Category Archives: Accelerators

NMSU NSF I Corps Team Pivots from Bullet Proof Backpacks to Improved Helmets #concussion #NSF #ICORPS

Nice story from New Mexico State University highlighting its participation in the NSF Innovation Corps — “Researcher teams with student” reads the headline.

The story highlights the value of the NSF I Corps and lean startup methodology as the firm pivoted from its initial focus on bullet resistant backpacks to its current focus on bringing improvement to the helmet industry. Its interesting to note that it was a university resource, Studio G, that appears to have coordinated and supported this team from NMSU. From the story by Vicki L. Nisbitt:

NMSU chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson is working with the technology through Studio G, and pursued the I-Corps funding opportunity with Xu and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. The goal is to commercialize the lightweight and affordable material.

“Business ideas that are presented through this program have a direct impact on research and development and are closely related,” Patterson said. “Therefore, it’s important to understand the business components as they dictate the R&D direction.”

The team interviewed 100 potential customers to gain a better understanding of the market for their technology.

The I-Corps program and activities prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their projects. One of the I-Corps objectives is to have an entrepreneurial student who shows potential in business and technology handle the commercialization…

07/20/2015: Left to right: Mechanical engineering Research Associate Professor Roy L. Xu, chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson, and Studio G Director Dr. Kramer Winingham are using a $50,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program to further develop a protective shield material that can help save lives. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

Left to right: Mechanical engineering Research Associate Professor Roy L. Xu, chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson, and Studio G Director Dr. Kramer Winingham (Photo by Darren Phillips)

The DTMI material also has applications in football helmets and could help reduce concussion risk for players. The helmet shell materials with DTMI designs could increase impact-energy absorption at least 130 percent, compared to the current shell materials.

“A key finding during the I-Corps program was the opportunity for an advanced helmet shell design that could reduce concussions and adapt to other helmet technologies,” Winingham said. “This appears to be the best initial application for Dr. Xu’s technology.”

Continue reading

Visit to Halcyon Incubator | #SOCENT #Incubator #DC

Earlier this week I was fortunate to tour Halcyon Incubator in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC. The year long social entrepreneurship incubator, offers 8 early stage social entrepreneurs the opportunity to live and work in the Halcyon Incubator_Infographic_930x1628WEB_072815House (a bit more on the property later).

For the first 5 months the entrepreneurs participate in the ‘residency’ phase with skills sessions, pitch opportunities, weekly lunches, mentors, consultants and others supporting their ventures development. For the next 7 months the entrepreneurs live and work in the Halcyon House — a gorgeous, amazingly decorated mansion in Georgetown (virtual tour) with everything from a ballroom to beautiful grounds with a pool.

The newest cohort of Halcyon Fellows are just moving in and beginning their year in the program. They are a diverse lot solving important problems and I look forward to meeting some of them and watching their progress over the next year.

The deadline to apply for the next cohort of fellows is October 14, 2015. If you are an early stage social entrepreneur please check this program out. If you know an emerging social entrepreneur, share the application with them.

The library on the top floor of the Halcyon House. Various sessions are held in this room for the fellows.

The library on the top floor of the Halcyon House. Various sessions are held in this room for the fellows. Awesome space for social entrepreneurs.

Do College Drop Outs Thrive?

The WSJ ran the headline, College Dropouts Thrive in Tech, a couple of weeks ago (sub required). The article highlights well known dropouts (Jobs, Zuckerberg) and Thiel Fellowship winners, even referring to one as a wunderkind (a concept I reference in my forthcoming research on student entrepreneurs at US colleges and universities).

From the piece ,

Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer live at Mission Control with 10 others, including two women; half are under 21 years old. Three, including Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer, are Thiel Fellows. The house was originally leased by fellowship organizers for grant winners; other young entrepreneurs moved in as some initial residents left.

More dormitory than frat house, there is more working than partying at Mission Control. Residents come from varied backgrounds with diverse interests, but share some common traits: a brush with early success, disillusionment with the education system, an irreverent world view and healthy self-confidence.

The housemates share their schedules through a Google calendar and conduct group chats on Facebook Messenger, alerting each other to events like Wine-and-Cheese Wednesdays, Freestyle Fridays, and house dinners. There are impromptu all-night sessions of role-playing games such as Werewolf, but the most popular activity is tinkering with technology

I pulled the above quote because my research investigates whether the campus offers frontier like attributes that support innovation and entrepreneurship. The picture painted above provides some insight, but the data set — 2 Thiel fellows — is too small and not sure how representative these folks are of ‘dropouts.’

My data, which includes many students in the information industries — ranging from software and saas to e-commerce and search engines, includes notable dropouts, but most of the students that created high growth ventures while in school do in fact graduate.

Interesting commentary on the article over at Y Combinator Hacker News.

More to come. I will be defending my PhD in mid-July.

Kauffman Foundation Grant to StartX (Stanford Student Accelerator)

There is so much going on at Stanford University that its almost impossible to keep track of all of the initiatives. StartX, an accelerator for university students, received a big commitment for additional funding from Kauffman. From the Kauffman Foundation press release:

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced an $800,000 grant to StartX, which runs a startup accelerator for university students, to support expansion and national scaling of the program.

StartX, formerly SSE Labs, was initially launched in 2010 by Stanford students to accelerate the development of the best Stanford student entrepreneurs through experiential education. Kauffman’s grant will help StartX scale its current services and build a model for replication.

“StartX has taken important initial steps to develop an experiential education-based program for founders at the university level,” said Wendy Torrance, Kauffman director of entrepreneurship who leads the Foundation’s curriculum development. “Our grant will help StartX further develop its curriculum and program and identify a model for replication, while bolstering its capacity to gather and analyze data on its work and crucial outcomes.”

StartX, a non-profit organization affiliated with Stanford University that takes no equity from its portfolio companies, has received applications from more than 6 percent of the Stanford student population each year. To date, StartX has supported more than 240 founders and 90 companies in several markets, including clean tech, biotechnology, enterprise, consumer internet/mobile, hardware, healthcare technology and social enterprise. In total, StartX companies have raised more than $70 million in funding.

Will be interested to see how it scales and would like to know how StartX differs from other channels students use to launch firms.

via Kauffman Foundation Announces Grant to StartX.

Microgrants at U. of Michigan Will Spark Innovative Research | The Chronicle of Higher Education

We recently reported that the University of Michigan was offering a masters in entrepreneurship (joint program from business and engineering). Michigan is going deeper into the innovation and collaboration world with the announcement of microgrants to interdisciplinary teams to pursue new areas. From Paul Basken at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Under the plan, which begins today, all Michigan faculty will be eligible for a $20,000 credit that can be redeemed only if they work with two other faculty members, including one outside their academic field.

The idea, which appears to be unique among American research universities, has numerous elements that Michigan leaders believe will be attractive to professors and the institution, including its emphases on encouraging interdisciplinary work and helping faculty compete for a tightening pool of federal money.

And, said Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan’s president, it will help Michigan and perhaps other universities overcome their widespread failure to let faculty pursue high-risk, high-reward hunches.

“I know that people have new ideas, good ideas, they’d love to try it out,” Ms. Coleman said in an interview. “But we don’t have good mechanisms now within the university for them to do that.”

Later in the piece,

Continue reading

Civic Startup Accelerator | #Socent #Socinn | AcceleratorDirectory.com

Apply now!!

In a conference call this am the participants including me, discussed the growth accelerators, seed funding, and lean startup methods. There is now a new accelerator, the Civic Startup Accelerator, from Code for America. Application deadline is June 1, 2012.

For those accepted: trips to Silicon Valley, $25,000 in funding and great membership are in the offer! So add this to your list of accelerators all your social entrepreneurs and innovators. (btw, the url AcceleratorDirectory.com is for sale): From the Growthology blog:

Code for America, a national nonprofit backed by the Kauffman Foundation and Google, is now recruiting teams to do just that with its first-of-its-kind Civic Startup Accelerator.

As the name implies, this is an initiative targeted at early-stage startups in the civic/government arena. The link contains more information about the program specifics, but essentially there is some funding support and mentoring opportunities; the application deadline is June 1. The mentoring aspect of the program is important; it’s noteworthy that other successful accelerators like TechStars, Y Combinator, and the like also place heavy emphasis on mentorship.

This looks like another great opportunity for student entrepreneurs and others around campus to use the mechanism and tools of entrepreneurship to increase their impact. We’ll get some Startup Mason folks engaged in this.

via Growthology: Civic Startup Accelerator.

More Barbarians at the Gates of Higher Education | hungry academy

Had a great conversation today with an entrepreneur at a local startup and we discussed technical education for founders. He pointed me to Hungry Academy here in DC. The initiative is a partnership between venture backed giant LivingSocial and JumpStart Lab (both DC based). They offer a 5 month intensive programming program followed by an offer of employment for 18 months. The first class just began on March 5. From the Hungry Academy Website (those who get chosed get medical/dental and work out of LivingSocial’s offices):

Hungry Academy started with the question “If you had good people who had the right attitude but were missing development skills, could we turn them into proficient developers in six months?”

The answer isn’t easy. Collegiate Computer Science programs are an intense four years. But the reality is that academic form of CS only maps to some areas of real world development. If you’re building 3D-game engines, you’ve got to understand complex geometry and eek out every instruction cycle from your CPU.

But the world of web development is a different story. Our real challenge is figuring out how the application should work. If we build out ideas, smooth the rough edges, and follow strong guidelines along the way, we can later turn the slow code into fast code. The real challenge is figuring out what the software needs to do and how to do it.

We take people who have the right spirit, a knack for solving complex problems, and teach them to build those solutions in software. A six month program can’t turn them into true masters of programming — but that’s not the point. To be a great programmer is like being a great artist or musician: you combine a solid foundation with a lifetime of practice. This is the foundation.

The application was released in December of 2011 and due just a few weeks later. The notable requirement was an eight minute video answering five questions. “Video?!?” people asked. We weren’t looking for skills they already had, so how good was a resume? We were looking for character, attitude, and drive. And video was the perfect way to communicate it. A huge pool of applicants led to a selection rate lower than the world’s top colleges.

That’s the story so far as we get ready to kick off with our first class of twenty-four on March 5th, 2012.

I love that they state that are trying to replicate a 4 year computer science degree in 5 months. Oh, and they pay you and offer you a job afterwards with a venture funded firm? Do you hear that higher education?

Also notice the difficulty in getting accepted? Like Y Combinator, the Thiel Fellowships, the Minverva Project etc. They are trying to ‘rewrite’ the rules of education, but by only wanting the best talent, they are back into the elite game that many higher ed critics decry. I also like that they have taken a page out of the vocational training playbook by attaching employment to completion — this is something that traditional higher education and many of the non-profits are having trouble with today.

I love all the experiments and am looking forward to learning more about the Hungry Academy.

via hungry academy.