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On the Job: Hannah Murnen

Jul 01, 2022   |   by Theresa D'Orsi   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Hannah Murnen ’06 Th’07 | Managing Director

Murnen is leading Activate Anywhere’s nationwide effort to enable science entrepreneurs to bring innovative research to market. The nonprofit provides fellows—such as Grayson Zulauf ’12 Th’13, who cofounded Resonant Link with Professor Charles Sullivan—with salaries, R&D funding, and mentors to help them launch startups to address global challenges. It’s an effort Murnen believes could change the world.

Hannah Murnen ’06 Th’07

What was the impetus behind Activate?

It’s really hard to reach commercialization in hard technology—whether it’s chemicals, materials, hardware, etc. There’s a gap between the science and commercial readiness that makes it hard to obtain capital—it’s a long, risky road. Activate invests in people and helping them take their science or technology to commercial reality.

"We want to fund things that are world-changing."

—Hannah Murnen ’06 Th’07

What qualities do you look for in your fellows?

There are a number of factors. Certainly, there is the technical feasibility and potential impact—we want to fund things that are world-changing—and whether they are able to make that transition from scientist to entrepreneur. Are they somebody who’s thoughtful about how to build a team? Are they able to understand the techno-economics around taking a technology to commercial application? Are they coachable? Finally, a big part of selection is whether they can be a good community member. A lot of what Activate does is bring fellows together to support one another, so they have to buy into the idea that they’re there for each other.

What is your vision five years out?

This first set of eight to 10 fellows I’m bringing in now will be well on their way. They’ll be scaling up, sending out commercial systems, and IPO-ing and getting bought, and be wildly successful in changing the world. The other piece I find exciting is making this ecosystem more accessible. I’m hoping we’ll have made this support available to a much broader set of science entrepreneurs and created a road map for building companies across the country.

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of the Dartmouth Engineer magazine.

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