Student entrepreneurs looking to put technological products on the market will have the opportunity to participate in VentureLab Wisconsin, an intensive five-day program happening this summer.
The program, coordinated by the National Collegiate Inventor and Innovators Alliance, will run Aug. 13-17.
Eric Englund, co-director of the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, who also headed the committee that approached VentureLab, said he hopes the pilot run of VentureLab Wisconsin will reflect the program’s national success.
He added the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic expressed a need “to answer to university’s, state government’s and private investors’ increased demands to grow business.”
NCIIA spokesperson Patricia Boynton said attendees participate in various interactive concept mapping and design exercises in a “grueling but rewarding five days.”
Boynton said student ventures typically aim for positive social impact and include ideas for medical devices, green technology and alternative energies.
By detailing their product’s progression from conception to consumer, she said students are able to identify areas of profit loss before implementing their business strategies.
VentureLab also offers participants valuable opportunities to network with business leaders. Boynton said the program typically concludes with an open exhibition of each team’s designs. This exercise allows participants pass relevant contacts to colleagues.
Boynton added VentureLab hopes to “bridge the gap between students in the lab and professionals in the business community.”
Englund agreed that networking is especially valuable for student entrepreneurs.
Although participants must invest considerable time and energy during this week, he said the program’s emphasis on cooperation between teams ensures young innovators “do not feel as if they are growing their business on their own, but are surrounded by like-minded individuals.”
“Often times graduate students lack time and direction to make the next steps to grow their business,” Englund said.
Matching program participants with business mentors ensures the students are ready to navigate through potentially challenging business atmosphere, he added. At this point, however, the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic is still confirming the program’s lineup of guest speakers.
“By the time of application, these concepts are typically beyond the idea stage and exist as prototypes ready for experts’ critique,” Englund said.
To participate in the program, applicants must also submit $100 in entry fees. These fees contribute to the program’s $40,000 total cost, which Boynton said could help applicants realize the value in what they sign up for.
Of the program’s many benefits, Boynton said VentureLab transforms previously inexperienced students into desirable business partners. Participants are also encouraged to apply for the NCIIA’s grants, which totaled over $1 million last year.
“VentureLab Wisconsin the first in a wave of efforts aimed to extend the university’s boundaries to meet the outside community,” Englund said. VentureLab Wisconsin’s August debut will also factor into future decisions to extend the program to other UW System schools.
After the program, the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic hopes to maintain contact with VentureLab participants who use their experience to partner with clients. Englund said establishing a system of follow-up will confirm the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic’s belief that there is benefit in providing similar services.