Universities are our Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

Everyone is looking for them. We have them already… They function pretty well. My recent paper: The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. From the abstract:

One question that immediately comes to mind when studying ecosystem performance is what the proper unit of analysis is: the country, the state, the city, the region, or something smaller, like an incubator or accelerator? This paper suggests that the open, innovative American frontier that closed at the end of the 20th century has reemerged in the entrepreneurial economy on the U.S. campus. The contemporary campus entrepreneurial ecosystem offers the characteristics of Turner’s frontier: available assets, liberty and diversity while creating opportunity, and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. A case study of the University of Chicago explores governance of the campus as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the output produced by that campus ecosystem.

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GWU Grad Student Launches Food Startup

As my research on student startups highlights, food ventures are popular. A recent George Washington University grad student has launched a social venture (Halona Foods) to get more value out of ‘ugly’ produce.

From DC Inno:

As a grad student at George Washington University, Stephanie Westhelle committed her academic life to studying sustainable development. That’s how she found herself researching and visiting small farms around the area.

“It was disheartening to see how many thousands and thousands of pounds of produce are left behind,” she said. “I think the one that was the most disheartening and really made me move forward with my idea was a small farm in Maryland that had lost about 80,000 pounds of apples due to some bruising that happened because of a hail storm… I came up with the idea to start making apple crisps from [them].”

Westhelle is the co-founder and CEO of Halona Foods, which she founded just a little over a year ago. She works with micro-scale farms (small, typically family-owned farms that usually bring in under $1 million in sales annually) to give new life to produce that would normally be considered waste. She and her team buy the irregularly-shaped, bruised or otherwise hard-to-sell fruits and veggies and turn them into snacks, like zucchini chips or apple crisps.

Halona Foods is not the first DC based food startup created by students to try to bring more efficiency to the use of farmed produce. Georgetown’s Misfit Juicery has had a nice run so far — recently being selected to join Chobani’s food accelerator.

George Mason Bees / Social Entrepreneurship

As part of my job I work with innovators from across society and the economy. People working on solving problems big and small.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the Mason Honey Bee Initiative (HBI) for a few years (helping them complete a crowdfunding campaign in 2013) and six months ago the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the George Mason School of Business, partnered with the College of Science and took over the Mason Honey Bee Initiative.

This program has many elements — from pollination courses to work teaching women in latin american to become bee keepers in order to make a living to provide for their families.

It is an exciting time for our Center and for the HBI as evidenced by recent media coverage..

A story by Michael Gaynor from the Washingtonian outline’s HBI and German Perilla’s efforts to find queen bees that are more resistant to colony collapse syndrome. More:

The honeybee has been facing a crisis brought on by parasites and pesticides. From 2015 to 2016, 44 percent of the commercial bee population died—a dire statistic considering that more than two-thirds of food crops rely on bees for pollination.

To save the species, Perilla is on the hunt for “the perfect queen.” He’s mating bees from the most robust hives to create a genetic standout that can birth a hive resistant to pests and disease.

But the Honey Bee Initiative is about more than science. Perilla’s students have traveled to the Amazon to teach beekeeping to women entrepreneurs in poor areas. Others studying anthropology, education, public policy, and even art have done projects. This year, engineering students took part in a campus hackathon, building a custom “smart hive” to better monitor the bees.

Another media piece, from Northern Virginia Mag, that explains HBI’s work with Covanta to reestablish meadow space in Fairfax County, VA on the property of a landfill. From the article by Eliza Berkon;

There are 12 colonies of honeybees at the landfill traveling in a 2-mile radius around the Lorton site as they forage, Perilla says. Both Fairfax County and Covanta, the private company that transfers waste into ash at the landfill, are funding the project.

“This is the first time we are trying to convert a landfill into a productive ecosystem,” Perilla says. “The hope is to at least double the population, have productive apiaries and have a little more acceptance of the people regarding the perception that they have of a landfill.”

UK Science Calls for Support of Undergrad Founders and Entrepreneurship Education

While it has a decidedly scientific bent to it, the Council for Science and Technology (a UK government agency) has sent a letter to Prime Minister at 10 Downing St. arguing for more improving entrepreneurship education.

The letter, with a direct nod to MIT, is signed by Sir Mark Walport and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, and can be found here.

Prime Minister Theresa May has responded here.

For my take on the campus ecosystem.

 

More Funding Going to Student Founders | @JFiance @TheHouseVC

News from UC Berkeley and Georgetown University highlight what my research suggests: students are building some of the most innovative, impactful and valuable firms in the world and their experiences on campus matter (see Campus as Frontier)

From Gtown in DC: Ted Leonsis, billionaire owner of the Washington Capitals and active venture investor, made a $1 million donation to the Georgetown Entrepreneurial Initiative earlier this month with the funds dedicated to seed funding for student ventures that are working to “address problems in the world.” The fund will likely give out $100,000 per year according to the Washington Business Journal.

Out West: University of Cal Berkeley has become thehousefund_logo_backgroundthe target of a small, niche venture investing fund being run by 24 year old Jeremy Fiance, a Berkeley grad. You can read more about the fund directly from Jeremy on his post to medium.com.

Our story is part of a much bigger movement happening on campus right now as student entrepreneurship has evolved into a growing and integral part of the Berkeley experience. To cite just a few Berkeley initiatives, there are eight accelerator programs focused on specific stages and vertical industries, over 40 clubs across engineering, design, and entrepreneurship, two entrepreneurship centers, a design institute, a maker space, the world’s largest ever collegiate hackathon, and much more.

The House Fund is built by and for Berkeley founders. We’re doubling down on our belief in Berkeley by contributing a significant portion of our returns and resources back into the ecosystem. Stay tuned for another big announcement on that front in the coming months.

One more piece on the House Fund and Jeremy from the Business Insider.

 

Venture Fund Targets Campus Startups | @PejmanMar Partners w @BerkelyHaas

Further evidence that the campus is the frontier — early stage venture fund Pejman Mar Ventures, which has history in investing in and supporting student startups from Stanford, has taken its show around the bay area to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

The firm has announced a new challenge — The Pejman Mar Ventures $250K Berkeley Startup Challenge. It follows on their The Garage program that offers space for Stanford entrepreneurs to ‘hang’ out in Pejman Mar offices in Palo Alto.

I am defending my dissertation next Monday July 13th and am glad to see that the value of the campus for entrepreneurs is continually being recognized and people and firms are supporting on student entrepreneurs.

@GeorgeMasonU Alumni @GloboxRentals Launch International Film Kiosk Startup

{DISCLOSURE: I have worked closely with this startup and am mentioned in the article below and am pictured} Great piece on Mason born and Mason Alumni run startup Globox Rentals, a kiosk DVD rental service making top international films available to various consumer markets. The team recently placed its first 10 kiosks, including one in the Johnson Center — the student union @GeorgeMasonU. From Rashad Mulla of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences:

This “Globox” movie rental kiosk, which stands over 8 feet tall, is the pride and joy of Asad R. Ali and Sammy Kassim, the entrepreneurs at the heart of the brand new international film rental company, “Globox Rentals.”

Globox makes movies available for rent through vending kiosks, much like the multi-billion dollar rental service Redbox, but with one big difference: Globox specializes in new and popular international cinema, from more than 100 countries worldwide. This summer, Globox launched its first 10 kiosks, located in the Johnson Center, at various international grocers in Virginia Fairfax, Falls Church, Mt. Vernon, Woodbridge, and Arlington and a 7-Eleven convenience store in Bowie, Md.

“There are a lot of good international titles, content, and movies out there,” Kassim explained. “There just wasn’t an easy avenue for most of the customers and consumers to get that content.”

Today, the Globox team consists of co-founders Ali who studied in both the School of Management and the Department of Economics and Kassim BS ’11, Management, and fellow Mason alumni Ricky Singh BS ’11, Information Systems and Operations Management and Brittany Hill BA ’12, Art and Visual Technology. The Alexandria, Va.-based company appears to be riding a wave of momentum heading into the fall. But to get the ball rolling, Ali and Kassim had to put in a lot of work, and make a couple of unconventional decisions that required passion, drive and, simply put, bravery.

via College of Humanities and Social Sciences | News: World Cinema at Your Fingertips: Young Alumni Start “Globox Rentals” Business.