Have a great idea for a business, new product or service? Join the club — literally. The OSU Entrepreneurship Club sponsored by InnovationX, our Center of Excellence for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is a club that supports student-led businesses. For InnovationX, the club is just one of its many methodologies for bringing together and supporting OSU’s most promising young entrepreneurs.
To face the challenges of getting a business off the ground, students need knowledge, confidence, resources — and entrepreneurial skills. InnovationX has a strategy to put these pieces together and train students of all majors to become successful business owners. By creating access to networks, mentors, training and resources, InnovationX is a comprehensive center that helps passionate, innovative students from across OSU pursue their ideas.
“It’s exciting to see the value we’ve created,” said Dale McCauley, program manager for InnovationX. “Students who we’ve trained through our entrepreneurship programs are now out in the world running businesses.”
Take the case of Anton Schuster, a physics major who started participating in College of Business entrepreneurship programs four years ago. Like many entrepreneurs, Schuster had idea after idea, year after year, until finally, a business formed with engineering students that won startup competitions and earned seed funding from national organizations such as VentureWell.
“It’s exciting to see Anton progress, with his ideas getting better and his execution improving,” McCauley said. “Anton’s story is a great example of why we are here, and why we help students who are at any stage in the process of developing an idea.”
Schuster’s company, Rambuta Remote Sensing, builds drones that fly over agricultural fields to collect data on moisture and pesticide levels.
“There are a lot of people who are really sharp and have really good ideas, but they don’t necessarily have the skill set to actually make something happen,” Schuster said. “InnovationX provides the tools.”
InnovationX operates under the premise that entrepreneurial knowledge and skills differentiate our graduates, and that the associated skills — creative problem solving, self-discipline, resiliency — are highly sought after in the marketplace, whether students want to land in a startup or an existing company after graduation. InnovationX supports students from all over campus, bringing together a diverse group of students with a range of skills, talents and inspiration.
“We work to ensure that students of all academic majors and backgrounds have access to resources and a supportive community to explore and pursue business creation,” said Audrey Iffert-Saleem, executive director of strategic initiatives at the college and director of InnovationX. “InnovationX is a training ground to help students explore entrepreneurship and to propel the success of ambitious and passionate students who have a vision. We are a connecting and collaborating resource for entrepreneurs at all stages across OSU.”
As part of its emphasis on building the innovative mindset, all business students take an introductory entrepreneurship course, which is also open for any OSU student to enroll. The college currently has an entrepreneurship option for the undergraduate Business Administration degree and is launching an entrepreneurship minor in fall 2018. Entrepreneurship remains a central part of the College of Business first-year student experience, where all first-year students create revenue-generating micro-businesses.
Beyond degree programs, InnovationX runs several programs for students of any major who need support for their entrepreneurial ventures. Launch-U is a speaker series hosted by Entrepreneurship Club on Thursday nights in Austin Hall that brings successful entrepreneurs and innovators to campus to share their experiences and help OSU students develop their ideas. Past guests have included Tim Leatherman, founder of Leatherman Tool Group; Randy Conrads, founder of classmates.com and redweek.com; Becca Williams, president of Red Plate Foods; Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks; and Bob Van Nortwick, director of startups for Amazon Web Services, among other innovative leaders.
Launch Pad is a program for first-year OSU students who are passionate about developing new ideas. Students enroll in BA 160, 161, and 162 as a cohort. In the course series, students form teams to launch businesses and take field trips to visit with successful entrepreneurs across the state, as well as pitch for the exclusive opportunity to win $1,000 in funding for their ideas.
Launch Academy, the OSU incubator, brings together undergraduate students who have an idea for a business and want to move forward. Participants have the opportunity to earn up to $5,000 in seed funding for their business, have access to the DAMlab maker space (and a small prototyping budget), gain access to an exclusive co-working space in Weatherford Hall, and are awarded up to three business elective credits per term as they advance their ventures. Launch Academy prepares students to participate in the OSU Advantage Accelerator.
“Ultimately, we want OSU as an institution and the community and region at large to leverage our expertise and programming in a very integrative way,” Iffert-Saleem said. “We want to collaborate and build entrepreneurship experiences that are relevant to students as well as the greater community of business partners that are intrigued and inspired by new ideas and a passion to try.”