LAWRENCE — The KU Catalyst, a new student-business accelerator, will provide the work space, mentoring and access to capital students need to build their business ideas into successful startup operations.
“Before KU Catalyst, KU provided an excellent education in entrepreneurship but left the student without the resources to commercialize their passion,” said Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs. “Now, with the addition of this new program, we’re providing end-to-end new business launch capability.”
The KU Catalyst is a joint venture of the School of Business and the Bioscience and Technology Business Center (BTBC). The program will operate initially from the newly expanded wing of the BTBC building, located on west campus, starting in February, prior to opening the KU Catalyst’s home in the new School of Business building, which is scheduled to be finished in spring 2016.
“If a student has an idea for a company, we will provide space for that student to help germinate that company and germinate that idea,” said E. LaVerne Epp, executive chairman of the BTBC. “Our interest is to help the students create the company, help the company get going and then keep the company in Kansas.”
Epp said that, previous to the KU Catalyst, the BTBC already enjoyed a good working relationship with the Center for Entrepreneurship partly because they are both interested in the same thing: creating business. Until now, the university hadn’t provided the resources for students to turn a business idea into a successful startup.
Lei Shi, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering, is part of a project that is developing a radar system for small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly known as drones. Shi plans to take an entrepreneurship course this semester and create a business plan. After that, he hopes for more assistance through the KU Catalyst.
“I’ve been an engineer-in-training all my life,” Shi said. “All of this entrepreneurship stuff is brand new to me. The KU Catalyst and all the support it offers will be extremely useful.”
Graduate student Andy Kriegh is in the KU Catalyst application process with U-Hoops, a business he describes as LinkedIn for basketball players. “It’s all about helping post-college players find professional opportunities internationally,” Kriegh said. “There’s not really anyone else providing those services, so we’ve really found an exciting niche.”
The company was founded in June 2012 by former University of Missouri-Kansas City basketball player Demarcus Weeks. Kriegh came on board in March 2013. U-Hoops already has 18,000 members.
“One of the top things that really appealed to us was getting office space on the KU campus,” Kriegh said. “We implemented an internship program this semester, and having the office space will really benefit the students and provide a positive experience for the internship.”
“About a year ago this was just an idea in my head,” Shi said. “With the addition of the KU Catalyst and entrepreneurial program, it looks like we’re going to at least take a stab at it, instead of just dreaming.”
All KU students are welcome to consider application to the KU Catalyst program and are encouraged to find out more about the program online.