Learn AND experience what cities are doing to foster startups in their environment. Compare those environments with Kalamazoo’s startup scene.
The purpose of the course is to expose students to communities that have allowed high technology startup companies (new firms) to thrive in recent decades. This is accomplished by traveling to various cities around the United States through the Western Michigan University Lee Honor College’s Study in the States program.
For the Spring 2015 course, the students will be visiting to the following cities:
To cap off the travel for the course, the students will take a retreat to the Lowe Foundation‘s Big Rock Valley facility and experience activities administered by the foundation’s instructors. [ Cincinnati was added after the completion of the course, with 4 of the students able to make the trip ]
During the trips, students will be able to engage with individuals in various organizations that have fostered a culture that allows entrepreneurial and innovative activities to happen. Students will meet with entrepreneurs (founders of startups) – both new and successful, employees in startups, and investors that put money into startups (i.e. venture capital firms, angel investors). In addition, students will meet support organizations that help the startup communities, including owners of and administrators in accelerators, incubators, and government agencies. By meeting the people and experiencing the environment in these cities, as well as experiencing the culture in each of the startups, students will be able to have a better understanding of what makes startup ecosystems thrive. In addition, students will be able to compare the startup ecosystems they visit with Kalamazoo’s startup community.
There is a component of the course that starts before leaving Kalamazoo. First, there are three books that will need to have been read before embarking on the trip. Second, we will be meeting with Kalamazoo (local) economic development officials and entrepreneurs to get an understanding of what is going on in the local ecosystem. This information will allow students the ability to compare the local ecosystem with the startup ecosystems we will be visiting on the trip.
Multiple startup companies and founders at various stages of development will be visited. The companies in the incubators will be a little more developed (1+ years old). The companies in the accelerators will be very early stage companies (<1 year old). In addition, there will be companies further in development, that are outside of accelerators and incubators and accelerators that we will meet. For those, I can plan ahead to meet with them. Finally, students will meet with several investors, including venture capital firms and angel investors.
There are 10 students which are admitted into the course through an application process. These students are from the Lee Honors College, and thus have achieved a high level academic threshold and tend to be driven in their endeavors to succeed. The course is cross-disciplinary, and as such, is open to students from across the university.
This course can be considered one of the campus-wide initiatives supporting the entrepreneurship initiative on the Western Michigan University campus, including the entrepreneurship minor and major programs.