Entrepreneur Returns His Scholarships—In a Sense
Tyler Ebert, ’16 BSB, is fresh out of school, but is already giving back. He received two scholarships while attending the Carlson School and has since donated equivalent amounts back to the University.
“I appreciated the school making an investment in me,” he says. “When I found out about the campaign I wanted to be a part of it. I got to a position a couple of months ago when I could start giving back and I decided to give back the scholarship amount I had been given. And I want to keep doing it. I want to make that my plan.”
The first scholarship he received was early in his sophomore year. Then, as a junior, he received his second—the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “Talk about one of the most memorable nights of my life,” he says. It was Founder’s Day, an annual event that celebrates student entrepreneurs. The Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Stavig asked Ebert to attend, so he went, not knowing what was about to happen. “I stepped out to talk to someone and when I came back, John was talking about the award and was describing the person who won it. Then I realized he is talking about me! I hate to think I almost missed it!”
The award came with a cash prize, and Ebert put it all into the business he founded and now serves as president and CEO: AdrenaCard. AdrenaCard is a specialty pharmaceutical company taking generic drugs and combining them with devices to make them more effective and more affordable. The company is creating an epinephrine injector about the size of a credit card—which makes it easier to carry and have on hand in an emergency.
Ebert actually created three businesses before he founded AdrenaCard. One of them was an idea to sell disposable beer kegs. Ebert worked on the project through the Holmes Center’s STARTUP program, an independent study class that pairs students with experienced entrepreneurs to test and develop business concepts. The beer keg idea turned out to be a nonstarter, so Ebert moved on to another project, which turned into AdrenaCard.
“It started my junior year in my dorm of all places, as is the cliché,” he says. He took AdrenaCard to the Holmes Center’s Biz Pitch Competition, an “elevator pitch” contest that offers prizes for the most compelling new business idea. “We won not only first place, but the people’s choice award,” he says. “We won $1,100 and were able to start the company.”
Now with a medical-based company in hand, Ebert found himself drawn toward the Medical Industry Leadership Institute (MILI) and took classes on regulatory pathways for devices and drugs and an introduction to quality systems. “There were MBA students from Medtronic and I was picking their brains learning about medical device regulation,” he says. Ebert also engaged MILI’s Medical Industry Valuation Lab, which provides expert opinions on the feasibility of medical innovations developed by students.
“The entrepreneurship program connected me to all the great resources in the U, the community, and the state,” he says. “The fact that there are resources in other departments—you don’t get that in other universities.”
Now doing business in three states, AdrenaCard looks to be on the road to great success. Ebert says he knows people who have been successful reading a book a day, but that’s not the educational path he chose. For him, the transformative nature of his Carlson School education made the difference.
“I’m very pleased to have graduated with a job at a company I created,” he says. “I went into senior year thinking I was going to make it happen and I worked the entire year to make it happen. Building companies, creating jobs, and bringing money to the state of Minnesota is my story. I’m proud the U of M was, and is, a part of it.”
Students entering the workforce need to bring with them real-world experiences, time spent beyond the classroom applying their intellectual capacities in a hands-on way. Today’s business environment demands it. Experiential learning programs bring critical thinking skills to bear while solving real problems for real businesses and education abroad programs develop student competencies, all while working cross-culturally.
Learn more about using business as a force for good in the Carlson School Alumni Magazine, where this feature originally appeared.