Have an i-venture
Within the last 40 years Harvard students have produced two of the most influential technology companies of all time. Both Microsoft and Facebook have changed the way individuals connect with one another and perform tasks in their daily lives. Bill Gates' Microsoft defined the technology of the elder generation, while Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook has shaped and is still shaping our generation.
For University students equally interested in revolutionizing the social and business worlds, the University offers multiple academic clubs designed to help students pursue similar goals. Many of these clubs partner with the Commerce School and provide students with exclusive opportunities for national advancement. Nevertheless, if a University student has an idea for a startup company he still faces many obstacles - predominantly raising money. New entrepreneurs manage this problem in a number of ways, such as seeking assistance from venture capital firms.
Following the success of Zuckerberg, Gates and other past students, Harvard has become the first university to create its own venture capital fund - The Experiment Fund. The financial awards provided by this fund allow entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams while staying in school. Awards are open to anyone, including students at other universities. Entrepreneurs pitch their idea or creation to the organization and wait to hear if they will receive capital. Essentially, it is very similar to the University's McIntire Investment Institute (MII), but instead of studying and investing in stocks, the organization looks into new startup ventures.
In a few weeks, Startup Weekend comes to Charlottesville. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in starting a new business to learn how to apply new technology and creative innovation to further his goals. I had the opportunity to participate in Startup Weekend this past summer while in New York City and was treated to a first-hand look at the problems new companies encounter when getting off the ground and how they confront those issues.
During the weekend, entrepreneurs pitch web-based or smart phone application business ideas, join teams and collaborate to create the next great startup. Once the event begins, teams have 54 hours to prepare for their presentation to the judges on Sunday evening. The judging board is comprised of successful entrepreneurs, Startup Weekend's representatives and venture capitalists. If your team wins and the venture capitalists are impressed, you may receive seed money for your venture.
My team built a web portal to allow entrepreneurs to navigate the legal complexity of starting a new venture. We ended up finishing fourth out of the 20 companies which were ultimately selected to pitch their projects Sunday evening.
Through my experience at Startup Weekend, I met talented designers, computer programmers, business executives and creative entrepreneurs, whom I still keep in contact with regularly.
Startup Weekend is in Charlottesville March 23-25. I highly encourage anyone interested in starting a new venture or those with great talent in programming and design to attend this event. I would, however, recommend catching up on sleep before this weekend-long event - many teams work through the night.
Until then, if you want to try something different, I would really like to start a venture capital club similar to Harvard's here at the University. If you're interested let me know.