Giving Back: Alessandro Piol BS'79, MS'82 and Alexandra Piol BS'79, MS'83
The Piol family is helping Columbia Engineering students foster their entrepreneurial spirit, even from the comforts of their dorm rooms. In September, a newly created Piol Family Entrepreneurship Fund helped to support the launch of the new Engineering Entrepreneurship Residential Initiative. The Res. Inc. program is bringing together 73 Engineering undergraduate students with a common interest in entrepreneurship. On the top floors of Wallach and Hartley Residence Halls, they collaborate on various business ideas, and each month, they get together for working dinners to listen to industry experts and share progress on their start-up plans.
“It puts these students—with the same type of interests—in one place,” says Alessandro Piol, cofounder of Vedanta Capital. “They have a chance to share knowledge and to share ideas, but to do so with structure.” The hope, he says, is to generate more like-minded programming for students who are serious about entrepreneurship.
Husband and wife who met at Columbia, Alessandro and Alexandra are themselves committed entrepreneurs and have been successful advisers to executives on their businesses and choosing start-ups worth investing in. For Alexandra, it’s the problem solving that excites her. “The more complex the problem, the better. I like combining technology, marketing, and management issues, and advising CEOs on their strategic plans in the hope of building viable companies,” she says. Alexandra is currently managing director at 4C Ventures Management Inc.
With the Res. Inc. Program, students have the potential to turn their business ideas into real companies, and, more importantly, gain the skills necessary to do so—a set of skills the Piols know a thing or two about. “This is rewarding for us because we feel we can help them,” says Alessandro, who also serves on the School’s Entrepreneurship Advisory Board. “You can’t start a business knowing everything. It is always good to talk to someone with experience and to find mentors who can really help.”