Starting a startup as a student is hard enough, but building an organization that helps students start businesses is an even bigger feat.
Last year, a group of undergraduates noticed that Duke lacked a student-run accelerator to support the launch of student startups. To fill this gap, they created the Duke innovation studio, a branch of the Duke Applied Machine Learning group.
“What we do is basically offer professional mentoring, structured programming, great connections with [Venture Capital firms], founders and mentors within and beyond the Duke community, ”said junior Daniel Marshall, one of the three founding partners of the Innovation Studio.
Each fall, the Innovation Studio serves as an incubator, placing students in teams focused on blockchain, social impact, energy, fintech, and healthcare. The Innovation Studio also associates start-up teams with DAML engineers for technical assistance.
In the spring, the Studio launches startups. Last spring, the Studio launched its first cohort of five student startups, ranging from information on artificial intelligence for educators to paying rent for African tenants. One of the companies in the inaugural cohort, Renmo, raised $ 400,000 in funding.
The Innovation Studio also worked with an external startup accelerator Tower, founded by Nick Meliones, Trinity ’11, to guide founders through a twelve-week program on scaling, sales, networking and fundraising.
The Pratt School of Engineering and Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative were particularly helpful in launching the Innovation Studio, Marshall said. They provided mentors including Meliones and Steve McClelland, executive in residence at the Pratt School of Engineering.
Marshall believes that the immense work required to run the Innovation Studio is also the most rewarding aspect.
“This is all really a learning experience, above all else,” Marshall said.
Students at the Innovation Studio hope Duke can become a stronghold of entrepreneurship.
“If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, come join our group… we’ll bring people together and form a community,” Marshall said. “And through that, we think awesome startups will come.”
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