Wednesday Jul 25, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
Business incubators and entrepreneurial education are catching on at college campuses across the country, and Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. is no exception. Each term, the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship chooses six undergrad and six graduate-level businesses to participate in the Hatcheries, a collaborative workspace for student entrepreneurs.
In addition to workspace at the Hatcheries, which is available by application, all Babson students can take advantage of resources like guest speakers and mentoring opportunities offered through the John E. and Alice L. Butler Venture Accelerator.
According to Antonette Ho, Manager of Entrepreneur Programs, the Hatcheries opened in 1998, but the Venture Accelerator opened in 2010. Then in the spring of last year, Babson added Hatchery space at MassChallenge’s Boston offices for graduate students’ use during MassChallenge’s off season (November to May).
During the application process, preference goes to undergrad or graduate businesses that are further along in the entrepreneurial process, says Ho. “The hope is they can network with one another,” she explains. “They are probably facing the same types of challenges. Sharing their challenges help foster that ecosystem.”
Networking has proven valuable for Brandon Bell, who is participating in the summer session of the Hatcheries and plans to complete his Master’s degree in December. “I think one of the most important pieces to starting a business is being surrounded by resources for when you have a problem or you have a feeling that this is getting too difficult,” says Bell, whose company Integrated Adventures (@intadvtravel on Twitter) is like a “Pandora” for adventure travelers, offering travel recommendations based on users’ interests.
For instance, Bell solicited advice from professors on buying another company and adapting it to his goals. That deal fell through, but the Hatchery has also helped him in other ways. “It saves about $600 a month if I were to work in another space and gets me out of the house so I can be around other people,” he says. “There are six other teams that I can talk to every week, every day about what they’re working on. They put me in touch with their network.” Currently, Bell is working with an intern (Babson undergraduate Mitch McKinnon), but has had as many as three people working on Integrated Adventures.
Another Hatchery participant, Kelvin He, who hopes to launch his business’ website this fall and finish his undergraduate degree next May, says he and his three-person team use the Hatchery as a meeting location and have gotten legal consulting through the Venture Accelerator. “[The Hatchery] is in the basement of my dorm, so it’s really convenient,” he adds.
Students can be accepted into the Hatcheries more than once, but they must re-apply each term. Although there is no cost for the program, some student businesses contribute a percentage of equity to Babson through the Founder’s Fund, a “venture capital fund” of sorts used to support entrepreneurial education across the campus.
“Obviously there are other ways to contribute,” says Ho. “Some entrepreneurs have given back by coming to campus to speak at classes or being a resource though peer-to-peer mentoring. The Founder’s Fund is a unique way for the alumni entrepreneurs to have that consistent relationship with Babson by giving a small portion of their company to Babson.”