To use a slightly modified turn of phrase – it takes an ecosystem to build a startup. Especially for young entrepreneurs — the more mentors, investors, advisors, incubators, inexpensive office space and other support infrastructure there is in place the more likely it is that their crazy idea will beat the odds and succeed. Why? Because running a startup is hard even for the most experienced of us; and we can all use as much help as we can get.

Thankfully, Groundwork Labs – the “no strings attached community supported technology accelerator” located in the American Underground at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham – has decided to help college-aged entrepreneurs with a new program called Underground Summer 2013.

Here’s how to works: Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest University will each select a student team from their respective university’s business plan competitions to join Groundwork Labs. The selected teams will then receive free office space and mentorship during their 2013 summer vacation so they can refine, add structure to and grow their startup.

And we’re not talking part-time occasional mentorship. No, we’re talking full-time go-big-or-go-home style. So only serious student entrepreneurs need apply.

John Austin, Managing Director of Groundwork Labs, tells me that he expects most of the companies to spend the summer refining their ideas and exploring how to build profitable businesses around them. See, the big problem that most college students have when it comes to starting their own business is that they think too small. No fault of their own, of course. It’s just that they’re super passionate about their idea – the unique solution they’ve discovered for a vexing problem – and they work and work and work on making the solution better.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, however there’s a big difference between coming up with a great solution and getting a lot of people to pay you it.

So Underground Summer 2013 is about helping college entrepreneurs think big and build sustainable and profitable businesses. It’s about getting them off campus and into the larger Triangle area entrepreneurial ecosystem where they can meet other entrepreneurs, speak with investors and learn what it means to really run a startup.

It’s also about growing our collective business community and fulfilling the mission of NC IDEA – who along with Capitol Broadcasting Company funds Groundwork Labs – of fostering economic development in the state of North Carolina by helping startup companies.

As a serial entrepreneur who started and drove straight into the ground more than one startup during his college years, let me be the first to admit that Underground Summer 2013 is going to help a lot of students figure out if they have a sustainable business model and, if so, how to bring their products and services to market.

And if you’re a college student who wants to give your startup a shot during your summer vacation, contact your school about participation… or learn more at I have a sneaky suspicion you won’t regret it.