Entrepreneurs / Incubators / Startups / Universities

How UMd’s student-run incubator extended its talent pool

“There were a lot of talented people who just weren’t interested in starting their own company,” Director of Events Sam Drozdov said. That’s why the group added a fellowship program.

Some Startup Shell members. (Photo via Facebook)

Since founding, the University of Maryland’s Startup Shell — the on-campus, student-run incubator — has admitted only those working on launching a company. To join, you had to have more than just an idea. Over 200 founders have gone through the program representing, between them, somewhere between 60 and 75 ventures.

But at the beginning of this school year Startup Shell leadership decided to switch it up — they decided to add a cohort of fellows.

Startup Shell fellows are individuals who may not be working on a specific venture, or even have an interest in launching a company, but who do want to spend time around, and lend expertise to, their entrepreneurial classmates. The idea is that a fellow with, say, expertise in photography, can help the startups in residence with their photography needs while at the same time building a valuable portfolio.

Sam Drozdov, now director of events at the Shell, explained it this way — “there were a lot of talented people who just weren’t interested in starting their own company.” In the past, these people could be found informally hanging out at the Shell’s space, but Drozdov wanted to give them a way to formally contribute. Each semester, in addition to accepting 10 to 12 ventures into the program, the Shell now welcomes 10 to 12 fellows. The most recent cohort started in mid-February — they’ll be members through their time at UMd and valuable alumni beyond, should they choose.

Fellows and startups interact in various ways. The space holds “shell class” for fellows once a week, and makes space for a skills board where fellow can identify what they have to offer and startups can draw from that talent pool.

Drozdov told that the Shell looks for fellows with a diversity of abilities, but also those who want to “not only learn but also teach their skills to others in the community.” Because at the end of the day, Drozdov and his fellow leaders can only assure so much. Just like college more generally, “you really get out what you put in.”

Companies: University System of Maryland

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


9 don't-miss events for technologists and entrepreneurs this July

Top 3 vital trends founders should know before pitching investors in 2024

An OpenAI advisor wants to help tech leaders embrace the humanities

Leaders at Baltimore Region Investment Summit praise collaboration and push for equitable growth — EDA funding or not

Technically Media