Colorado State’s Institute for Entrepreneurship launches the New Economy Venture Accelerator

The Institute of Entrepreneurship at CSU has launched the New Economy Venture Accelerator to pull those who create, invent and innovate from under the radar.

“There are so many students with potential,” said Charisse McAuliffe, director for the Institute of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business. “They’re hungry for the opportunity.”

The Institute for Entrepreneurship began in May. They’re a part of the College of Business and have always had coursework, but up until now it has been limited to just business students.

“The motivation was that a number of students were underserved,” McAuliffe said. “They needed an extra-curricular program that taught them the fundamentals.”

The Institute was looking to open coursework to students outside of business, with two core classes, catering to six majors so far:apparel and design merchandising, computer science, agricultural business, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, and LEAP, the Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Arts Advocacy and the Public, a minor and undergraduate program.

Ten other majors are on deck to offer classes starting in the fall. The Institute even had to take on new hires for this cross-campus collaboration.

“It’s a collaborative organization,” said senior mechanical engineer major Dillon Martin. “It brings together people from different skills who still want to be individuals within that.”

The New Economy Venture Accelerator is a 12-month program in which entrepreneurs develop their ideas with support and training.

“It’s a medium –– it’s a channel for people with an idea that has potential to turn it into reality,” Martin said.

Martin is one of the applicants for the Accelerator. He has been working on developing his longboarding company for the past six months. He has a team of people responsible for marketing, production and creative design, and intends on growing his company to encompass artist-driven apparel design and other products as well.

“You can set your own deliverables,” Martin said. “Setting your own goals and working on your own company is very intriguing.”

The program is composed of two sections. The first section is an Immersion Lab, which is a 16-week intensive track program that focuses on hands-on experience training in an entrepreneurship space. It includes filing paperwork, talking to investors, launching marketing strategies and facilitating partnerships, with the goal of being ready to pitch to investors.

Each week the students come together in a workshop taught by experts in the business community. Students also work with mentors and advisers within and outside of the program. It also involves peer-to-peer collaboration.

“I have skills to offer to other entrepreneurs,” Martin said. “And the professors have real-world experience.”

The second section is the Big Business Plan Competition, in which students in the program compete, but also students who didn’t get accepted or missed the deadline, can pitch their ideas at the competition.

If after that period of time they’re still not ready to launch, there’s an opportunity for an eight month startup springboard. It’s a lot more relaxed of an environment, but involves tracking for benchmarking, and the students still have access to mentors and advisors, and the greater community.

“We’ve made connections with big names in the business world,” McAuliffe said. “Each group agreed to take a hard look at the Venture program. It puts the College of Business on the map. Networking with these outside parties helps do that.”

The parameters of the New Economy Venture Accelerator are that the student must be a current undergraduate student, a graduate student or have just graduated within 12 months of graduation. The 12 best ventures are selected, and these ventures can be individuals or teams. McAuliffe said of all the applications so far, only two are business. Ventures are over the map as far as ideas, which isn’t typical McAuliffe said.

“It’s not just about the idea, it’s about the person. If we can give the skills, training, and understanding, it will be what they need,” McAuliffe said. “Passion, desire and drive are equally important as the validity of the idea.”

In the selection process, the applicants are narrowed down to the top 20. If a students wants to get involved but doesn’t have an idea, they can join a team.

“If people have a great idea and the motivation, this is a great course for them,” Martin said.