In a small conference room in a corner of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
, a small group of student-led start-ups pitched their entrepreneurial ambitions with the hopes of winning free seed money and attracting deep-pocketed investors.
Among those start-ups were a handful of aspiring entrepreneurs from Wayne State University's Blackstone LaunchPad, a new program aimed at helping students not majoring in business seize their entrepreneurial ambitions. University Shuffle, which helps attack university student attrition rates, and VueMi, a LinkedIn alternative for young professionals, made it past the first round but not into the winner circle.
Aubrey Agee, one of the organizers at Blackstone LaunchPad
, says the competition helps his entrepreneurs get more real-world networking and pitching experience. It also showed them what they need to work on and what other university resources they should harness to prepare, such as more mentoring.
"We want to help improve the pitches," Agee says.
Blackstone LaunchPad opened up last year with the idea of helping more everyday students launch businesses. It has since attracted 250 participants who have submitted more than 100 business ideas. About 80 of those have formed start-up teams and 20 of that number are gaining traction with their business plans.
"I would like to see a very strong intake of entrepreneurial students," Agee says. "I would like to see a very strong entrepreneurial aspect on campus."
Source: Aubrey Agee, co-organizer of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com