What happens when you take about two dozen entrepreneurial-minded college students, put them in the same dorm and tell them to start a business of their choosing? Duke University is about to find out.
Now in it’s second year, Duke’s InCube is a university-funded incubator that provides select undergraduate entrepreneurs with the shot to launch their own startup. The only catch (and there’s always one, right?) is that this isn’t a place for students who someday-maybe-hopefully-if-they’re-lucky will start a business. No, this is for students who have a solid idea, some serious drive and want customers NOW.
Run by a student “Vision Board” in cooperation with Duke administration advisors, InCube is a startup petri dish that mixes one-part youthful enthusiasm with two-parts constructive criticism to grow founders and entrepreneurs who can feed into the larger Triangle entrepreneur ecosystem. Every semester the 20 or so Duke undergrads get to sit with some of the Triangle’s best and brightest founders including Jesse Lipson of Sharefile, Tobi Walter of Shoeboxed, Jud Bowman of Appia and Joe Davy of (formerly) Evoapp and (currently) Buystand to receive advice and feedback.
“… see real companies launch [out of Duke]. If you look at the marketplace and the opportunities for students who are graduating it is helpful for them to know that entrepreneurship is a viable option. You don’t have to be an investment banker or a McKinsey consultant. They can launch now and start to receive real revenue… and in the process learn that entrepreneurship is a viable option [for] their future.”
And viability is the name of the game. So far InCube has helped to launch more than a half dozen student-run companies including MailBadger, a Chrome browser plugin that makes it easy schedule automated reminder emails; NeuroSpire, a neuromarketing software platform; and WealthLift, a community for investment education that has already captured more than 30,000 users.
See, InCube is another cog in the wheel of our growing ecosystem. We already have a number of other organizations in the area including Triangle Startup Factory, Groundworks Labs, Startup NC, HUB Raleigh, NC IDEA and our very own ExitEvent. We even have startup challenges from many of the area’s universities. What’s been missing is structured support that not only helps students launch successful businesses but pulls these same student entrepreneurs off campus and into downtown Durham and Raleigh where the post-higher education startup action is happening.
Well, that’s not missing anymore, and the North Carolina entrepreneurial community is better off for it.