Space For Startups At CU

Ben Buie | 2/26/13

I’m way excited about a recent article on a space for entrepreneurship at CU, a project I’ve worked on for about a year and a half. Here is the back-story:

No Space At CU

When I was trying to decide which MBA program to join, I got a call from the Dean of Babson informing me of a new student incubator they launched. He described it as a space where students can build their business after they graduate. It sounded way exciting, however, I ended up choosing to come to CU-Boulder because I really think it is the #1 public university for entrepreneurship.

Two Projects Became One

Since I’ve been here, I have fought for a cross-campus innovation space on campus. I’ve been working with the Deming Center since 2011 trying to make it happen. It started as the Innovation Lab and is now called the nLab. The Deming Center built a website and a traveling Kiosk, but we couldn’t find a space; no one on campus would help, despite a large and growing amount of student support.

In October of 2012, while Fletcher Richman was operating the Awesome Board, a whiteboard for ideas, he met Lexi Winer, the Director of City and Neighborhood Affairs for CUSG. It turned out she and Bill Shrum, the Chair of the University Hill Commercial Area Management Commission, had been working on the Hill Innovation District, part of which was an innovation space for students on the hill. I reached out to Lexi to see if joining forces made sense. From our initial conversations, the nLab and the innovation space were the exact same idea, the only difference was that Lexi’s project had a potential space.

The Team

By November, both projects became one. Lexi organized our committee meetings, Bill created a 3D design of the space, Fletcher continued to run the nLab co-working events on Fridays, Alison Peters, Managing Director of the Deming Center, continued build the nLab programming, and I built a financial model. In the process we’ve added several more people join the team: Walker WIlliams is helping with legal, Ali Bibbo is making the Prezi, and Dan Bruder is advising.

Why It’s Important

The space is badly needed at CU. One common piece of feedback I get from the community is that they don’t know where to start when trying to get involved with entrepreneurship on campus. There is a lot going on, but all from different directions. This new space will bring entrepreneurship on campus together and be a starting point for the community.

In addition, the athletes have gyms, the art students have buildings, and the thespians have theaters, but there is no cross-campus space for student entrepreneurs. Without one, team formation is more difficult, mentorship is more sporadic, and cross-campus connections are less common. If we had a basecamp for entrepreneurship, students would have the constant opportunity to connect to the entrepreneurial ecosystem on and off campus.

Finally, I lead two student clubs on campus (the GEA and StartupCU). Getting space in the UMC is difficult, so we have most of our meetings on the edges of campus (Law and Business buildings). With a new space for entrepreneurship near the heart of campus, these clubs would be better suited to help all students.

Next Steps

We’re almost ready to begin pitching potential partners. We need to raise a little over a half a million dollars. If we can’t raise it all from CU, university donors, local businesses, or the City of Boulder, we’re going to launch a crowdfunding campaign through FirstFunder.

Sign Up To Follow The Project

If you’d like to see this space happen, sign up here to show your support. I’f you’d like to get involved, let me know.

About the Author

Ben currently works as a contract web developer and business consultant in Boulder, Colorado.

His passion for entrepreneurship led him to study business and learn to code. Although he never anticipated working on the web, Ben has spent the past 9 years learning everything he could about building and operating websites and web assets.

When not at work, Ben spends a lot of his time with family. He is married to a “beautiful” woman and they are raising 4 energetic boys. In his spare time he loves keeping up with technology, playing guitar, eating Sweet Cow ice cream, and painting (although he has very little time for painting these days). Other than that, Ben is a supporter of freedom and liberty, a fluent speaker of Russian, and he tries to be a humble follower of Jesus.

Read more about Ben.