Startup UMD to open new entrepreneurial “hubs” around campus

By Ally Tobler

Startup UMD held its first showcase in McKeldin Mall on April 24 and announced plans for future entrepreneurial “hubs” on campus. Photo by Ally Tobler

A well-kept secret at this university is that there are twelve offices — known as Makerspaces — accessible for students to experiment with new technologies.

Entrepreneurial resources will soon be more accessible and well-known on campus. Startup UMD, a collection of university organizations aimed at providing students with resources to fulfill their own entrepreneurial endeavors, will establish “hubs” around campus that students can visit.

The hubs will contain representatives from various entrepreneurship organizations and establishments on campus, but the exact partners are yet to be determined, according to Campus Connector Sammy Popat.

This was announced at the first Startup UMD, which occurred April 24 in McKeldin Library. Various campus organizations showcased their resources, including the Virtual Business Information Center (VBIC), which contains a variety of business databases and information; MakerSpace, which houses 3D printers; and the Pitch Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

According to Julie Lenzer, associate vice president of innovation and economic development at this university, the team behind Startup UMD hopes to open a few hubs this July in locations such as the Diamondback Garage.

“We have such great assets on campus, but they’re hard to figure out where to go [to find] them,” said Lenzer said.

Lenzer explained the inspiration behind creating collective “hubs”: the business school, the libraries, and many organizations on campus have an abundance of resources, but they’re all in different locations. What would be more effective, Lenzer said, would be having a “consistent brand” where all of the resources are in one place. And thus, Startup UMD was born.

Zaida Diaz, a librarian business and economics librarian at UMD, and Virtual Business Information Center (VBIC) team member, said that despite many students being unaware of its existence, the university pays an annual subscription of $30,000 just to have access to all of the information and databases compiled onto the site.

“That’s really our struggle. We have so many students, we’re figuring out how to reach out to them so that they can find these resources,” Diaz said.

In addition to inaccessibility, intimidation serves as a major reason for why students don’t typically utilize these resources.

To solve this problem, Student Venture Programs Manager Chris Rehkamp of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship came up with an idea to assign “Entrepreneurial Catalysts” — essentially student ambassadors on campus — to help point these entrepreneurial resources out to other students. Though Popat hopes to recruit more, sophomore economics and statistics major Fiona Whitefield is the first of the Entrepreneurial Catalysts.

“The intention is really to add a personal student level to a lot of the resources here,”  Whitefield said. “Mostly because we feel that a lot of the issues with people getting involved in entrepreneurship are intimidation factors. You don’t want to go talk to some person you don’t know and tell them about your idea … you want to talk to someone who’s an equal and get that honest feedback.”

“This is for you guys,” Lenzer told Startup UMD attendees. “This is your tuition and tax money at work, so make use of it.”

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