Background: Universities’ roles in fostering entrepreneurship
Universities have long been the propellers for innovation but have not always offered the concrete and robust entrepreneurial programs that now exist today. For students looking to start a business after college, finding a college with a solid entrepreneurship program can help accelerate them towards their goals.
Participating in these programs gives students access to the hands-on learning, mentorship, networking, and even seed funding that translates innovative ideas into realities. Whether students aim to be traditional small-business owners, or seek to transform entire industries and spur social change, universities provide them with the first opportunity and resources to explore futures in entrepreneurship.
NerdScholar’s series of featured entrepreneurial programs
In celebration of National Small Business Month this May, NerdScholar launched a series highlighting our favorite college entrepreneurial programs. We’ll be featuring university programs each week during May that have entrepreneurial focused degree programs, university-sponsored hackathons, strong alumni support, university venture funds, and other entrepreneurship focuses. This week we highlight college entrepreneurship programs that have great incubator programs.
Our favorite university incubator programs with an engineering focus:
DUHatch Incubator at Duke University
Duke’s student business incubator seeks to educate young entrepreneurs how to turn their ideas into actionable business ventures. They are not your traditional commercial business incubator and tech accelerator as they place a high importance on multidisciplinary efforts to solve needs in medicine, law, tech, and business. They have space for 1-4 years. Professor Larry Boyd, a leader in orthopedic medical device innovation, is focused on helping students on the path to commercialization. They offer entrepreneurship resources for students looking to get into engineering fields from energy, tech, to biomedicine.
Boston University’s Office of Technology Development
In collaboration with the College of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Lavin Center for Entrepreneurship, BU’s incubator seeks to turn student ideas into companies. They currently host 15 tech start-ups spanning the fields of bio-tech, medicine, clean energy, engineering, and even publishing. Not only do they provide mentorship and professor support along students’ ideation and execution process, but they have the opportunity to get financing from angel investors, corporate, and government sources. For example, students have the fortune of getting guidance from Professor Peter R. Russo whom runs BU’s entrepreneurship curriculum and has previously served as the CEO of Honeywell Instruments. He is involved with student initiatives that undergo a diligent peer review process, thereby helping the students make connections to the wider financial and business communities in Boston.
Zahn Center for Engineering Innovation San Diego State University
The Zahn Center provides College of Engineering students with resources to transform their ideas into business ventures. Besides providing office space, they give access to machine shops and electronic labs to build prototypes, mentorship, and even pro-bono legal services. The Zahn Center even has the SDSU’s business MBA program’s consulting services to validate a team’s technology with thorough market research. One of their current incubator companies, Brace ME, was founded by three of SDSU’s mechanical engineering students, Nicole Allen, Phillip Berry, and Caitlin Enomoto, and the company which looks to alleviate lower back pain by pushing their patented spine support brace to market.
Bucknell University’s Entrepreneur’s Incubator
In collaboration with the Small Business Development Center and the Engineering Development Services, Bucknell gives their student entrepreneurs office space to work out their business plans. Some are even eligible to get loans, grants, and tax credits from the Greater Susquehanna Keystone Innovation Zone in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, entrepreneurs have access college technical staff and student interns at one of the best engineering schools in the nation.
Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas at Austin
The TVL Incubator at Texas hosts between 10-12 companies each semester, giving them access to student time and innovation. Four to six students have the chance to work closely with start up companies and make an immediate impact on their business development. With access to professors like Venture Labs Director, Rob Adams, students have close access to training and mentoring they can leverage. One example of a successful TVL alumni company is InfoChimps, with the mission to democratize access to structured data. Infochimps’ COO, Joseph Kelly, lauds the TVL team for being, “bright-eyed entrepreneur types who are willing to contribute to their portfolio companies with whatever is needed.”
Our favorite incubator college programs with a regional focus:
Office of Entrepreneurship at the George Washington University
The George Washington University’s Office of Entrepreneurship offers five annual memberships to students. Once chosen, they have access to office space, free Internet, actual mailing addresses and a collaborative community where they can exchange ideas and roll out business plans. This incubator aims to facilitate innovation in Washington, DC. This office was made possible after successful GW alumni Anthony Shop and his partner launched their own digital ad firm start-up called Social Driver after winning a business plan competition. Now other undergraduate GW students can enjoy the resources to launch their own businesses.
The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Cleary University
As the first micro business incubator in Michigan’s Livingston County, this incubator provides guidance and low-cost assistance to launch the small business ideas students have. The primary purpose is to stimulate the economy of the region and create more employment opportunities. Students get to enjoy the broad span of workshops and leverage the CUMBI networking events.
W. L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Lab at the University of Virginia
This ten year old incubator at the University of Virginia recently celebrated its reopening and expanded to deliver a community of collaboration and innovation. Proud of their strong emphasis on community , the “iLab” welcomes all 11 school degree programs and members of the Virginia community. The incubator offers office space, meeting rooms, a “pitch” room where entrepreneurs can present their ideas and get feedback, and a coffee bar. Among the many companies the incubator has helped launch is Darden alumnus Nathan Tan’s Forgetful Gentleman, a company dedicated to help the modern man become a gentleman via their high quality stationary, clothing, etiquette, and gift-giving.
Cal U’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Center & Student Incubator
The ELC/SI encourages Cal U students to develop their ideas, create business plans, obtain funding sources, and register their businesses. They provide dozens of workshops and training classes including their “Ice House” 8-week training program which was designed to connect students with successful entrepreneurs.