Uber to invest $25K in University of Maryland student startups

It's another corporate partnership helping a student-run incubator, Startup Shell, grow out of its original storage closet.

Jonathan Viventi. (Photo courtesy of NYU)

Uber announced today a partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park that will support student entrepreneurship.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the company will be investing $25,000 over two years in student startups, which already benefit from the Startup Shell, a student-run incubator.
The partnership also includes a mentorship program and “innovation council” to encourage students, faculty and staff to think up new ideas in research, development and transportation.
“The spirit of collaboration and entrepreneurship being fostered at the University of Maryland, especially student-led and driven, is truly something special,” said Uber DC’s general manager Zuhairah Washington in a press release.
“Partnering with Uber furthers our mission to position the University of Maryland as a leading public research institution,” added Ken Ulman, a well-connected entrepreneurship cheerleader and the University of Maryland’s strategist for economic development. Ulman was running mate to Anthony Brown in his unsuccessful bid for Maryland governor.
At the center of the partnership is the Startup Shell, a student-run incubator that has grown remarkably since launching in the spring of 2012.
At the time, “a few students were given some space in a storage closet,” said Chris Szeluga, the Startup Shell’s communications director and a sophomore at UMD. Cofounders Eric Rosenberg, who is now an engineer at Twitter, and Justin Searles, a D.C.-based developer working at Spinnakr, “wanted to work way into the night,” said Szeluga. “They just wanted the space to build something cool.”
Initially, the idea was to create a 24-hour workspace for students to “have a good time learning things on their own.”
Now the incubator has kept its improvised feel — “the things we have in our space, it’s either from the dumpster or old student dorm rooms,” said Szeluga. But “the purpose for Startup Shell has changed.”
It currently hosts 60 to 70 mainly undergraduate students working on over 30 ventures, and tries to foster a sense of community through speaker events, demo days and partnerships with established companies like Dropbox.

Companies: University System of Maryland / University of Maryland, College Park / Uber

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