June 13, 2016
After just one year, student-led startup companies taking part in Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) entrepreneurial support program have generated more than $1 million in total revenue, grants and investments.
Since it launched in 2015, 16 student teams have gone through VCU’s pre-accelerator program, which provides the students with a $5,000 stipend to participate in a three-month intensive program focused on guiding them through the challenging early stages of getting a startup company off the ground.
“These students are the real deal,” said Nicole Monk, enterprise and economic development executive in VCU’s Office of Research and Innovation. “This experience will help them be successful, whether they continue with these ventures, start new ventures or become intrapreneurial within larger companies. They will graduate and become agents of change for Richmond’s economy.”
Of the 16 student teams that have taken part in the pre-accelerator program, 14 have formed companies – three-quarters of which are woman or minority led – and they have created 29 full- or part-time jobs.
All told, the students’ companies have brought in a total of $1,002,348 in total revenue, grants and investments.
“The VCU pre-accelerator program is a great example of why VCU is truly becoming a Venture Creation University,” Monk said. “The program provides a very important resource that is accessible to all of VCU’s entrepreneurial students, not just students within one specific school. Schools of Business, Arts, Engineering, the College of Humanities and Sciences and more – they all leverage this central pre-accelerator program for their students.”
The companies include Board Grab, an online platform that serves as a marketplace for buying and selling used surfboards; Upchurch Chocolate, a small-batch, craft chocolate maker; Urban Choice Mushroom Farm, a provider of locally grown gourmet mushrooms; and 8:00AM, an online sneaker store that sells new and lightly worn sneakers.
The pre-accelerator program is not led by VCU faculty, but by Richmond-area entrepreneurs who have successfully raised capital, launched companies and taken part in acceleration programs themselves. The program also partners successful local entrepreneurs with the VCU student teams to serve as mentors.
In the spring semester, six entrepreneurs from the Richmond business community mentored nine student companies, challenging their ideas, business design strategies and presentations to create a more dynamic opportunity for furthering their entrepreneurial vision.