David Huang, Justin Segool, Brad Minsley, John Quintiliani and Matthew Weiss are futurists, even though they just graduated from college. But these Duke University grads aren't the sit-back-and-pontificate kind of futurists. They make their visions happen-and help others with theirs.
That's precisely what they want for the next generation of netpreneurs: the ability to turn their ideas into reality. "We are confident that student entrepreneurs are going to produce the next wave of e-businesses nationally and internationally," says Weiss. They're so confident, in fact, that they've created a "dorm-room" accelerator of high-tech student ventures in Durham, North Carolina, StartEmUp.com. Featuring the JumpStart2K Student Start-Up Challenge, StartEmUp allows students from 50 geographically juxtaposed campuses to compete for a spot in an off-campus incubator-or, as StartEmUp puts it, to go from dorm room to boardroom.
What's the StartEmUp advantage? "Giving only entry-level capital is a disservice to a ground-zero college student with an idea," explains Weiss, 22. "What's really important is the guidance and hand-holding they need. Our goal is to take college students through start-up and position them to [approach] the investment community."
Here's how it works: Fledging student entrepreneurs from universities in the targeted region submit their business plans for evaluation. The field is narrowed to 10 or 15 applicants, who then present their proposals to a panel, then one or two students from each school win a spot in a five-suite start-up facility located near their campuses. In addition to receiving seed capital and free rent for up to 6 months, the selected high-tech companies can obtain free advice from a board of experts in the fields of law, marketing, e-commerce, real estate and business management. StartEmUp has also now partnered with Arthur Andersen, Smart Online and giants like The Dilweg Companies, and StartUpStreet.com, an Internet accelerator for high-growth start-ups, has jumped aboard, promising to provide StartEmUp winning student teams with access to a network of angel investors.
Student Start-Up Challenge contests have already been held for Duke, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. The next areas on the agenda are Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, with Chicago and New York slated for spring 2001. If all goes as planned, StartEmUp student accelerators will dot the country, giving Weiss and his partners a 20 percent equity stake in the Amazon.coms and eBays of the future.