Accelerators / DC / Education / Startups

UMD just launched a new $2M entrepreneurial initiative for students

xFoundry is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and gives them the chance to develop a company and win up to $2 million to launch it.

The IDEA Factory Building. (Courtesy University of Maryland/Stephanie S. Cordle)

The University of Maryland (UMD) College Park now has a new option for student entrepreneurs looking to get ahead — or those who just want to explore the startup world.

UMD just launched xFoundry@UMD, a new accelerator program for students interested in entrepreneurship, but who might not have a solid idea yet. Over 15 months, 45 students will take part in programming to found a business collaboratively with other students. At the end, teams will have the chance to pitch and win anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million for their startup. xFoundry is inspired by the XPRIZE competition, UMD said.

Amir Ansari, cofounder and executive director of UMD’s IDEA Factory and board member of XPRIZE, will lead the initiative. He told that the competition is open to all students, but the program is aimed at students who don’t have a clear idea of how they want to pursue entrepreneurship. Many student entrepreneurial resources are aimed at students who have a fully-formed idea already, he said.

“That’s typically not very many students,” Ansari said. “More students may have a desire to do something amazing and be involved in these projects, but they may not have the idea per se, or they may not think they are good enough or they may not think they have the resources or the know-how to take an idea to the next step.”

To participate in the spring semester, students have to submit an application this fall. Students will start in the Xplore phase, which brings faculty, staff, students and investors together to choose one of two options for cohort topics, or the problem students will be asked to solve. In the spring and summer courses, the Xperiment phase, students will learn some of the basics of team building and product development, build a team and develop a business plan. They’ll have to pitch it before moving to the next phase, Xcelerate. Then, they’ll work with instructors and mentors to build and test a prototype before participating in the final pitch competition in spring 2025.

“It gives them an opportunity to fail in a safe environment,” Ansari said. “They can try, they can experiment with different methodologies of building a company, they can familiarize themselves with the mindset of what it takes to actually go through a process like this, which you don’t necessarily get outside.”

Following the competition, the winning team will receive anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million, and become cofounders working on the product team of their startup, the Xecute phase. They’ll have a salary and equity stake, and corporate executives will help guide them through the first year. Ansari said there could be more than one winner, and the prize money will be based on the company’s investment profile.

Ansari said that XFoundry is open to sophomores in their second semester, juniors, seniors and graduate students. Students most likely will receive credit for their work in the program, but organizers have yet to determine exactly what that will look like.

The goal, Ansari said, is to give students the chance to explore entrepreneurship before graduation, and potentially build upon it afterward.

“They start their careers off by doing something significant and then hopefully turn that significance into success for themselves,” Ansari said. “I think that’s a very, very amazing opportunity to have at this point in their education.”

Companies: University of Maryland College Park

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