Lyle Stevens, DMSB’09, grew up in a family of “serial entre­pre­neurs,” which he said instilled in him the drive to start his own ven­ture one day. He came to North­eastern eager to learn how to run his own business.

The problem was he needed an idea.

It wasn’t until after he grad­u­ated that the busi­ness major came up with Splash­Score, a Face­book appli­ca­tion that mea­sures online social influ­ence and pairs leading users with com­pa­nies that want to pro­mote their businesses.

To help bring his ven­ture to fruition, Stevens turned to IDEA, Northeastern’s student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator. Over the last few years, IDEA has granted Splash­Score a total of $25,000 in gap funding, including $10,000 to launch and build the app.

I didn’t really start uti­lizing IDEA until I was out of North­eastern,” Stevens said. “It’s great that it is still a resource for folks who have graduated.”

IDEA was founded in 2009. Last month, it reached the $500,000 mark in the amount of gap funding it has granted. Over the past five years, IDEA’s Gap Fund has helped 35 ventures—many of them North­eastern stu­dents or alumni—jumpstart or con­tinue their journey to suc­cess. IDEA ven­tures have col­lec­tively raised $6.4 mil­lion in external funding and 14 ven­tures have “launched,” or grad­u­ated, from IDEA.

It means a lot,” said IDEA CEO Max Kaye, DMSB’14. “Half a mil­lion is a big number, and it’s a mile­stone for IDEA. But more impor­tantly, the out­comes show that the model is working and we’ve helped 35 ven­tures reach their own sig­nif­i­cant milestones.”

Dan Gre­gory, fac­ulty adviser to IDEA, said, “the Gap Fund was cre­ated to pro­vide edu­ca­tional grants to entre­pre­neurs who demon­strate a ded­i­cated effort to learn how to develop and launch a new busi­ness.” Every two months, IDEA’s Gap Fund grants up to $10,000 in cap­ital to qual­i­fied ven­tures. To deter­mine eli­gi­bility, the ven­tures are put through a rig­orous month-​​long review of their plans, mile­stones, and cap­ital needs.

This is just one of many resources IDEA offers to stu­dents and alumni to help them create, develop, and accel­erate new busi­nesses. Others ser­vices include coaching, men­toring, and con­necting the fledging entre­pre­neurs to investors out­side of the North­eastern community.

In addi­tion to IDEA, North­eastern offers a range of pro­grams and resources that together serve as ecosystem that fos­ters the entre­pre­neurial spirit of its stu­dents, fac­ulty, and alumni. These include the Center for Research Inno­va­tion, the Center for Entre­pre­neur­ship Edu­ca­tion, the Health Sci­ences Entre­pre­neurs Pro­gram, and the North­eastern Entre­pre­neurs Club.

Kaye said IDEA’s gap funding model—which allows ven­tures to reapply for addi­tional funding but does not dole out large lump sums—allows the pro­gram to help ven­tures reach spe­cific mile­stones and either val­i­date their plans or pin­point areas of improvement.

One of the most recent entre­pre­neurs vying for IDEA’s gap funding is Kate Pipa, DMSB’13, who co-​​founded Genius Box, which brings themed STEM exper­i­ments to your front door. She’s applied for $10,000 to go toward market research and product development.

The funding would help us bridge the gap to launch,” said Pipa, who explained the plan last month at NEXPO, IDEA’s bi-​​annual ven­ture showcase.

Andrew Cabasso, DMSB’09, echoed Pipa’s sen­ti­ments. His com­pany, Off­sprout, which designed an easy-​​to-​​use web­site builder, recently received gap funding for its forth­coming launch.

We started with IDEA in early 2014, and it has been a great expe­ri­ence,” Cabasso said. “They helped us in terms of solid­i­fying our pitch, finding our market, and cre­ating a busi­ness plan.”

While IDEA’s gap funding mile­stone is cause for cel­e­bra­tion, Kaye said the group would con­tinue working hard to meet the needs of Northeastern’s entre­pre­neurs. “We need to con­tinue to do the things we are doing well,” he noted. “There is a lot of work always being done on the ground.”