The Startup Surge: Business Students Dream Big

By Rebecca Strong
Posted August 29, 2014 09:00 AM

The Startup Surge: Business students dream big.
The Startup Surge: Business students dream big.

For some business students with big ideas, landing a job in which they're forced to follow a boss' orders simply isn't fulfilling. Determined to drive innovation, their sights are set on a different professional path: entrepreneurship. As new creative investment opportunities crop up and the Internet makes it easier than ever to gain exposure for a venture, an increasing number of business students are launching startups fresh out of business school - or even before graduating.

Breeding Grounds for New Business

Further proof of this phenomenon can be found in the surging popularity of college courses on entrepreneurship. While in 2003-2004, New York University's Stern School of Business only had two entrepreneurship classes with 62 students, that number jumped to seven courses with 281 students enrolled in 2012-2013, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported. In 2012, the school also introduced a specialized academic track in entrepreneurship.

"We're living in a time when it has never been so easy or cheap to start a business," Jeffrey White, 2012 graduate of Boston College's Carroll School of Management and founder of the nonprofit T-shirt company Rightside Shirts, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "The barriers are so low, thanks to social media. If you have a good idea, you can gain momentum."

They're not just launching small-scale ventures with a narrow profitability and market, either. What these founders lack in age and real-world experience they more than make up for in ambition and ingenuity. Committed and creative, these individuals are coming up with companies that could very well cater to a national or international audience - provided they can secure ample funding from investors. The potential for these pioneers is boundless.

Persistence and a Purpose

One such startup, Scholly, is aimed at making higher education more accessible. The mobile app, which was founded last year by three students from Drexel University and Amherst College, was subsequently named one of America's coolest college startups by Inc. magazine. Scholly uses parameters such as state of residence, GPA and major, instantly filtering relevant listings so prospective applicants can determine which scholarships they're eligible for. Better yet, the company now enables schools and businesses to purchase the app in bulk for students.

Now, students who saw success with their entrepreneurial efforts are paying it forward. After Boston College students Tom Coburn, Chase McAleese and Jeb Thomas launched the advertising technology company Jebbit, which won BC's Venture Competition in 2011, they were accepted into Highland Capital Partners' distinguished Summer@Highland program. This initiative granted them $15,000 worth of funding, free office space and guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, BostInno reported. 

The team recognized that this kind of opportunity, which allowed them to funnel every ounce of effort and energy into their startup, was not available to most students. That's why the group established the Soaring Startup Circle, a summer accelerator program that offers current BC students the resources and support they need to bring their business ideas to fruition. 

After reviewing the first batch of applications, the program recently welcomed four promising startups. One is ClassHack, an online platform where college students who have aced classes can offer coaching to peers on particular professors, thus enabling them to achieve higher grades while simultaneously reducing class drop rates. 

For cities, this spike in student-backed startups presents a unique opportunity to establish a reputation as a burgeoning hub for tech business. Realizing that young business owners have the power to retain and build business in the city of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn helped to establish 1871, a tech incubator that hosts the Chicago College Startup competition, the Chicago Business Journal reported. Grand Prize-winning businesses not only get access to one year of free specialized education programs and mentorship opportunities, but are also put in contact with potential partners and investors who can help convert their dreams into viable ventures.

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