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.”

DMV 100 Student Meetup | SkyFarm Interactive | #studentfounders

We attended an amazing meetup and student pitch event on Thursday March 30 at the DMV100_sign_entranceGoogle offices in DC near Union Station — the 100 student DMV meetup.  There were students from Georgetown, American University, George Washington University, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, the University of Maryland, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia.

Our colleagues at AU and GWU did the heavy lifting in organizing this meetup and pitch event, as did our hosts from the Google Policy Office.

Eight student ventures from 8 different schools pitched a range of new ventures — from a convenient, dave_100_pitch‘on-the-go’ makeup kit to solar energy in Africa — problems were identified, solutions offered, and market sizes assessed. There was energy and passion in the room and it highlighted how active today’s students are and how responsive our best universities are to the demands of students and the entrepreneurial economy.

David Martell, a finance student at Mason presented his firm,  SkyFarm Interactive, and his vision of a new family friendly digital world — a Disney for today and tomorrow. SkyFarm Interactive, and its main character, Duncan the Silly Duck, can be found in the iTunes sticker store!

Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: the University of Chicago

Even though the University of Chicago does not have a school of engineering, it has become a leading startup university. Groupon, GrubHub, Braintree Financial and other high growth, student created firms have come of of the University of Chicago in recent years and the end is nowhere in site.

Check out my new paper: The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: the University of Chicago to learn more about Chicago and how the US campus has become the hottest entrepreneurial ecosystem around. Here is a snippet:

In March 2016, Forbes Magazine released its list of the world’s billionaires. Simply perusing the 100 richest people in the world suggests that student entrepreneurs from US colleges and universities have impacted the world as much as any cohort on the list. The outsized impact of students that began the firm formation process on campus is glaring. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is #1 in the world, with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at #6 while the Google founders come in at #12 and #13 (“The World’s Billionaires,” 2016). Just a short leap away is Phil Knight of Nike at #24 and Michael Dell at #35 with Paul Allen, who left Microsoft in the early 1980s after co-founding the firm with Gates, at #40 spot globally (“The World’s Bilionaires,” 2016). There are many others on the list that trace their wealth to student created firms at US universities. While there is a diversity of founders and fields of studies from a range of years and universities, their ventures were begun on a campus entrepreneurial ecosystem in the US.

 

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.

 

Cupid’s Cup 2016 | @UofMaryland @UnderArmour #KevinPlank

In completing my research on high growth ventures created by students the case of Kevin Plank (Under Armour) and the University of Maryland was part of my data collection and highlights many of the ideas uncovered. Cupid’s Cup, the annual business competition sponsored by Plank and Under Armour, completed its final round Thursday April 7 on the campus of the University of Maryland. (At the time of this post you could watch the event here)

As usual, the finals featured a passionate speech by Plank and an awesome, psyche up video by Under Armour. Plank’s message about Under Armour and his vision for Baltimore are big (backed by investment on the Baltimore waterfront — see the plans for Port Covington). I would not doubt this guy and his team. Btw, I must confess I bought Under Armour stock ($UA) a number of years ago and have been pleased with their performance.

The judges for the final round included Plank, Arianna Huffington, Dan Gilbert and Wes Moore — truly an accomplished group across a variety of fields/industries.

The 6 presenting finalists were – Javazen, Plova Chewing Gum, Wolf & Shepherd, MyBestBox, SixFoods and Headbands of Hope. The winner was Javazen – the hybrid green tea and coffee drink developed by students at the University of Maryland.

Headbands of Hope creates headbands for kids undergoing cancer treatment; mybestbox is a monthly subscription box promoting healthier lifestyles, Plova gum cleans your teeth between brushings, Six Foods makes bug chips that kids seem to like, and Wolf & Shepherd make dress shoes that perform like athletic shoes.

Nice diversity of ventures, all generating revenue and entering vibrant markets and making impact. Look for more from these teams. Coverage of the Kevin Plank’s Cupid Cup in the Balitmore Business Journal. For the official Cupid’s Cup website.

Forbes Billionaires and Student Entrepreneurs

Each year Forbes The World’s Billionaire list is released and its as clear as a punch in the nose that student founders build some of the most important, impactful and wealth creating ventures in the world. Here are a few from the 2016 World’s Billionaires list.

Bill Gates (1), Mark Zuckerberg (6), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (12 & 13), Phil Knight (24), Michael Dell (35), Elizabeth Holmes (435), and Kevin Plank (527) are some of the student founders on the list. Facebook and Microsoft appear to have the ability to field basketball squads from members of the list.

The basic Forbe’s  billionaire story provides an overview of the shrinking and churn of the list… number of billionaires is down as more moved out than in and total wealth and average wealth are down from 2015.

0228_billionaires-collage_500x500

 

Szaky of @TerraCycle Profiled in @CSMonitor

There are many student entrepreneurs — Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell — that the masses Official_TerraCycle_Logoknow about. Tom Szaky of TerraCycle is probably one of the most innovative and few are aware of his vision and actions. The story of his rise out of Princeton is legendary in my mind and his concept of creating everything out of waste is in many ways revolutionary for industrial and post-industrial societies.

David Karas of the Christian Science Monitor has a very good profile of Tom and TerraCycle in their People Making a Difference feature. From the piece…

Mr. Szaky founded TerraCycle in 2001 while a freshman at Princeton University. He and another student fed dining hall leftovers to worms and liquefied the worm compost, creating an organic and highly effective fertilizer. Lacking the money to package their product, the duo used soda bottles they retrieved from recycling bins as containers to peddle the worm poop.

and later…

Szaky grew up in Budapest, Hungary, prior to the fall of communism and has been intrigued by entrepreneurship ever since he arrived in North America. He sees the world of business as a vehicle for positive social change.

“I think business is more powerful than war, and more powerful than politics,” he says. “It transcends borders very easily, and it is much more lasting.”

He rejects the paradigm that businesses are intended only to generate profits, and that only charities can do good. His goal is to find a way to overlap those missions.

Tom has always been one of my favorites and I think I will see if I can make a trip up to Trenton to meet him and see what he has been building all these years. (Looks like Trenton is about 3 hours from DC… fill ‘er up….)

#trenton #recycling #waste #innovator #princeton #studententrepreneur