Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 00:10
To dream up a unique idea is one thing; to implement that idea, however, is another. Through cross-college collaboration, Texas A&M has created a business accelerator program currently known as “Startup Aggieland.”
Created to help Aggie students bring their dreams of a successful business endeavor to life, Startup Aggieland provides students with the right resources to boost their current business plans.
The accelerator is organized by students from various colleges across campus who are willing to dedicate their time to being part of the passion of fellow Aggie entrepreneurs.
“This is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever had the privilege of doing,” said sophomore communications major Andrew Karl. “The entrepreneurs come in and they are passionate and excited. They believe in their idea and have a zeal for life. It’s contagious.”
The accelerator program at A&M is different from what other universities might refer to as an “incubator.” Incubators help start ideas from their base stage, before anything is put into place or any work has been done toward the idea. The difference with A&M’s accelerator is the program begins helping in stages past the initial idea.
“We are here to help even people that don’t have business plans but we are not equip to do so just quite yet,” said Beau Barnette, senior landscape architecture major.
Karl said the accelerator program aims to provide students with the tools needed to succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavors. In the long term, the program hopes to get to a point where all stages of business can be served.
One of the unique aspects of this program is that it offers students office space, which saves students money that would have been spent on rent in a different office building.
All of the offices are currently occupied with eight companies that are already taking advantage of the help that the students working at the accelerator offer. However, Barnette said they still offer services to students outside of the offices.
“Simply put, we are a business that helps students start their own businesses,” said Kyle Yates, sophomore general studies major. “We aren't just with the business school or only for business students.”
Despite the fact that the staff at the accelerator is welcoming to anyone who wants to stop by and chat about ideas, there is still an application process that must be completed to be accepted into the program.
First, the student’s business plan is required to be in its advanced stages. The student either needs to have a business or have a solid business plan that they are ready to begin, Barnette said.
To begin the process, the student needs to turn in an application and give a short briefing on their business. They also need to have a project team. Afterward, the students will complete one informal interview followed by a formal one. A panel of students who work for the accelerator will then make recommendations to their director and he will decide whether or not the student’s business will be accepted.
There is a continuous three-part management class taught that has equipped the workers at the accelerator with the education necessary to help other students. The first class was spring 2012 and it focused on what an incubator actually is and how it works. The second class, which focused on implementation, was taught summer 2012. The third and final class is being taught this semester. It is specifically working on a naming contest for the accelerator and marketing of the accelerator.
“We really want the student body to get involved and leave their name as a legacy,” Karl said.
The whole idea of students helping students of the accelerator has put Texas A&M on the map. President Loftin has been chosen to be part of a five-person council with other university officials from across the United States to meet in Washington D.C. on October 1 with the U.S. Department of Commerce to announce what A&M is doing to foster entrepreneurship at the college level. Loftin will be representing the sector of land-grant universities.
“We currently have opened our doors in a soft launch phase this semester and have seven companies who have joined us,” Yates said. “We plan to be able to offer our full resources in the spring.”