For many students, university is a time of opportunity. Young entrepreneurs start working on their startup ideas while they are still in school, making the university experience itself a vital part of a startup’s success.
How do universities prepare startups?
Looking at the top universities in producing successful startups, three factors are especially important: funding, innovation, and development. To college students who may be just entering the startup world and still finding their footing, the assistance their university offers — directly or indirectly — can make a large difference.
Realistically, funding is crucial to a startup’s success, giving them access to resources they need to grow. While this may be more dependent on the university’s connections, and is often associated with the name recognition of more well-known institutions, it isn’t all that matters.
Colleges that encourage innovation help their students learn and develop the brightest ideas, something essential to launching a startup that stands out among the crowd. For students, it helps to look into the university’s research specialties and what they are at the forefront of. A school with professors that specialize in new technologies, for example, can offer unique insight into that field that may be inaccessible elsewhere.
Finally, many universities help student startups by running incubators and accelerators on campus. This gives young entrepreneurs and their teams an accessible opportunity to grow. The kind of mentorship and workshop opportunities these programs provide equip startups with a valuable toolbox of resources that make them better prepared to achieve their goals.
If you’re wondering what the best universities for startups are, here are some examples of support that different schools in the United States provide for their students.
Venture Program at Harvard Innovation Labs
The Venture Program run by Harvard Innovation Labs is open to startup teams with at least one current Harvard student as a founder. It offers two semester-long tracks targeted towards startups at different stages of development. The Start It Track is ideal for teams still in the earlier stages of refining their idea, while the Build It Track helps those that already have some market demand and are working to expand.
Both tracks include access to a variety of opportunities and resources, including networking events, consultations, and workshops. Although acceptance into the program doesn’t guarantee funding, teams can apply to different funds and grants through it. For example, Spark Grants are made available specifically to teams in the Venture Program, with up to $5,000 awarded depending on need.
Startup UCLA’s Summer Accelerator
The Summer Accelerator for UCLA students and alumni offers a ten-week program from July to September intended to help startups make rapid progress towards their goals. To qualify, at least half of the team must be a current student or alum, and the startup should be beyond the conceptual stage, with a working product prototype they are now trying to perfect and market.
Like other accelerators, this program culminates in a Demo Day where teams will have the chance to present their pitches to investors. It also offers other exciting opportunities, like a trip to Silicon Valley where young entrepreneurs can learn from industry experts. Each team is also given a $5,000 stipend to help make the most out of the accelerator.
Stanford University’s Student-In-Residence Scholarship
The Student-In-Residence Scholarship is offered by Stanford as part of StartX — the university’s community of startups and entrepreneurs. It is a non-profit that looks for student founders with potential and engages them in a six-month program where they will have access to all of StartX’s resources.
During this six-month period, students and their teams are provided with a dedicated office space, free legal guidance, and tailored training from mentors and advisors. Each team also receives $9,000 in funding from the program. This is a beneficial opportunity for students to apply to as even those that are not given the scholarship are still offered feedback on how they can improve, making it a worthwhile learning opportunity regardless of the outcome.
Utilizing the University Setting
Ultimately, the most important thing student entrepreneurs can do is take advantage of the free resources their university offers. No matter the prestige or size of the school, students have valuable access to space, internet, and people that will help startups at any stage of development. This is the time to make connections and learn from others, with the chance of finding both customers and mentors along the way.