The X-Factor Program

The Garage’s revolutionary leadership development program for student founders.

We believe that the future will belong to the creators and leaders willing to listen, learn, collaborate, adapt, take risks and build new platforms, businesses and institutions that don’t exist today. We created X-Factor to help Northwestern student founders develop heightened self-awareness so they can become these creators and leaders of tomorrow.

X-Factor is focused on assessing and enhancing students’ capacity for transformational leadership which is the specific type of leadership associated with being an innovator and disruptor. Through X-Factor, students get personalized feedback on their leadership strengths and weaknesses, exposure to a highly effective clinical intervention aimed at individualized leadership growth, and an opportunity for self-awareness and personal growth.

The program utilizes the Hogan Leadership Forecast Series for personality assessment work with student entrepreneurs. The Hogan is traditionally used at companies like Microsoft and Nike to select and develop C-suite leaders. Through X-Factor, we are also conducting novel academic research on the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs and if it’s possible to use the assessment to identify and develop student entrepreneurs.

The X-Factor program was designed in partnership with Dr. Jennifer Tackett, a Northwestern psychology professor and an expert in the field of personality assessment. The pilot program was funded by a gift from Tom Verghese KSM ’04 and ongoing support for the program is funded by a gift from Mike Borsetti WCAS ’88.

Program Details

X-Factor is a six-week program for a subset of students in The Garage’s Residency program, The Garage’s incubation program for Northwestern’s most committed student founders. All students in The Garage’s Residency program take the Hogan Leadership Forecast Series assessment and, each academic quarter, a cohort of students is selected for X-Factor to more deeply analyze their leadership potential. The cohort meets for an hour each week to discuss entrepreneurial topics from building company culture, to hiring and firing, to effective goal setting and execution.

Additionally, the program uses a widely established, empirically supported clinical intervention called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which has been adapted to target development of leadership and entrepreneurial virtues and values. ACT interventions are built on a foundation of enhancing identification and awareness of personal values and of pursuing behavioral change that is increasingly consistent with an individual’s values. Each X-Factor session is facilitated by a trained intervention specialist under the direct supervision of Dr. Tackett.

Each cohort kicks off the program with an experiential field trip to a startup ecosystem to better understand the world of entrepreneurship, the program’s goals, and to bond as a cohort. For the pilot program, this included a three-day trip to Austin, Texas to visit companies like Bumble and SilverCar and meet with alums.


Thank you to the following generous donors for their commitment to supporting X-Factor and student entrepreneurs at Northwestern:

  • Mike Borsetti WCAS ’88
  • Val WCAS ’85 and Mark Friedman

Program Participants

Transforming Northwestern student founders into the creators and leaders of tomorrow.
Check out the Winter '23 cohort below!

James Carlin
Weinberg '25

Soul is an application to confirm the truth of digital information by proving human identity and verifying data authenticity.

Stephanie Shields
Weinberg '24

Waveform Social provides comprehensive digital marketing services for podcasts, offering content repurposing across various platforms optimized for SEO and soon, a DIY online resource store for emerging podcasters.

Patrick Giavelli
McCormick/TGS '24

Valuterra leverages Enhanced Rock Weathering to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide and support farmers.

Zach Delson
McCormick '25

The Neuron teaches people about AI.

Izzy Mokotoff
Medill '24

SteadyScrib invented the first writing utensil specifically designed for those with Parkinson’s.


Take a Look Under the Hood

"X-Factor taught me more than I could have ever expected. It gave me the self-awareness and confidence to really put myself out there and publish my own podcast. I finally learned what my strengths and weaknesses are in a meaningful way and was able to use them this summer at Goldman. Thank you again for choosing me."

Katie Hoffman

SoC '21

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