Business program looks for student groups to invest in

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As part of the Rohrer College of Business, the Rowan University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) is working to help student startups with funding. To do so, the RCIE recently moved forward with a relatively new initiative, known as the RCIE Accelerator Program. The goal of the program is to invest seed money in student groups and help them grow.

Applicants for the program include Rowan students and those graduating in the spring semester or who have graduated within the last 12 months. Faculty and student collaborative projects are also good for registration. Graduate students and students enrolled in Rowan’s medical schools or at Rowan College at Gloucester County or Rowan College at Burlington County are also eligible. However, the team must be registered on the StartupTree site to enter.

Eric Liguori, the executive director for the center and professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, explained that the program started relatively small last year with modest donations, before growing in scope and size this year.

“We ran a pilot accelerator program in the spring of 2017,” Liguori said. “It was the first time Rowan had really done anything in that regard. I think we gave out five or six thousand dollars in seed funding to student startups. It ran for a few weeks with some mentoring and some coaching, really just to see what was going on and if it made any sense and how it would work. Fast forward a year, and we spent the past year kind of scaling up all of our co-curricular programming.”

Liguori also said that while the program originated with the business school, it wasn’t specifically going to be for business students only.

“We’re continuing to broaden out, supporting the entire campus,” Liguori said. “So it’s not intended by any means to be business school-centric. We’re looking for a team that’s got the skillset that knows where they’re going, where they want to be and has a plan to get there. We’re looking for a use of funds that makes sense.”

Jessica Wolk, the program and events coordinator for RCIE, said that along with the financial support that comes from the program, teams who are sponsored will also receive advisers who can mentor them and provide insight to the teams.

“Besides the funding itself,” Wolk said. “I think one of the best aspects of what this program is providing is the fact that each venture will be partnered with a mentor so that you can have someone with real-life experience and someone that can offer advice and can be an unbiased party and provide their feedback.”

Wolk added that students should be receptive to the constructive criticisms of their advisers. She stressed the importance of keeping an open mind and making changes to their ventures.

Dylan Grana, a junior entrepreneurship major, stumbled onto the program by coincidence after taking a trip to another school. When he talked to his professor, it sounded like something that made him want to join up.

“I went down to UNC-Chapel Hill and I saw that they had a program called the Reese Lab,” Grana said. “And it was a pre-startup support system they had where they would offer you the advice and the guidance to help bring your idea into fruition. So, when I came back, I spoke with professor Liguori and he told me there was actually a program like that here at Rowan and I decided I wanted to get involved.”

Grana also mentioned that the accelerator program isn’t just meant for one specific type of team and is open to any group deemed viable.

“It’s not just for business, but also for nonprofits that are scalable and replicable,” Grana said. “We are just hoping to find groups on campus that are aren’t discovered yet and it doesn’t matter where they are and what school, as long as the idea is able to be worked with.”

Students are encouraged to enter but must register at the StartupTree website. The application deadline for the program is May 1 at 5 p.m.

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