Program for Entrepreneurs

Governing Guidelines

Conflict of interest

The Program for Entrepreneurs is meant to be both a learning experience and to result in viable ventures. The principles that govern conflict of interest should prevent true conflict of interest but not get in the way of productive and beneficial relationships. The main situation that is intended to be prevented by these guidelines is one where faculty advance their own financial advantage through their influence over students (by controlling grades) or through improper use of Duke’s resources. Therefore:

  • Faculty may not be in a position where they assign or directly control grades of students for work done on a company or project in which they (the faculty) have a financial interest.

There is an analogous principle from the perspective of the university itself:

  • Students should not be put in a position where the university has recourse (in terms of grades or other means) in the case of a negative outcome resulting from work done in fulfillment of a course requirement.

What is permitted by these guidelines is for students and mentors and advisors (some of whom may be Duke faculty not responsible for the assignment grades for the relevant project work) to have some form of financial interest in the project or company.


In many cases with Program for Entrepreneurs projects, students will work with intellectual property owned by a company, a university or other organization. In such cases, students will general be required to sign non-disclosure agreements with the organization which owns the asset. Faculty and other mentors and advisors will not be required to sign non-disclosure agreements, although they will be expected to respect confidentiality. In cases where no organization owns the intellectual property in question, for example, in the case of a business idea proposed by a student, there will be no requirement for non-disclosure agreements.

If these principles are not acceptable to organizations or individuals, they should not submit their ideas to the Program for Entrepreneurs.

Ownership of work

A benefit for submitting ideas or technologies as projects in the Program for Entrepreneurs is the value of the work done by student teams. Companies or the organizations owning the ideas will have complete access to all deliverables (business plan documents, presentations, etc.) produced by the student teams in fulfillment of their course requirements and have full rights to use that materials. The students will also retain rights to use any of the material they produce that cannot be considered confidential information of the owning company or organization.