Through the UGA Idea Accelerator, which is into its second year and fourth cohort, students with entrepreneurial aspirations are being taught the basics of developing a business.
Each semester, teams of students are accepted into the eight-week program to develop their business ideas and compete for a $5000 prize. For the first half of the program, students will engage in customer discovery. Those who make it through customer discovery will go on to learn about financial literacy and investor readiness.
This semester, there are two cohorts. The first cohort, still in progress, and the second cohort, beginning Feb. 22, will be concluded with the opportunity to pitch to investors at a final demo. From the two cohorts, judges will choose a team with a winning idea to receive $5000 from the Terry College entrepreneurship program.
In addition to Terry College, The Launch Institute and ATDC, FourAthens, a local tech incubator, and Thinc, an innovation and entrepreneurship community for UGA students, are two of the accelerator’s primary sponsors.
“UGA students are the future entrepreneurs of our community as well as the future of the work force that we have here,” said Jim Flannery, Executive Director of FourAthens. “We want to encourage them as much as possible to start businesses young and really work on building their entrepreneurial skills.”
During the accelerator, students work together and with experienced professionals from some of the program’s sponsors to build these skills. They have two 90-minute meetings each of the eight weeks to collaborate on ideas and receive feedback.
“Developing a business is not something that’s done by yourself in a quiet room,” said Jared Bybee, Director of Thinc. “It’s really about talking to the people that have the problems that you want to help fix.”
A third-year finance major at UGA, Robert Enck, won the accelerator competition last semester with his idea to keep concert and event tickets from going unsold.
He has been using the $5000 prize money to develop an app called eleez, or “enhancing live event experiencez,” that will allow venues to sell tickets at discounted prices and fill up unsold seats.
Enck plans to launch the website in the next month and the beta version of the app in the nexttwo to threemonths. He said that the accelerator helped him to learn the basic skills of entrepreneurship and prepared him to start a business, whether it is eleez or another business in the future.
“If this idea isn’t the one, then I still have the knowledge to go out and create a company one day based on the things that I’ve learned,” Enck said.
Flannery said many of the students who make it to the final demo continue actively pursuing and developing their businesses, including three out of four of the teams from last semester.
UGA graduates, Marshall Mosher and Daniel McBrayer, participated in the first accelerator last spring and are now pursuing their start-up full-time.
After graduating in May 2015, the two co-founders decided to continue developing Vestigo, an online platform that connects outdoor enthusiasts with guides and trips. The beta version launched in September.
Mosher said that through the accelerator, he and McBrayer created a prototype, tested it and developed an initial user base.
He described the start-up business as a test of perseverance because of all the challenges that come with building a business.
“It’s always a crisis or a great celebration,” Mosher said.
However, he said the atmosphere of the start-up community makes the challenges worthwhile and encouraged students to get involved.