Startups, meet your best untapped resource

May 22, 2013 by 

View article on News@Northeastern

A part­ner­ship between the Center for Research Inno­va­tion and the alumni-​​founded startup Ven­ture­Crowd is con­necting Northeastern-​​based ven­tures with entre­pre­neuri­ally minded talent to turn inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies into thriving businesses.

Launched in November, Ven­ture­Crowd is an online inno­va­tion plat­form designed to help stu­dent– and alumni-​​run star­tups solve chal­lenges in busi­ness and tech­nology and create new com­pa­nies around university-​​based tech­nolo­gies. Users can also tap into the exper­tise of  other entre­pre­neurial stu­dents, fac­ulty, and alumni.

“At Ven­ture­Crowd, we enable a university’s entre­pre­neurial com­mu­nity to col­lab­o­rate effec­tively around their startup oppor­tu­ni­ties,” said co-​​founder Ryan Johnson, a 2012 grad­uate with a master’s of sci­ence in tech­no­log­ical entre­pre­neur­ship. “Star­tups can expand their access to problem solvers and col­lab­o­ra­tors through Ven­ture­Crowd faster than they would be able to on their own.”

Through Ven­ture­Crowd, star­tups can crowd­source the chal­lenges they’re encoun­tering, and the com­mu­nity of users can help deliver solu­tions. The first star­tups that launched chal­lenges through the crowd­sourcing plat­form were founded by North­eastern alumni, all of whom began working on their inno­va­tions as under­grad­u­ates. One chal­lenge asked stu­dents to submit designs that can be printed using 3-​​D printing tech­nology. Another asked for help to engi­neer a smart bat­tery charge con­troller for a pro­to­type of a new wind energy gen­er­ator. A third needed assis­tance launching a busi­ness plan based on recently devel­oped water dis­in­fec­tion tech­nolo­gies. While this round of chal­lenges is over, Ven­ture­Crowd and CRI plan to launch another in the near future.

“Ven­ture­Crowd accel­er­ates the for­ma­tion of entre­pre­neurial thinking around Northeastern’s inno­va­tions,” explained Tracey Doden­hoff, director of the Center for Research Inno­va­tion. “Not only do we see this as helping our existing spin-​​outs, we also see this as an oppor­tu­nity to high­light tech­nolo­gies with high poten­tial and help entre­pre­neurial teams form a busi­ness around them.”

Founded in 2011, CRI’s mis­sion is to accel­erate the impact of uni­ver­sity research through com­mer­cial vehi­cles, par­tic­u­larly star­tups. TheCRI is also the host of the annual Research, Inno­va­tion & Schol­ar­ship Expo (RISE), an event that brings together uni­ver­sity research, star­tups, industry, and investors every spring to cel­e­brate North­eastern University’s inno­va­tion and entre­pre­neur­ship community.

Johnson and Ven­ture­Crowd co-​​founder Bret Siarkowski, a 1987 grad­uate with a bachelor’s degree in elec­trical engi­neering, serve a key role in Northeastern’s entre­pre­neurial ecosystem as men­tors to stu­dents and star­tups in the community.

“Although we only launched our first plat­form this past November, we’ve already grown exciting part­ner­ships not only with the uni­ver­sity, but with the dif­ferent ven­tures that exist here,” Johnson said. He explained how Ven­ture­Crowd is cur­rently working with the North­eastern Health Sci­ence Entre­pre­neurs to launch a new men­tor­ship pro­gram this fall as part of a university-​​wide effort to expand industry-​​specific men­toring for new ventures.

“We devel­oped this plat­form to tie together dif­ferent resources for ven­tures,” Johnson said. “By con­necting entre­pre­neuri­ally minded talent, men­tors, and resources with untapped university-​​based inno­va­tions, we can launch new high-​​tech star­tups that might have oth­er­wise sat for years in file cab­i­nets and labs.”

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