Students present their startups at TEC's Cozad New Venture Challenge demo day in April 2018.
Vitrix Health, Optivolt Labs, Amber Agriculture, Orange QC, Petronics, Cast21, Dibbs, these are just a few of the 942 startups founded in the past five years by students and faculty across Illinois Universities, according to the University Innovation Index by Illinois Science & Technology Coalition.
If you want your startup to join the long list of ventures founded on campus, quit procrastinating and take the entrepreneurship plunge. Here are five reasons why we think college is the best time to launch the next great startup:
World-Class Resources Galore
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fosters the most vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. You save significantly on the huge cost to launch a company, so utilize every resource at your disposal in and outside the campus. “College is one of the best times to develop your entrepreneurial skills while leveraging the widely available resources within our entrepreneurship ecosystem. While you are on campus, the network of resources can help you succeed, accelerate and launch your ideas,”
said Jed L. Taylor, Executive Director at TEC
You will have access to unlimited resources such as dedicated innovation workspaces like EnterpriseWorks, Grainger IDEA Lab, Illinois Maker Lab; Accelerators such as iVenture Accelerator (offered by Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership) I-Start (offered by Research Park); Funds in the form of prize money such as the Cozad New Venture Challenge, Illinois Innovation Prize; Workshops and Initiatives such as Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Workshop, Think Chicago, City Scholars; Registered Student Organizations like Founders, Enactus, Entrecorps; IllinoisVentures, and the Office of Technology Management for technology, business commercialization support.
Unlimited Networking & Mentorship Opportunities
Innumerable professors and faculty with relevant industry experiences, mentors, thought leaders, students from a diverse background, and alumni entrepreneurs in residence are more than willing to learn about your idea. They will offer feedback, guide you through the entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect you with resources who can get your idea off the ground. Reach out to as many people you can because they won’t charge you a dime for their time. In the words of Paul Couston
, COO of Optivolt Labs and one of the 2018 Cozad Winners
, “College is the least risky time to try to start a company. You have access to university mentors, resources, professors, and free money at pitch competitions and grants. There is a concentrated wealth of knowledge all within a few minutes’ walk, and if you can't find an answer then tap into the alumni network instead.”
Optivolt Labs makes high efficiency solar drones for commercial use.
Practice What You Learn
There is no better way to put your classroom learning into action than launching a startup. You not only learn the dynamics of entrepreneurship theoretically but also practically experience what it takes to start a company. You will get to equip yourself with skills such as how to interact with your customers, market your product, manage finance, raise funds, ask for guidance, build professional support network, persevere in the face of instability and manage the team. If founding a business isn’t an option for you, the skills acquired will not only give you an edge over your classmates but also coworkers. You will excel at being an intrapreneur within a large organization.
If you are determined to get a head start with your startup goals it is often easier to do it while you are in school. Despite juggling between classwork, social life, extracurricular activities, volunteering, sleepless nights and more, you are likely to have a more flexible schedule than when you graduate.
It’s Ok to Fail
You can afford to fail, stretch your goals, innovate, and experiment with ideas. It is completely acceptable to make mistakes and start all over again with a new venture. You can take risks as you have nothing to lose. “College is a great time to take risks for those who have the luxury to do so. There are perks that come with being a student including access to university resources and relatively low opportunity costs,”
said Kathleen Hu, winner of 2018 Illinois Innovation Prize and a 2018 Cozad Finalist Team
. A senior majoring in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, she co-founded Dibbs, a technology platform that aims to fight hunger by connecting excess food from grocery stores to local food agencies.
What are you waiting for? Now is the right time to launch your startup.