Throughout January, Oberlin College’s Creativity & Leadership Project is sponsoring the first annual LaunchU program, three intensive weeks designed to accelerate and encourage the development of Oberlin entrepreneurs.
Since its conception in 2007, Creativity & Leadership has distributed more than $350,000 in grants and awards to Oberlin student ventures.
“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.”
Featuring 15 ventures from both current students and alumni, the program began on January 7 with two weeks of LaunchU Bootcamp, focusing on idea and organizational development, with events streamed to off-campus participants. From January 22-24, the participants will gather on campus for the LaunchU Accelerator, an intensive period of pitch development. The program will culminate in the weekend-long LaunchU Pitch Competition on January 25 and 26, in which participants will present their business plans to real-world investors with the opportunity of earning $10,000 in venture-development prizes.
More than the opportunity to earn money for their venture, LaunchU offers student and alumni entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with a team of 14 distinguished mentors.
The weekend will also feature panel discussions and networking events with the mentors and potential investors. Tom Kelley ’77, the general manager of IDEO, a global design and innovation firm, will deliver the LaunchU keynote address on January 26.
“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 proposals 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. Project phases range from little more than an idea to those that are established and ready to grow and develop.