StartUp Term: Students Learn about Entrepreneurship and Teamwork
Students in Knox College’s most recent StartUp Term set out to solve all sorts of problems, such as connecting pet owners with reputable caretakers and helping prospective and current college students more easily share experiences about college life. As the students created solutions to those problems, they also learned practical lessons about entrepreneurship, teamwork, and overcoming obstacles.
“Within our StartUp groups, we had to work together in an environment that was nothing like a classroom, and we had to learn to collaborate, through the good and the bad times,” said Debora Ortiz '20. “The experience of StartUp Term helped me understand how academics and experiential learning are intertwined and essential in everybody’s college career.”
StartUp Term is a 10-week academic immersion experience during spring term. Students accepted into StartUp Term form teams and build companies, working out of office space in downtown Galesburg.
Open to students from all academic disciplines, StartUp Term provides an opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills in a real-world environment by transforming original business concepts into real services and products.
Throughout the process, students were mentored by four Knox faculty members: John Dooley, William and Marilyn Ingersoll Emeritus Chair in Computer Science; Jaime Spacco, associate professor of computer science; John Spittell, Wagner Distinguished Chair in Business; and Tim Stedman, visiting assistant professor of art.
Experienced entrepreneurs (including some Knox alumni) also visited StartUp Term students and shared advice. Listening to the guest speakers “forced me to think outside the box and realize that in the real world, there is no recipe for success,” Ortiz said. “You have to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”
For Shebaz Chowdhury '20, one of the main takeaways from StartUp Term was the importance of being willing to take chances—at least some of the time. He described an especially frustrating point in the development of his team’s app, which was intended to help market events; the problem was that Google Maps wouldn’t load properly.
“I decided to fiddle around with the settings and see if they made any difference. I had no idea what I was doing,” Chowdhury recalled. “Whatever I fiddled with seemed to work, surprisingly, and Google Maps worked flawlessly on our app. That was probably one of the most satisfying and exciting moments during StartUp Term, just taking a gamble and seeing it pay off.”
At the end of the academic term, students made a final pitch to a panel of judges that included Knox alumni and local entrepreneurs. The judges included:
- Adam Vitale, Knox trustee and president at G & M Distributors, Inc.
- Asif Ahmed '91, vice president of analytics at Infutor
- Eric Miller '02, CEO at DocuWrx
- Jerry Vovis '65, Knox trustee and president and CEO of Vovis Enterprises
- Krista Anne Nordgren '12, freelance designer and developer and owner at The Mothership
- Mike Burke '72, global executive specializing in healthcare medical devices, imaging and diagnostics
- Olivia Keneipp '17, StartUp Term2 alumna and product manager at The Minte
- Rick Rivero '99, vice president of sales and marketing at Connections Marketing.
Arsalan Bin Najeeb '20, one of Chowdhury’s teammates, described StartUp Term as a worthwhile experience.
“From personal development to actual work opportunities, StartUp is one of those terms that you can use and mold it to fit whatever you want from it,” he said. “Getting what you personally wanted from your experience and being satisfied by the end of term when you pitch to investors meant everyone learned more than we ever could have.”
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Here’s a look at the teams, their projects, and their members:
Team Evrhome — Create a trustworthy and easy-to-use platform to connect home- and pet-owners with reputable sitters. Tali Bossingham, Kevin De Castro, Minh Le, Debora Ortiz, Alyssa Reid.
Team Promiere — Provide a mobile tool for all aspects of picking dresses that fit well and are unique for that special event. Michelle Dudley, Melody Eng, Lydia Ha, Quang Anh Nguyen.
Team Tesellate — Provide a modular, affordable, and stylish display unit for sneaker aficionados to show off the best of their collection. James Barrington, Kobe Carreno, Max Warren, Braeden Westfall.
Team Zing! — Help event marketers reach eager attendees, while providing users with a personalized feed of events that are aligned to their interests. Shogo Akiyama, Shebaz Chowdhury, Lyss Main, Arsalan Najeeb.
Team Gem — Spur evolution in the restaurant review space by focusing on credible reviewers and providing impartial feedback to the restaurants themselves. Hannah Arbelter, Billy Nguyen, Tuan Duy Nguyen, Connor Weeks, JT Wright.
Team YuMe — Create a space for prospective and current college students to easily share experiences and discuss aspects of college life that are not necessarily focused on by the current sites in the market. Amit Adhikari, Ben Nguyen, Akashi Perera, Trang Tran, Mariam Tsintsadze.
Team YuMe received funds from the Stroben Entrepreneurship Fund, an endowed fund honoring the career of Donald Stroben '52, established by his family and friends, to continue working on their project during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Published on July 29, 2019