Accelerating Student Startups
The involvement of University of Georgia students in programs that prepare them to launch successful startups has risen dramatically in the past year, and people across the nation have started to take notice.
Justine Avoudikpon, a fourth-year finance major in the Terry College of Business, was one of just eight finalists selected from more than 200 teams to reach the final round of the national Student Startup Madness competition in Austin, Texas, where she pitched the Swifte carpooling app that she co-created to a group of investors. And just last week a team of four students from our School of Public and International Affairs and College of Public Health won $10,000 to complete the development of TurnKey, a mobile app they designed to dissuade high school students from texting and driving.
The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences recently held its inaugural FABricate entrepreneurship contest—a six-month program during which teams developed new agricultural technology, food and hospitality startups and pitched them to a panel of business leaders. Winning teams received $1,000 per team member, and the grand prize winner was a smart irrigation system created by fourth-year horticulture student Jesse Lafian. Other winners included a phone app that allows restaurant diners to share their wait times and make reservations, and a food product that combines pork sausage with vegetables and rice.
These student successes, and many others like them, underscore the culture of entrepreneurship that has taken root on our campuses.
At the beginning of this academic year, the University launched its campus-wide Entrepreneurship Certificate Program, which is housed in the Terry College of Business but open to students from any major. The certificate program combines required coursework in core areas such as entrepreneurial finance and management with discipline-specific electives that allow students to tailor the program to their individual majors and aspirations. The Entrepreneurship Certificate Program has been very well-received, with more than 340 students from 10 schools and colleges enrolled in the program to date.
The classroom instruction and mentorship that our students receive is complemented by an unrivaled range of hands-on learning opportunities that hone the entrepreneurial skills of students. The UGA Idea Accelerator Program is an eight-week business boot camp that culminates in a competition for a $5,000 prize. And later this month UGA will host its annual Next Top Entrepreneur competition, which is open to students from across the country and comes with a $10,000 prize.
In addition, student organizations such as the Society of Entrepreneurs help connect students with like-minded peers, while a visiting speaker series and partnerships with organizations such as the Four Athens startup incubator help connect them to the business community.
The University of Georgia is quickly becoming a hub of entrepreneurial activity, and the good news is that we’re just getting started.