‘UVM Start’ to help get student startups cash
Program will assist future entrepreneurs
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 00:09
Student entrepreneurs will soon have the backing they need to get their businesses off the ground.
A new platform called UVM Start connects student entrepreneurs with UVM alumni to provide them with the necessary capital and advice for starting their own businesses; it will be launched Oct. 18.
The program is similar to crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter.com that allow members to ask for contributions to business and creative projects, but the program differs in several key ways, said Tucker Severson, graduate representative for UVM Start.
“With Kickstarter, students can get lost in the noise,” Severson said. “With a UVM-only program, you can get donations from people directly interested in entrepreneurship coming out of UVM.”
UVM Start is exclusive to UVM students and alumni who donate funds, he said. The program was adapted from a similar program hosted by Middlebury College.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to get taste of what it’s like to start a company,” Severson said.
To apply for the program, students give a summary of their project online and a team led by senior Liz Bernier reads the information and decides if the project is a good fit for the program. If it is, the process for acquiring funds begins.
“We are pretty excited to get the platform started and get students connected to alumni,” Bernier said.
Some proposed projects include an all-natural, tea infused chocolate bar, and an improved bike rack design, said Andrew Stickney of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies.
The program runs two sessions, one in the fall and one in the spring, in which students can submit projects, Stickney said. Submissions may be social, consumer-focused, or science and technology based.
After the team screens the project and judges its potential, it passes the information through the website UVMStart.org to any of the 100,000 living UVM alumni who may be interested in helping fund the project, he said.
Students won’t be alone through the process and projects will be reviewed and revised along the way, Stickney said. By connecting students with alumni partners, UVM Start hopes to give students the advice and mentorship that they need to turn their ideas into viable business plans.
The organizers of the program hope that one day it will be student-run and self-sustaining.
“This is really a way to boost entrepreneurship on campus and give students the tools they need to succeed in the business world,” Stickney said.
Senior Cyril Brunner is both a member of a student team as well as director of student teams for UVM Start and said he likes the duality of both having a project and helping others with their projects.
“It provides a great opportunity to create a business,” Brunner said. “Students don’t think it’s something they can do, and I feel like there will be a lot of people interested in both the funding and expertise it provides.”