The Start-Up Starts in College

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Remember how Mark Zuckerberg started as a student at Harvard University before departing to the west coast to help his little website, Facebook, grow. What about Bill Gates, another Harvard dropout who left school to build the Microsoft empire in Washington. It appears that the next big thing often starts with a college student – a bright young mind that, if given the right opportunity, can change the world through innovation.

But there are a couple problems.

Let’s start with the fact that Harvard lost two brilliant students to areas outside of the city of Cambridge and the state of Massachusetts. These are businesses that could have brought in thousands of quality employees and provided the state with great notoriety for other start-ups to relocate there. Second, over the last decade, Harvard has had an astonishing growth rate in their Intro to Computer Science course, possibly a new batch of students hoping to become the next big thing. But will they drop out if their idea goes big?

The Experiment Fund is taking this challenge on. They have partnered with Harvard University and created a $10 million fund (Harvard is not invested, but offers on-campus office space to the group). This fund is for students pushing new ideas forward and comes along with “seed capital, expert guidance, and unparalleled access to America’s top-tier universities and venture capital firms.” It is a smart way to keep students enrolled and local, while they work through the initial challenges any start-up may face. The hope is that the more they invest in their start-up in Massachusetts, the more likely they are to stay.

But that is only one school. What about providing resources to all the others?

Upstart is prepared to take them on. Started by former Google employees, Upstart works to pair investors with students. The investors can fund starting as low as $100 and will receive money back from the student’s income over the following 10 years. The investors can also become mentors to help students achieve their goals. And this one also isn’t limited to tech development. For Upstart, you fund the person, not the project, and encourage their success. It’s another unique approach to give students excelling in college the chance to continue growing after graduation with the funding and guidance they need to succeed.

The opportunities, while very different in many aspects, focus on the same thing: the potential of entrepreneurial college students hoping to change the world through their ideas. I hope to see them both succeed and help provide more brilliant and valuable companies to our country.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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