Innov8MD, the network supporting student entrepreneurs in Maryland, announced a new board of directors that will lead the organization going forward. They include:
- Nima Farshchi, program director at the Center for Social Value Creation, Maryland Smith School of Business
- Annie Weinschenk, assistant director, Maryland Technology Internship Program
- Aaron Hsu,cofounder and CEO, ClearMask
- Brad Hennessie, cofounder and CEO, NextStep Robotics
- Jasmine Snead-Ferguson, MBA and MPP student, UMD Smith School of Business
- Jess Garnett, cofounder, JMakes3D
- Michael Ogunsanya, CEO, MindStand
Founded in 2018 to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem among students at universities around the state, the org and its initial board of university entrepreneurship center leaders aimed to build an ecosystem between universities, said cofounder Pava LaPere. She will be stepping down from the lead role at the org as she focuses on EcoMap Technologies, the entrepreneurial ecosystem mapping startup where she is CEO. With growth at EcoMap, she’s acknowledging that she doesn’t have the personal capacity to lead the org, and stepping back to let the next generation take the reins.
LaPere said the new leaders can usher in a new phase for Innov8MD.
“When Innov8MD started, the collegiate entrepreneurial ecosystem was super siloed,” LaPere said. “There was little collaboration between entrepreneurship centers, so support for students was limited to the resources at each school. Our priorities in the first phase were setting up that network and infrastructure for this cross-center collaboration, and to launch the Innov8MD brand to students through limited programming.”
“If the first phase was about building a bridge, the next era is all about getting traffic over it,” LaPere said.
The org has put on programming to showcase student-run startups, and a pre-accelerator program to provide resources.
That inspired a new generation to take on a leadership role. JMakes3D’s Garnett, a recent University of Maryland graduate, took part in the pre-accelerator, called AddVenture, in the summer of 2020.
“I found the resources for student entrepreneurs to be incredibly useful in my journey so when the board reached out to me about joining I was excited to give back and help other student entrepreneurs,” Garnett said. “I also know how empowering it is to be surrounded by other people who are passionate and driven and the Innov8MD board, mentor network, and the students we help are those types of people.”
Other leaders on the board, such as Farshchi, work with students frequently and are looking to collaborate regionally.
“As the director of the Center for Social Value Creation, I have had the pleasure of seeing how University of Maryland students at the Smith School have been able to create a better world through business,” Farshchi said. “Innov8MD takes a similar mindset in a different landscape. Being on the Board allows us to collaborate with other phenomenal resources across the region and give our student entrepreneurs additional opportunities to tackle our grand challenges. I am excited to see all of the great things our community will achieve.”
The board is looking to connect student entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs, connect student entrepreneurs from different schools and promote collaboration between the entrepreneurship centers in the state.
“We’re currently getting input from student entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship centers, alumni, faculty, investors and other stakeholders in our ecosystem to see what their needs are and then we will be putting together programming and resources to address those needs,” Farshchi said.
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