University launches Entrepreneurship at Illinois iVenture Accelerator


Taylor Sabatini | Staff Photographer

Students busy at work for the Illinois Summer Entrepreneurship Fellowship at Research Park on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

By Christopher Reinhart

This year, the University launched the Entrepreneurship at Illinois iVenture Accelerator, an opportunity for 36 students in 13 groups to work on their own startup companies.

The year-long program is an educational accelerator for the University’s top student startups. Students in the program range across 25 different majors and minors and 7 different colleges. Leaders of the program said they feel it’s important to have a wide range of students to provide multiple perspectives on the companies.

John Quarton, director of The Hoeft Technology and Management Program and The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, said he hopes news about this program and the opportunities it presents for students will spread throughout the campus and, eventually, the state and country so people will know about the innovation and progress that this program represents.

Students in the program are given access to resources to help with their startups. One of these resources is money; every individual gets a $2,500 stipend for being in the program this summer, and every startup gets up to $10,000 in funding from the program.

In addition to financial resources, many professionals and other entrepreneurs have been coming in to work with students and give them advice on their companies. A lawyer came in this past week to give free legal advice.

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Ryan Singh, a lead coordinator for the program, said, “I’m always here supporting students, connecting them to advisers and coaches, setting up workshops and talks and stuff like that to make sure they are supported. The real fun part for me is just sitting down with the teams and talking about their adventures.

“There weren’t really too many incentives for working full-time in your startup during college, so we wanted to make something for students, so they can do that,” Singh said.

One startup company is called MakerGirl, which is being worked on by Caitlyn Deegan and Charlotte Israel, both in Engineering.

MakerGirl works to educate girls ages seven to 10 about STEM fields and shows them the opportunities they provide through 3-D printing workshops and activities.

“Our mission is to have more gender equality in the STEM fields by 2025, and we want it to be more even in the workplace”, Deegan said.

Israel said she’s passionate about educating girls and women about STEM-related topics.

“I am an engineer, and I went to an all-girls school for high school, so I’m very interested in women’s education,” she said.

The Mouve is another startup company in the iVenture Accelerator, which is being worked on by Uduimoh Umolu, Marco Fabrega, and Samuel Ojogbo. They are creating an app that will allow users to create events in an interactive way and share them with people they know, as well as see what’s currently happening around them.

“The program has really exceeded all of our expectations because it’s just so resourceful,” Umolu said. “Every day, we’re getting introduced to new resources that we probably wouldn’t have come into contact with had we not been fortunate enough to be a part of the program.”

Fabrega said the iVenture Accelerator has been helpful in improving their company.

“It was a great foundation for us. A startup can be killed very easily, so we wanted to make sure we had a good foundation, and this program has a lot of resources,” Fabrega said. “I think that for our idea in particular, it’s good to network, and we’ve been getting really good feedback.”

The program is a collaboration between The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, The Technology Entrepreneurship Center, IllinoisVENTURES, Social Innovation at Illinois, and Research Park.

“That’s what I think really makes this program special,” said Stephanie Larson, assistant director of student programs and marketing at the Technology Entrepreneur Center. “There are so many people coming together with input and putting their resources together to make a great program.”

Students who are interested in learning more about being an entrepreneur and applying for the program can take a course that goes by either Social Work 321 or BADM 480, taught by Carrie Bosch and Noah Isserman.

“It’s a really interesting course where the whole point of it is for students to explore their goals, personal motivations, and what they care about, and then turn that into a social entrepreneurship project with their teams,” Bosch said. “Three of our teams that have sprung out of that class are in (the iVenture Accelerator today.”

To learn more about the fellowship, check out their website.