supporter of eTower.