Free business program INKUBATOR helps students launch their own ideas
December 5, 2017
The process of opening one’s own business is always challenging. Numerous start-ups face struggles on the way to becoming full-grown companies. Mentors, guidance and resources are hard to find in the modern competitive market. Nevertheless, Northern Kentucky University Haile/US Bank College of Business gives students a unique opportunity to accelerate and build up their business ideas.
NKU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is hosting a summer annual INKUBATOR program that allows students to participate in the top five business accelerators in North America.
INKUBATOR, a free business program, was created for students who want to start and grow their own business. It provides guidance, funding, team building and a flexible office space to support students’ start-ups.
“What I love about our program is that we are industry agnostic,” INKUBATOR founder and director Rodney D’Souza said. “We’ve had everything from apps development, to law student projects and agricultural attachment for tractors. Unlike other accelerators, we have all different sort of ideas, as long as there is a potential for high growth.”
D’Souza explained that the main focus of the program is to take individuals at the “idea phase” and to build a team around them to take that idea to the next level.
“We help students to focus on whether their idea is [marketable] or not,” D’Souza said.
If the idea is marketable, D’Souza said, the program can build a Minimum Viable Product.
According to The Economic Times, a Minimum Viable Product is a development technique in which a new product is introduced in the market with basic features, but enough to get the attention of the consumers.
Open to every NKU student, the program lasts over the span of 12 weeks and receives more than 50 applications throughout the year, taking on five to six startups with high-growth potential that require equity financing.
Equity financing is the method of raising capital by selling company stock to investors. In return for the investment, the shareholders receive ownership interests in the company.
Over the last four years, INKUBATOR has invested over $60,000 in their program, combining different processes taken from various business accelerators in Kentucky/Ohio area.
The program has a unique curriculum; it uses the most up-to-date start-up methodologies and brings mentors and entrepreneurs from all over the region.
Program director and co-founder of INKUBATOR Zac Strobl said that he and D’Souza coach and guide students while bringing mentors and guest speakers to introduce topics relevant to entrepreneurship.
“Anything from leadership to brand development and competitive intelligence,” Strobl said. “Students are learning about entrepreneurs’ failures and what not to do when starting a business. People who are experts in the field come and talk about these topics.”
Scott DeNoma, junior and organizational leadership major, received mentorship and guidance for his start-up in INKUBATOR last summer. DeNoma came up with an idea to create social network platform for gamers: he wants to connect players internationally under one website and give them an ability to compete and communicate their results.
“INKUBATOR helped me to learn what it takes to start a business. It gives you so much experience in a short amount of time,” said DeNoma. “So many resources are available to you and it’s an ongoing process. After finishing the program, they are still helping me out, I’m still meeting up and talking to them.”
Since 2012, INKUBATOR has launched 20 businesses; its graduates have raised about $7 million in outside funding and created 62 jobs.
Aside from INKUBATOR, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has another free program for students who want to open their personal (lifestyle) business: INKUREKA.
Instead of guiding students who have a high-growth potential business ideas, this program is focused on individuals who want to start their businesses with debt financing.
D’Souza explained that INKUREKA is aimed at start-up companies which plan to borrow money from the bank and not give up ownership.
“Those companies don’t have a high growth potential,” said D’Souza. “They are not looking for $1 million, $3 million, $5 million investments. They look for smaller numbers; it’s a personal business.”
Students can schedule an appointment with INKUREKA representatives at any time through NKU website and get started on their ideas right away.
UPDATE 12/6/2017: The noted amount raised by graduates was changed from $4.4 million to $7 million in order to reflect more current data.