Dear President Gast,
I know you’re breaking up with Lehigh. The Imperial College London is a lucky guy. But since things aren’t official until July 31st, I have a favor to ask you. I’d like you to launch a startup accelerator at Lehigh University before you hop across the pond.
As background, startup accelerator programs typically provide early-stage companies with office space, access to mentors and a small investment (ranging from $10-100k). Some even offer housing (like Boost.VC). These programs usually last about 3 months and they culminate with a “demo day,” which puts the founders in front of a room of investors to help them raise a round of equity financing to continue growing the business.
I believe in startup accelerators. I’m a product of one. The company that I started while at Lehigh University “graduated” from Boost.VC, an accelerator program based in the Silicon Valley. It was an incredible experience, and I strongly believe that Lehigh should have a program of their own. Here’s why:
Editor’s Note: This post is courtesy of Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation. It was originally written by Amy White and published by Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend as “Powered by Giving – and Gigawatts,” and it was subsequently picked up by the Global Startup Weekend organization and republished by Up Global as “Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend Idea Launches as Company.”
A year ago, Jake Huber and Greg Horn were two guys with an idea, showing up at their first Startup Weekend. Today, they’ve moved to Silicon Valley and launched the company that grew out of the 54-hour startup fest.
Their company, Gigawatt, an online crowdfunding platform for colleges that engages young alumni, was recently accepted into a 12-week accelerator program that offers housing, office space, mentorship and a small investment to early-stage startups.
“I personally give Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend a large amount of the credit for really kicking us in the pants and getting us going and showing us what we could do in 54 hours,” Horn said.
I was digging through archived email, and I found something that I sent to my college girlfriend back in June 2010:
“My work here is entirely meaningless. If what I’m doing doesn’t get done, [my client] won’t go bankrupt. Investors won’t lose their 401K’s. The stock market won’t crash. I say this because I realize that I want to own my own business.
I’ve always known, but I’ve only now fully realized that I want to work for a company with my name on it, not for a nameless company. My dad was an entrepreneur. My uncles (5 of them!) are entrepreneurs. My grandmother is an entrepreneur. They have all owned their own businesses.
This is not a way out of my job, although I have been looking for one since I’ve started. This is a way to live a life that I’ve always wanted to lead. I want to be an entrepreneur.”
This is why I went back to school. I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how to get there. I did, however, have a lot of great connections back at Lehigh University.
I also knew that Lehigh had an Entrepreneurship focus in their MBA program. And that’s pretty much why I went back to Lehigh.
Few industries in the United States have achieved unquestioned global leadership as consistently and effectively as our higher education system. US colleges and universities are the cornerstone of our economic prosperity and the key to realizing the American dream. Thirty years of growth have confirmed the sector’s leadership and vibrancy—the result of demographic and economic factors combining to lift higher education even higher.
Despite this success, talk of a higher education “bubble” has reached a fever pitch in the last year. The numbers are very familiar by now: Annual tuition increases several times the rate of inflation have become commonplace. The volume of student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion and is now greater than credit card debt. Most college and university presidents, as well as their boards, executive teams and faculty members, are well aware that a host of factors have made innovation and change necessary.
I am fascinated by the “Big Data” movement and all the hype it’s getting from trade publications, IT blogs, the cover of Harvard Business Review, even the 2012 presidential election… but I’ve been having trouble wrapping my head around what it actually is. I get it, Big Data is data that is too large and complex for any conventional data tools to capture, store, manage and analyze. Something about the 3 V’s of information (volume, variety and velocity). Yadda, yadda, yadda…