I’m way excited about a recent article on a space for entrepreneurship at CU, a project I’ve worked on for about a year and a half. Here is the back-story:
No Space At CU
When I was trying to decide which MBA program to join, I got a call from the Dean of Babson informing me of a new student incubator they launched. He described it as a space where students can build their business after they graduate. It sounded way exciting, however, I ended up choosing to come to CU-Boulder because I really think it is the #1 public university for entrepreneurship.
Two Projects Became One
Since I’ve been here, I have fought for a cross-campus innovation space on campus. I’ve been working with the Deming Center since 2011 trying to make it happen. It started as the Innovation Lab and is now called the nLab. The Deming Center built a website and a traveling Kiosk, but we couldn’t find a space; no one on campus would help, despite a large and growing amount of student support.
In October of 2012, while Fletcher Richman was operating the Awesome Board, a whiteboard for ideas, he met Lexi Winer, the Director of City and Neighborhood Affairs for CUSG. It turned out she and Bill Shrum, the Chair of the University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission, had been working on the Hill Innovation District, part of which was an innovation space for students on the hill. I reached out to Lexi to see if joining forces made sense. From our initial conversations, the nLab and the innovation space were the exact same idea, the only difference was that Lexi’s project had a potential space.
By November, both projects became one. Lexi organized our committee meetings, Bill created a 3D design of the space, Fletcher continued to run the nLab co-working events on Fridays, Alison Peters, Managing Director of the Deming Center, continued build the nLab programming, and I built a financial model. In the process we’ve added several more people join the team: Walker WIlliams is helping with legal, Ali Bibbo is making the Prezi, and Dan Bruder is advising.
Why It’s Important
The space is badly needed at CU. One common piece of feedback I get from the community is that they don’t know where to start when trying to get involved with entrepreneurship on campus. There is a lot going on, but all from different directions. This new space will bring entrepreneurship on campus together and be a starting point for the community.
In addition, the athletes have gyms, the art students have buildings, and the thespians have theaters, but there is no cross-campus space for student entrepreneurs. Without one, team formation is more difficult, mentorship is more sporadic, and cross-campus connections are less common. If we had a basecamp for entrepreneurship, students would have the constant opportunity to connect to the entrepreneurial ecosystem on and off campus.
Finally, I lead two student clubs on campus (the GEA and StartupCU). Getting space in the UMC is difficult, so we have most of our meetings on the edges of campus (Law and Business buildings). With a new space for entrepreneurship near the heart of campus, these clubs would be better suited to help all students.
We’re almost ready to begin pitching potential partners. We need to raise a little over a half a million dollars. If we can’t raise it all from CU, university donors, local businesses, or the City of Boulder, we’re going to launch a crowdfunding campaign through FirstFunder.
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