If you are not paying attention to off campus entrepreneurship education and seed initiatives, then you should start. Read this great piece (h/t @MichaelGaiss) by Fred Destin sharing his experiences and thoughts on Seedcamp and related issues.
There seems to be a kind of marketing war going on between all of the incubation/acceleration programs, what with YCombinator getting 600 applications a minute or Techstars providing some awesome TV. At some level you could argue all these are fighting for a limited crop of A+ entrepreneurs, but I tend to take a slightly more prosaic view on this. Each of these initiatives serves a defined community and tries to rise above transience by building sustainable processes of value creation for startups. Each has a unique place and role to play in improving the early stage ecosystem, as was well argued by Jonathan Wegener.
Beyond any marketing spin, the only thing that really matters is whether startups go through these programs and come out at the other end stronger, funded, ready to go win in the marketplace. For my money, well-supported, locally backed, collaborative initiatives are the only real way to go. There is no shortcut to generating real engagement between startups and mentors and spending quality time together on problems that truly matter to entrepreneurs and limit their chance of success.
I have been lucky enough to be involved in both Seedcamp and Techstars Boston, and to see how these two initiatives deliver value in different ways. Techstars as a 3 month residential creates a real furnace of entrepreneurial emulation. Seedcamp, designed for a more distributed European ecosystem, is very efficient at creating connectivity and access. Both usually get very strong reviews from entrepreneurs. I also wrote recently about 500Startups, another impressive initiative.
Maintaining quality is a sustainability challenge for all accelerator programs, which is why I think they are fundamentally hard to scale. Quality primarily relies on getting high quality mentors and designing formats that deliver real value to entrepreneurs. It’s tough to scale good mentors, and god knows I have witnessed some pretty awful mentoring. But I have also and mostly seen companies get real breakthroughs in strategy and execution thanks for the variety of views and quality of probing that they are subjected to.
The piece offers many insights into the building of successful entrepreneurs, firms, and ecosystems. We are hoping to build some of this at Mason with StartUp Mason, Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy.
via On four years of Seedcamp — and why you should get involved – Fred Destin.
Just reading through some Vator.com news and came across this new venture, out of the 500 startups movement. One School appears to be a student created venture out of Penn State;
One School: Students are on their mobile phones most of the day, but very few of them have an application personalized to their college needs. One School has created a mobile application that helps pull together all the course schedule, homework lists, class notes, college campus maps and nearby events on one application. Rolling out with partnerships of major college cap uses, One School has seen tremendous adoption rates.
Only on campus for two weeks, 20% of Stanford’s student body has downloaded the application. The purchasing power of students is $500 million per year and helping them stay connected to their campus and the things they need could be an invaluable resource across the country. One School has already partnered with a handful of big college campuses and has raised $750,000 so far.
via VatorNews – Meet the latest graduates of 500 Startups – Part 2.
This train just keeps on rolling! Yes, the campus is the frontier for high impact entrepreneurship! That is why there is now a venture capital fund on Harvard’s campus and it is in the engineering school! From Greg Kumparak at TechCrunch:
Dubbed The Experiment Fund, the firm describes itself as “a bridge between America’s oldest universities and storied venture capital firms.” Backed by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), the firm is made up of Hugo Van Vurren, NEA co-head Patrick Chung, and NEA General Partner Harry Weller — all of whom have a degree of some form from the school.
When I say it’s “right on the Harvard campus”, I’m not kidding — it’s going to be based out of 33 Oxford Street, which is Harvard’s School Of Engineering And Applied Sciences. It’s a bit more than a stone’s throw from Harvard Yard. With that said, the fund operates with complete independence from the university.
And if you’re not a Harvard student? Don’t sweat it too much. The fund says they’re open to anyone, “regardless of university affilation, nationality, age, or prior experience.” Being a Harvard student — or at least a Cambridge local — probably wouldn’t hurt, though.
Anyone who has read this blog knows that there are many reasons that investors want to be on campus. The questions is, do they know what they are looking for? Do they have a framework for assessing student initiated ventures and campus infrastructure?
via Harvard Gets Its First VC Firm: The Experiment Fund | TechCrunch.
I am no expert, but i think Highland Capital is a well known firm. Well, the partners there seem to agree with me that something is happening on campus with student entrepreneurs. Check out their Summer@Highland program,
Summer@HIGHLAND is a 5-year old entrepreneurship program designed to provide university-affiliated startups with the environment and resources for taking their initiative/company to the next level. The program is “founder friendly”: Highland receives no equity stake in exchange for a team’s participation, and teams are under no obligation to Highland after the summer. Our only priority is helping entrepreneurs and their teams significantly advance their startup over the summer.
Selected teams will receive $15K, free office space in Highland’s Cambridge or Menlo Park office, and the opportunity to work closely with the Highland team and an incredible network of founders. Teams will also have access to the Summer@HIGHLAND Speaker Series, which has included founders, CEOs and experts from technology leaders.
You have about 68 days to get your applications in. (Early deadline is March 1, 2012, and regular deadline is April 5, 2012).
It is interesting to note that they are not looking for business plans, but for applicants that have taken some action, on a scalable path, and are entering large markets. This is about high impact student firms, not basic t-shirt shops (so yes, they would have rejected Marc Ecko!).
via Summer@Highland 2011 Entrepreneurship Program.
I have been writing and researching a great deal on how and why start-ups rise from U.S. campuses. I am not willing to say if and how entrepreneurship education and infrastructures influence the number, but I do know that accelerators such as Y Combinator and Excelerate Labs, events such as Startup Weekend and 3 Day Startup, and growing movements such as the Lean Startup Circle and Uncollege are nipping at the heels of university provided entrepreneurship structures.
The Founders Institute has been at it for a little over two years and have recently put out an infographic on what they have done so far (one of my wife’s colleagues is currently part of the group in DC I think — I have no clue what she is working on). From Yourstory:
The Founder Institute is a global network of startups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs launch technology companies. Through the four month idea-stage incubator program, you can launch your company with training, feedback, and support from experienced startup CEOs, while not being required to quit your day job.In 2.5 years 483 individuals have graduated, and 415 technology companies launched through Founders Institute. The Founder Institute was incorporated in April of 2009, and the first class from Silicon Valley graduated in September of 2009. Now they operate in 21 cities across four continents. They say they will soon be launching an average of 2 startups in a day.
via How 415 Startups were launched by Founders Institute in 2.5 Years : Infographic.