Introducing the fairy godmother that will help bring the dreams of endeavoring student entrepreneurs to life — the Weiss Tech House.
The Weiss Tech House, situated at 33rd and Walnut streets, provides student innovators and entrepreneurs with a physical space to work in, resources for research and development and access to experienced mentors. Of the resources at the Weiss Tech House, the ones most geared toward supporting budding entrepreneurs are the Innovation Fund and WeissLabs, a program slated to begin in the 2016 spring semester.
The Innovation Fund is an in-house, mini venture capital fund that awards groups of student inventors with grants and mentoring resources. Up to $5,000 is awarded to each team of inventors. Though anyone is eligible for funding — whether a team already has an established business or has nothing but the framework of an idea — the fund is geared toward those with ideas in their initial developmental stages.
“We want to be their first resource — the first one they go to for money for whatever they may need,” said Ross Iscowitz, co-chair of the Innovation Fund committee.
To receive funding from the Weiss Tech House, a team must submit an application, pitch their ideas to the Innovation Fund committee and participate in a question and answer session regarding their project. Teams can apply again for more funding if they can show the progress their projects made as a result of the initial grants supplied by the Innovation Fund.
“What’s important to us is how our money can help them,” Iscowitz said. “We look for a team with a lot of drive and initiative, and we look at whether there’s a market for their product.”
Another program that will look to cultivate budding entrepreneurs is WeissLabs, which is projected to be available at the Weiss Tech House starting in the Spring semester. The WeissLabs, which will be the first 24/7 physical space on campus for students to work on their ideas, will offer an incubator for ideas that provides selected teams with continuous support, lessons and mentoring to help bring their ideas to life.
“WeissLabs wants to act at the heart of entrepreneurship, get involved in all the other incubators on campus and become a real community for innovation,” Guthrie Gintzler, one of the co-founders of WeissLabs, said.
According to the WeissLabs team’s current plans, five to ten teams of student entrepreneurs will be selected based on an online application. They will engage in a ten-week curriculum that will be geared toward leading groups of entrepreneurs from the idea stage to an end product.
“The Weiss Tech House has a ton of different programs for entrepreneurship, but those are one time opportunities — what all these functions of the Weiss Tech House lack is engagement. WeissLabs wants to catalyze innovation by engaging students through lessons, community and mentorship,” added Gintzler.
Business mentoring is one of the most key resources that students can gain access to through the Innovation Fund and the WeissLabs.
“We have an extensive alumni network of people living across the world, and many of them are quite generous with their time … to talk about their ideas,” Ben Feis, the student director of the Weiss Tech House, said. Feis added that “there’s a slight disconnect in terms of kids knowing that that’s available to them,” even though these mentoring services are easily accessible at the Weiss Tech House.
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