Accelerators / Entrepreneurs / Mentorship / Universities

This is a great example of how universities can help student startups

The University of Delaware's Summer Founders Program wrapped up this week. Its “pre-accelerator” approach, heavy on mentorship, seems to make sense.

The 2016 Summer Founders cohort at demo day. (Courtesy photo)

Do you remember TenantU, Lazarus Rising and Curing Cube? These are all businesses we interviewed in the past, but what else do they all have in common? They’re all a part of the University of Delaware’s Summer Founders pilot program.
Tuesday marked the end of the pilot, which was run by the Horn Program. The students held a demo day, with an audience of about 20 Delaware entrepreneurs and investors including Jeff Lang, Brian Pryor and Kriss Vaddi. It was reminiscent of a graduation ceremony. Now these students must leave the nest to sustain these startups on their own.
Seven companies were produced or developed in this year’s Summer Founders program, which is basically a startup accelerator that comes with a varying amount of funding. Some student companies received up to $25,000.
Vincent DiFelice, venture support lead, called the program a “pre-accelerator.”
“The idea is to allow the students to go through an accelerator experience,” DiFelice said. “The only difference is that we offer stipends while they work on their project, as opposed to a regular accelerator.” Regular accelerators take equity in the participating startups.
The program is made up of 12 rigorous weeks of mentoring and instruction. The first week includes building a business and financial plan, in addition to interviewing potential customers. “If you talk to the people with the problem and you understand how to solve it, they’ll pay you for the solution,” said DiFelice. The next 11 weeks involves instruction and mentoring on Tuesdays and investor critiques on Fridays.
The first cohort had a total of 20 mentors and advisors who provided over 240 hours of mentorship, according to Horn officials. The students met with 20 different entrepreneurs from Delaware in addition to attending 16 educational sessions.


Impressive stats, sure, but the most fascinating part, in our opinion, is that the idea for the program itself came from one of the Horn Program’s own students, Jason Bamford, who is a part of the Geoswap project.
Bamford approached Horn founding director, Dan Freeman, with a problem. Bamford wanted to work on his business idea over the summer before graduation but lacked the funds and the space. And thus, the seeds of the Summer Founders program were planted.
DiFelice hopes that the program will come back next year. “The programs we provide are those that are beneficial for the students,” he said. “We gave them a slice of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.”

Companies: University of Delaware

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