Nobody needs to be reminded how important students are to our startup ecosystem. I started my first Web consulting company in the McGill Music computer lab (which was probably against the rules!) along with two friends who were also students. Yet most universities privately admit they’re not doing a great job turning research projects into commercial products or students into CEOs.
It always surprises me that we see so few students at startup events. There are some but just not very many. At ConnectMcGill, a recent student event in Montreal, most students had never heard of the meetups, mixers and startups surrounding them. We need to do something about this!
One group that’s actively helping young entrepreneurs and inventors is Young Inventors International. Founded by Anne Swift, YII’s mission is…
…to work with leading universities, organizations, and entrepreneurs around the world to educate student inventors and entrepreneurs on how to create new ventures and social enterprises, build intellectual property portfolios, and acquire transferable professional skills. With more than 2,000 members who own almost 700 patented and patent-pending technologies, YII is the leading not-for-profit organization providing a comprehensive network for education and skill training specifically for student innovators and entrepreneurs in North America.
I ran a business planning session at their 5th annual Inventing the Future conference
held recently in Pittsburgh at Carnegie-Mellon University. 120 students took part in a gruelling (ok, probably not that gruelling) “commercialisation marathon” that was kicked off by Regis McKenna
of Kleiner Perkins fame. You can see some pictures and videos on the YII blog
One of the highlights for me was something called BrainBuzz(tm) which was a 3-hour intensive brainstorming session. Small teams were formed and each tackled problems e.g. how to design a more effective passive solar energy collector or how to market a dancing robot (click the link, trust me). What’s amazing is the quality of ideas that flow, even from people without training in a particular field. BrainBuzz not only gives students confidence in their ideas but gives them a taste of the idea generation “buzz” that all startup entrepreneurs feel. That’s one way to get them hooked on becoming entrepreneurs.
If you are (or know) a student thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, I highly recommend you join Young Inventors and get involved. You’ll be joining a community already over 2000 strong, and growing.