MSU’s Ecosystem for Entrepreneurs
The university’s budding and experienced entrepreneurs are active in all stages of commercializing start-ups – from ideation to launch – through programs and support systems.
At Michigan State University, students, faculty and business advisors are excited about the opportunities and resources that encourage creative thinking to become new business ventures. MSU is a place where students and faculty have the tools, support and opportunity to commercialize their own ideas and capability. “We are building an ecosystem where success becomes contagious and spins off other ideas and other companies,” said Charles Hasemann, executive director of MSU Business-CONNECT.
Revamped curricula and other steps have encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in students and alumni. Programs and resources for students, alumni and faculty include classes in entrepreneurship, business pitch competitions, business incubators, mentors and coaches, as well as seed funding to help start-ups get off the ground.
There is a mix of opportunities at MSU that encourage and stimulate engagement in the entrepreneurial process. The university’s budding and experienced entrepreneurs are active in all stages of commercializing start-ups – from ideation to launch – through programs and support systems offered by Greenlight Fellows, the Hatch, the Broad College Institute for Entrepreneurship, the Toolbox (College of Engineering), the Sandbox (College of Communication Arts and Sciences), the MSU Innovation Center, the MSU Entrepreneurship Network and ICE (Innovation Club for Entrepreneurs).
MSU Student Start-up Takes First at National Competition
“I was running one day last year, listening to my music, and a song came on that was just the perfect beat for me,” said Josh Leider, a senior marketing major. “Everything was perfect, and my run felt amazing. Then the song ended very abruptly, a new song came on that was very slow, and I couldn’t adjust back into that song. I thought, ‘Why can’t I always run to the tempo of my music?’ Hence, the idea, TempoRun.”
Leider joined forces with fellow runner Benny Ebert-Zavos, a hospitality business senior, and computer science seniors Phil Getzen and Adam Proschek. The TempoRun team first pitched their concept at the Broad Undergraduate Pitch Competition in the fall of 2012. They captivated the judges’ imagination by showing up in their running gear and were awarded first prize in the Broad competition. Within a few months, a new iPhone app was born. TempoRun took first place at the national Student Startup Madness (SSM) Tournament held at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas. The students won $5,000 from Google Cloud Platform to bring TempoRun to the iTunes market.
During development of the idea, TempoRun received support from Spartan Innovations, which provided $5,000 in funding from two MSU endowments created by the Gerstacker Foundation and the Forest Akers Trust, according to Paul Jaques, director of student and community engagement for Spartan Innovations. Jeff Smith from the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) also provided support. The students did much of their brainstorming at The Hatch, a student business incubator in East Lansing.
“It’s nice to know there are other entrepreneurs in the community, and we’ve learned that through Spartan Innovations and The Hatch,” Leider said. “We’re around them every day, which makes us well-rounded entrepreneurs and business people.”
In 2014 five MSU teams advanced to the round of 32 in the SSM competition, and one team, Carbon Cash, reached the Entrepreneurial Eight finals at SXSW, making MSU the first university to repeat at that level in the competition. Like TempoRun before it, the Carbon Cash team (Bernie Eisbrenner, John Bauer, Patrick Schmitz and Patrick McCarthy) won first prize in the Broad Undergraduate Pitch Competition. The team credits their experience in the Pitch Competition and the resources available to them through Spartan Innovations and the Hatch with helping them to advance through the national competition.
As a partnership among MSU’s Entrepreneurship Network, the City of East Lansing and LEAP, the Hatch is designed to host, encourage, cultivate and enable student entrepreneurs to grow their ideas in a collaborative environment. Hatch members develop their own business ventures while working with others to increase the probability of each venture’s success. The Hatch has space in East Lansing’s Technology and Innovation Center (TIC), located in a former large retail outlet on East Lansing’s main street. TIC tenants and close neighbors include a host of technology innovators and firms that help new businesses launch.
Executive Director Brian Abraham oversees all aspects of Spartan Innovations. Abraham earned a PhD in Chemistry from Tufts University. His post-graduate career, however, was focused outside of the chemistry lab. Among his many accomplishments, Abraham has started and managed several tech companies and has taught entrepreneurship at both Babson College and The Ohio State University.
The Spartan Innovations team of professionals work with students and faculty and provide key resources to support the launch of more MSU start-ups:
• Student stipends to support hands-on learning situations;
• CEO mentors-in-residence to help manage new start-ups;
• Access to a network of venture investors;
• Gap funding to support the earliest stages of MSU technology development.
In addition to fulltime staff, the Spartan Innovations team includes accomplished ‘serial entrepreneurs’ and business executives who serve as CEOs-in-residence. These experienced executives provide technology/product development leadership and executive management for MSU start-up enterprises throughout the venture launch period. CEOs oversee the development of an investable business plan, and structure tasks, track progress, remove roadblocks, manage budgets, raise funds, and conduct regular reporting against milestones. The CEOs are supported by a highly selective team of MSU entrepreneurship scholarship graduate students.
Network of Opportunity
On campus, the Broad College of Business, the College of Communications Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering are committed to working together to offer classes and a center for ideation to any students from any disciplines who have a passion for creative innovation. These potential innovators have the opportunity to explore and develop their ideas in the early stages before advancing to The Hatch. Self-selected ‘future entrepreneurs’ have access to a community of experienced and engaged innovators as well as information about opportunities to learn and explore a variety of avenues and resources that will help them begin new business ventures.
MSU professors and post-graduate fellows across all disciplines are among the most prolific entrepreneurs on campus. Each year, the MSU Innovation Celebration showcases and recognizes inventions and innovations developed at MSU. In 2013, Dr. Marcos Dantus, professor of chemistry, was recognized as Innovator of the Year for his research in ultrashort pulse lasers. His work has resulted in 37 invention disclosures submitted to MSU Technologies since 1994. In 2004, Dr. Dantus started Biophotonic Solutions, Inc., a company that continues to market the technology Dantus created.
Partners for Innovation
The entrepreneurial ecosystem at Michigan State – from the classroom, to creative centers where students can exchange and nurture ideas, to the laboratories where new technologies are born, to the Hatch, to MSU Technologies – is possible because of the key partners who support the system.
The MSU Foundation underwrites MSU’s work in technology commercialization and provides facilities and building sites at the University Corporate Research Park for technology enterprises, initiatives and university/industry collaboration. Two of the foundation’s directors also are founding donors to the Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Broad College of Business.
The Gerstacker Foundation Entrepreneurial Grant Program is an opportunity for undergraduate students from the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines to compete for funding for a research concept with entrepreneurial potential. Students develop a concept, conduct the research, and present their findings with the goal of getting their concept into use or production.
The Forest Akers Trust Entrepreneurial Grant Program is an opportunity for undergraduate students to compete for funding for a research concept with entrepreneurial potential. This program focuses on, but is not restricted to, non-STEM disciplines. Students develop a concept, conduct the research, and present their findings with the goal of getting their concept into use or production.
A Business Incubator
Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC) is a business incubator for students, faculty and alumni of the three URC universities – Michigan State, Michigan and Wayne State. Their graduates have started or acquired businesses at double the national average rate among college graduates since 1996, according to a study released by the Anderson Economic Group (AEG) of East Lansing at the 2013 Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference.
The URC ranked second in 2012 in the Innovation Power Ranking – measuring talent production, research and development spending, and research commercialization – when compared to other major university research clusters in six states, including well-known hubs such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, California’s Innovation Hubs and Massachusetts’ Route 128 Corridor.
The URC universities conferred the most graduate and undergraduate degrees and the second-highest number of high-demand degrees among seven university innovation clusters nationwide in 2011, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “Michigan’s three premier research universities are doing more every year to promote an entrepreneurial mindset while helping Michigan’s businesses grow by providing the talent they need,” she said. “By focusing on entrepreneurship at all three universities, we’re creating a deep pool of talented graduates who can help start-up companies succeed."
Supporting Start-ups and Entrepreneurship
MSU is committed to supporting new business ventures and promoting creative entrepreneurial initiatives.
• Many of MSU’s 17 degree-granting colleges incorporate entrepreneurship-based courses and specializations into academic programs
• Certificate in Entrepreneurship
• Entrepreneurship concentration (MBA) and specialization (undergrad)
• Engineering Design Day at the end of each semester, when student teams from the College of Engineering exhibit capstone design projects and interact with industry sponsors
• Capstone courses
Resources and Opportunities
• Product Center helps Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer products and businesses in the agriculture, natural resources, and bioeconomy sectors
• Technology Innovation Center promotes economic development in East Lansing and provides office space, training, funding, and mentoring to the business community
• The Hatch hosts and cultivates student start-up businesses in a collaborative incubator environment
• Forest Akers Trust Grant – students compete for funding of concepts with entrepreneurial potential
• Gerstacker Foundation Grant– students compete for funding of concepts with entrepreneurial potential
• Entrepreneurship Network connects venture and social entrepreneurs with education, know-how, resources, mentors, advocates, and funding
• Institute for Entrepreneurship at Broad College of Business advances and promotes entrepreneurship at MSU and throughout Michigan through research, education, and outreach
• MSU College of Law Small Business and Nonprofit Clinic, where student clinicians empower small businesses and nonprofits by offering quality counseling, legal advice and representation, and community education information
• Career Services Network, an organization of career service professionals located in college-based and centralized career centers across campus that connects students with internship and job opportunities
Explore Michigan State’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
• Spartan Innovations
• MSU Technologies
• Product Center
• Entrepreneurship Network
• Institute for Entrepreneurship
• and more