Did you know 51 percent of VCU students surveyed said they were interested in starting companies at some point in their lives? This entrepreneurial interest was spread fairly evenly across all of VCU’s 13 different schools and college. This same survey, conducted in 2014, also revealed that approximately 14 percent of students had an idea for a startup company, or had already formed their own business venture. The Entrepreneurship Fund was created to encourage the entrepreneurial efforts of our students and support the job creators of tomorrow.
Spring 2017 VCU Pre-accelerator student cohort
We received 152 applications for the Spring 2017 VCU Pre-Accelerator. Out of those applications, the review committee selected 34 for face-to-face interviews. During the interview, applicants had 5 minutes to pitch their idea, after which time the committee members had 10 minutes to ask questions. In addition to learning more about the student’s proposed venture, the interview process allowed the committee to get a sense of the student’s commitment and entrepreneurial passion. After interviews, the committee recommended seven student companies to receive a $5,000 stipend and acceptance into the Pre-Accelerator Program. Congratulations to the new cohort!
Logan Devo, pursuing a B.S. with a focus on business management, class of 2019
Project: My Campus Crate
My Campus Crate is a fully customizable care and supply package experience for college students. They bridge the gap between student wants and parent purchases to alleviate the homesickness of, and provide needed supplies to, students who are away at school. The company has been generating revenue since September, but previously conducted hundred of customer interviews, designed a website, and generated a large email list based on organic interest.
Steven Ebeling and Cassandra, pursuing their doctorate in physical therapy, class of 2019
Project: Home Exercise Solutions, TheraJournal
HES is a team of two doctorate students pursuing a desire to revolutionize the practice of physical therapy. Their app, TheraJournal, will allow physical therapists to capture video of the patient performing prescribed exercises and then format them to include instructions before uploading to an online portal. The online portal will allow patients access to their prescription, record adherence, and tracking of symptom progression. TheraJounal is in the R&D phase, but its founders have completed the I-Corps training program with the idea and acquired feedback from over 100 possible customers.
Bryce Johnson, pursuing a B.S. with a focus in political science, class of 2017
Project: Sole Hunter
Sole Hunter is “The Ultimate Online Sneaker Marketplace”. Sneaker reselling is a huge market, but current outlets for commerce do not provide an authentication method for sellers and buyers prior to purchase. Sole Hunter is creating an online platform to house sneaker sales with a flat shipping fee, and also accommodates an authentication step by having the shoes bypass Sole Hunter employees before the buyer is charged. The Sole Hunter team is currently working on website development and marketing avenues.
Britain Kern, pursuing a B.S. with a focus in marketing, product and brand management, class of 2016
Project: App for dog owners
The company provides a digital experience offering a collection of tools and resources to help dog owners with their ownership experience. It addresses common pain points, such as time management and breed education, as well as promote individualized toys and other products. The goal of the company is to empower dog owners with more effective solutions. Currently, he is building a website and conducting customer interviews.
Rahul Sundararaman, pursuing a B.S. with a focus in computer science, class of 2019
The product is a targeted advertising product that interfaces with a camera, display, and speakers. The camera is used to take a photograph of a passerby, an algorithm analyzes from the photograph the individuals age, gender, and ethnicity. With that information, the display and speakers show a targeted advertisement for the individual walking by. Currently, he is working on prototype development.
Matt Teachev, pursuing a master's with a focus in product innovation, class of 2017
FlightRVA is an eCommerce platform and shipping service that takes fresh, craft beer directly from the brewery to consumer. This allows the breweries to bypass distributors and sell directly to the consumer, allowing the breweries to maintain the margins they enjoy when consumers purchase from them directly. The company is currently generating revenue.
Taylor Trenz, pursuing a B.S. in entrepreneurship, class of 2018
Project: Co-working space for contractors, craftsmen
This business would be a co-working space for "makers." The target customers would be creatives, contractors and craftsmen who do not have available space to work from. The business would provide the location and tools for these craftsmen, and also allow them to network with each other. The company would collect money through fees paid at member rates (monthly basis) or non-member rates (per diem).
About VCU Pre-accelerator
Promising student start-ups are chosen to receive a $5,000 stipend to participate in an intense three-month program focused on guiding teams through the challenging early stages of building a start-up using Lean Launch methodology. Through a structured approach of weekly group discussions, mentor sessions and pre-work deliverables, start-ups walk away with the skills needed to validate their business idea, a clear understanding of the customer development strategy, completed market and competitive analysis, a minimum viable product, and an investor-ready pitch deck. This program has seen a history of success, having run three cohorts and helped 22 teams move their businesses forward. These past teams have collectively raised over $1.5 million in investment and/or revenue to date, and two companies have been accepted to Lighthouse Labs’ regional accelerator immediately following their completion of the pre-accelerator.
What we fund
This fund is focused on supporting students that have, or are trying to start their own business. Students who qualify for the entrepreneurial fund will have a new product or business idea that they would like to move to the next level.
Criteria for funding
- You must be a student at VCU at the time of application. All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply regardless of major or college. Ph.D. students as well as postdocs are also eligible to apply.
- You must have an idea for a new product or company (or have already started a company) and be interested and committed to taking your idea forward.
- Funding isn’t predicated on specific industries or business models, but is rather based on demonstrated effort and execution. Therefore, while applications in the “idea phase” will be reviewed and considered, those that have moved their new venture beyond just being an idea will be favored. This may include doing market research, talking to potential customers, developing a prototype or any other indication of traction.
- This is a fund for student entrepreneurs to grow and scale their startups; therefore, you must have a plan to grow your ventures beyond their current state.
- Applicants that have co-founders or other team members working on the project will be given priority. Applicants will also be given priority if they have and provide information on their mentors.
- Acceptance into the program depends upon a student’s ability to attend all weekly session meetings. The term runs from Jan. 19 to April 13, 2017. The cohort will meet on Thursdays from 5:30-8 p.m. Teams are allowed two absences.