Campus incubators are on the rise. Data from the National Business Incubation Association shows that a third of the 1,250 business incubators in the United States are at universities.
Only a few months after being founded, Penn's brand new start-up incubator WeissLabs is already helping launch seven up-and-coming student companies.
The seven teams were selected out of a 70-team applicant pool to participate in the incubator's first ten-week entrepreneurship course to develop their ideas into viable products or services.
The incubator was founded at the beginning of 2016 and was designed to bring the entrepreneurial spirit back to the Weiss Tech House, a space on campus that has resources for student entrepreneurs, WeissLabs co-founder Guthrie Gintzler said.
“The greatest service of an incubator is peer feedback to improve ideas and pressure to make continual progress," Guthrie said. "The Weiss Tech House was lacking this kind of program. Not only do these teams work on their ideas week to week, but this is a place of actual community."
WeissLabs is currently the only 24-7 physical space on Penn’s campus that offers an incubator for these selected teams to develop their technologies, offer each other feedback and learn about entrepreneurship through seminars and speaker series. Unlike some incubators, WeissLabs does not provide teams with funding.
“Ideas are a dime a dozen — whoever gets it to market in the fastest and most effective manner wins," business advisor for Wharton's Venture Initiation program Jeffrey Babin said. "The value of the venture may be zero. What you have learned? It’s invaluable."
Gintzler co-founded WeissLabs because he saw aspects missing from Penn's entrepreneurial environment, such as a space for start-ups and a program that could guide them along offering feedback and networking opportunities.
The ten-week curriculum for students in the program includes a speaker series with representatives from Google X, Robin Hood Ventures and Microsoft and legal advice from Baer Crossey, a law firm in Philadelphia.The teams have also received feedback after pitching their ideas to venture partners, an exercise that Gintzler believes helps the teams develop and enlarges their networks.
“What is it about an incubator that makes it work: a community. People in the committee are becoming a family,” Gintzler said.
An incubator Demo Day on April 22 will top off the ten-week program by providing students the opportunity to share the products they have been working on throughout the semester with teams from other incubators from around the country.
“Anyone is welcome to apply, and start-ups from other Ivies are expected to come,” Gintzler said.
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