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Secret to Fostering a Strong Startup Community Inside Your University

Most colleges and universities are finding it very challenging to cultivate strong startup communities like those found at leading institutions like Stanford and Yale. But if we take a deeper look at these leading institutions, we can build a repeatable model to support the the rise of the rest.

Certainly one component to developing a strong collegiate startup culture is having a strong curriculum, jam packed with not just theory by applied learning activities which enable students to develop skills required for jobs in today’s workforce. A good example of this was the recent creation of a Software Engineering program in addition to a Computer Science program from a local university St. Cloud State. Many Computer Science programs can teach you how to create a new Operating System or compiler, but most students aren’t going to care unless they are involved in building infrastructure post-graduation. The vast majority of students today in Computer Science program would rather be learning coding skills to build useful enterprise or consumer software instead of spending their college years learning how to build infrastructure they never intend to be a part of.

Invest in equipping labs with cutting edge, disruptive technology to give students access to equipment that others cannot. Story of Google and how they waited at loading docks at Stanford for new computers to come so they could increase their capacity- https://www.technologyreview.com/s/400833/search-us-says-google/. It isn’t 2000 anymore. Ideally, universities should invest in labs that provide access to breakthrough AR/VR technology, drones, etc

One often overlooked and easily corrected way to supercharge your universities startup community is to encourage it to focus some of its investing activity on regional venture funds that align with the universities mission as pointed out by Tim Schigel of Refinery Ventures’ recent post. In Tim’s post, he shares insights as to how universities like Yale are generating out-sized returns for their endowment than they would otherwise get in the stock market by investing in venture funds which align with their school. Today, most universities when investing in the higher risk/higher reward asset class send all of their funds outside of their region. This far away distribution of venture capital creates a virtuous cycle where the universities in other regions end up dramatically outperforming them, which causes the original university to be less competitive. If there are no venture funds in your college’s region, encourage a policy decision to back first time fund managers who align with this bottom up strategy.

[Startup competition like U of MN. beatitful thing happens.
over 300 startups just in one division alone.

Kaufman foundation
People start helping the startups by sharing their perspectives, talent, etc.
university leadership should encourage a bottom up approach by promoting startup activities through student groups across different disciplines. Top down approaches don’t work. Entrepreneurs are best led by entrepreneurs as Brad Feld’s describes in his book Startup Communities.

[http://xtern.me/ by TechPoint. apprentive program. critical first year into these new high demand jobs. CTO of Indiana and their apprentice program]


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