Campus Alive with Entrepreneurial Spirit
During January, Oberlin’s Creativity & Leadership Project has been hosting its first annual LaunchU program, three intensive weeks designed to encourage and accelerate the development and launch of Oberlin entrepreneurs.
Featuring 15 ventures from both current students and alumni, the program began January 7 with two weeks of LaunchU Bootcamp, which focused on idea and organizational development. This week (January 22 to 24), the participants are engaging in the program’s Accelerator phase, a period of intensive pitch development. The program culminates with the LaunchU Pitch Competition on Saturday, January 26.
During the Pitch Competition, participants will present their business plans to real-world investors with the opportunity of earning up to $10,000 in venture-development prizes. The pitch competition features a keynote address by IDEO general manager Tom Kelley ’77. More than the opportunity to earn money for their venture, LaunchU offers student and alumni entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with and get feedback from a team of distinguished mentors from northeast Ohio and the Oberlin network. All of the day’s events are open to the public; a full schedule is available on the LaunchU website.
“LaunchU is an intensification of the programming that Creativity & Leadership has done over the past five years,” says Andrea Kalyn, the project’s director. “Our goal is to create a forum for current students to come together with our alumni in establishing a really strong network in support of entrepreneurship at Oberlin.”
Since its conception in 2007, the Creativity & Leadership Project has distributed more than $350,000 in grants and awards to Oberlin student ventures.
“Oberlin is highly entrepreneurial in its nature,” says Kalyn. “We have a rich history of a spirit of activism, setting new paradigms, and pushing boundaries. LaunchU is a way of challenging how this education lives on in the real world.”
The final participating ventures include eight led by Oberlin alumni and seven by current students. Their business plans include plans for building electric solar power systems, expanding an online literary magazine, providing textbooks and mentorship programs for youth in rural Kenya, and providing affordable summer storage options for Oberlin students.