Tag: Student entrepreneurship

Student Ventures

Hopkins Students Get 3-Day Crash Course in Building a…

Hopkins Students Get 3-Day Crash Course in Building a Business

During his first two years at The Johns Hopkins University, Simon Barnett noticed an abundance of raw entrepreneurial talent and innovative ideas in his undergraduate peers. However, too few turned this potential into real businesses.

“Johns Hopkins has a strong entrepreneurship program, but I felt like something was missing,” says Barnett, who co-founded Nebulab Technologies, a cloud-based data management software company, in 2013. “We lacked programming that demystified entrepreneurship.”

Barnett recalled how a three-day workshop he attended in high school spurred his entrepreneurial pursuits, so he decided to bring that same type of program to his peers. Barnett raised nearly $10,000, did marketing and collaborated with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ Kasim Ahmad to bring 3 Day Startup to campus.

This experiential education program has taught students in 40 different countries the basics of entrepreneurship, idea development and other essential skills for building a sustainable business. The 100 applications that Barnett received from students representing an array of class years and Hopkins schools serve as evidence that the program filled an unmet need.

From April 21 through April 23, the three dozen students accepted to participate in Johns Hopkins’ 3 Day Startup pitched ideas, formed teams and went to work growing a business using the lean startup approach.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen or even a dime for a thousand,” says Jeff Levine, a program coordinator at 3 Day Startup. “While we appreciate ideas, we’re all about action.”

“Our mission is to provide the hands-on aspect of entrepreneurship training. We push them into an uncomfortable zone where they have to take action.”

This uncomfortable zone includes performing one-on-one interviews with potential customers to determine market need and interest for the product or service the team plans to develop. Additionally, a group of mentors brought in throughout the weekend taught the students how to make prototypes and convey ideas to customers. By Sunday afternoon, the teams pitched judges, entrepreneurs and investors.

“I got really good feedback from our judges about how much progress the students made over the weekend,” Barnett says. “It was good to see how flexible and resilient the groups ended up being.”

Though the event is focused more on education rather than churning out businesses, at least one team that participated in 3 Day Startup will pursue launching a startup based on an idea developed at the event. Senior James Shamul and freshman Jamie Chen, both of the Whiting School of Engineering, teamed with Louis DeRidder, a visiting student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, to work to bring BarberFleet to Baltimore in the near future.

Once launched, the mobile barbershop staffed with licensed cosmetologists from a local academy will keep Johns Hopkins students from having to make the inconvenient trek to an off-campus barber shop. Moreover, the startup will have a social component where it provides haircuts to Baltimore’s homeless population as well as access to other resources, including employment opportunities.

“I really appreciate all that Hopkins in general is trying to do for young entrepreneurs,” Shamul says. “There are a lot of ideas that students have, but if there’s no way to do it, the ideas just go away.”

The success and opportunity of this year’s event has inspired Barnett to turn 3 Day Startup into an annual installment. With planning for next year’s event already underway, Barnett says he wants to align 3 Day Startup with all of the other resources Johns Hopkins provides to create a linear path that gives student entrepreneurs the resources they need when they need it.

Barnett’s plan would have 3 Day Startup serve as one of the first student entrepreneurship events each academic year so entrepreneurs can learn the basics and formalize their raw ideas. From there, students would have time to work with academic advisors and FastForward’s student venture coordinator to refine strategy.

This would better prepare teams for the JHU Business Plan competition, and student funding programs such as the Ralph O’Connor or Summer Student Entrepreneurship Grant hopefully increasing both the quality and the quantity of student teams.

“What’s important to me is figuring out how we can demystify the entrepreneurial process by bringing together existing programming and talented students,” Barnett says. “It’s a massive undertaking, but I’m optimistic about the future.”

Click here to see all the ways JHTV supports student entrepreneurship.


Student Ventures

O’Connor Fund Showcases Entrepreneurial Spirit of JHU Undergrads

O’Connor Fund Showcases Entrepreneurial Spirit of JHU Undergrads


Ralph S. O’Connor and his wife, Becky IMAGE: homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

If interest in the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund is any indication, the spirit of entrepreneurship at The Johns Hopkins University is alive, well, growing and diversifying.

This year, 40 student teams applied for support from the O’Connor Fund, up from 22 in 2015 and seven in 2014. From this year’s applicant pool, Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) advanced 19 teams to a pitch competition before selecting six winners.

“We heard a number of strong pitches over two days,” says Kasim Ahmad, JHTV’s student venture coordinator. “It was difficult to whittle the field down to six, but we believe the teams selected for this year’s cohort have the greatest opportunity to benefit from the program as they work to solve challenging problems.”

Launched in 2014-2015, the O’Connor Fund helps undergraduates’ fledgling startup ideas reach their potential. Founded by Ralph O’Connor, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences alumnus, and his wife, Becky, the program provides each cohort member a $5,000 non-dilutive grant, an opportunity to earn $5,000 more for reaching milestones, mentorship from entrepreneurs and investors, and other resources from JHTV.

O'Connor Cohort 2017
The 2017 Ralph S. O’Connor Cohort

The 2017 cohort features:

  • Foragerone – A platform that streamlines and standardizes how students look for university-affiliated research opportunities
    • Ansh Bhammar, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Sophomore
    • Yash Jain, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Sophomore
  • Fractal Tech – Scalable mobile app security for enterprise applications
    • Alex Sharata, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
    • James Charles, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
  • Gaius – An online tool that utilizes college networks to source top technical talent for startups
    • Ron Boger, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Alex Owens, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
  • Kaleyedos – Telemedicine for the retinopathy of premature screening procedures
    • Rebecca Miller, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Erica Schwarz, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • Sami Messai, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
    • Seony Han, Whiting School of Engineering, Junior
  • Squadz – A social activity platform to find, organize and reserve space for pickup sports and events
    • Nikhil Panu, Whiting School of Engineering, Senior
    • John Stanton, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Senior
  • Tearn – An app to help college students connect with peers who can provide tutoring services
    • Pava LaPere, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore
    • Andrew Wong, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore
    • Brian Cueto, Whiting School of Engineering, Sophomore

“We have a tremendously talented and diverse group,” Ahmad says. “This cohort has a mix of upper and underclassmen, projects at various stages and students representing different campus programs and organizations, including Hophacks, Medhacks, TCO Labs and the school’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design. We believe this group will build on the success of last year’s cohort.”

The students certainly seem intent on doing so. Gaius CEO Ron Boger says he hopes the O’Connor Fund program will enable him to gain traction and build relationships with the startups and universities that will benefit from his mission to connect elite students with the most impactful and talented companies.

“We applied to be part of the O’Connor Fund cohort to obtain the mentorship and support that will accelerate our growth,” says Gaius CEO Ron Boger. “I’m looking forward to gaining perspective from being around such ambitious companies in the program, as well as the mentorship provided by JHTV.”

The entrepreneurs in the 2017 cohort have grand visions for their startups and see the O’Connor Fund program as a way to plant the seeds for sustained success. Take senior Erica Schwarz of Kaleyedos, a company developing a retinal imaging device. For now, the Kaleyedos team is currently focusing on infant retinal imaging but aims to expand the device and software suite to address many retinal imaging needs.

“Long-term, we want to see our device disrupt the retinal imaging industry,” Schwarz says. “Shorter-term, we want to use the resources from the Ralph S. O’Connor Fund to further build connections with key stakeholders.”

The six teams in the last year’s cohort used support from the O’Connor Fund as a springboard to raise $1.2 million in follow-on funding, hire 14 paid employees, interview more than 650 users or customers and complete 84 percent of their milestones.

As the 2017 cohort aims to reach those lofty heights, they will move through a program modified to better enable them to succeed. Based on feedback from the 2016 cohort and the program’s mentors, this year will feature an increase in engagement between teams, greater access to mentors, more networking opportunities, in-person workshops and online assignments based on each team’s individual challenges.

“The O’Connor Fund has evolved and will continue to evolve as we find better ways to serve our student entrepreneurs,” Ahmad says. “JHTV is committed to providing students the avenues that will help them turn ideas into sustainable businesses. The O’Connor Fund goes a long way in helping us achieve that.”

Want to learn more about the O’Connor Fund? Click here!

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