Two downtown Providence colleges are offering students different paths to exploring entrepreneurship.
On Oct. 5-7, Johnson & Wales University hosted a “Startup Weekend,” a global network of entrepreneurship competitions organized by Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based nonprofit. Meanwhile, at the Rhode Island School of Design, students have opened their own business, a storefront with a gallery called Exposé at 204 Westminster St.
“It’s a participation-focused event,” said Jeffrey Tagen, one of the organizers of JWU’s Startup Weekend. “The goal is to produce not only a business plan but to have something more tangible, a demonstration, a prototype, say a mock-up of an app or something involving a three-dimensional model.” To do so, the competition teamed with the JWU school of technology and AS220 labs in order to access their 3D printers.
The event is tailor-made for JWU. The school boasts its own entrepreneurship degree program, the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship and the Small Business Development Center.
The competition is particularly meaningful to Tagen, a teacher of undergraduate courses for the school of technology. His curriculum includes project management, software development, database design and data warehousing. He also serves as an assessment specialist for the school of education and is a bit of an entrepreneur himself. Tagen is the founder of CrossCampusApps, a Global Positioning System-enabled service for notifying campus security of a caller’s location in an emergency.
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour contest that combines students and professionals, introducing all to the professional and personal challenges of working for a startup. Participants pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams are then created to work on the top ideas, taking them from conception to prototype in a period of 54 hours. Teams must create a business model, including coding, designing and market analysis. “We push for every team to have some businesspeople, some designers, some creators and engineering professionals,” Tagen said.
‘We are about fresh ideas, making something happen and connecting these people, showing them that with a dedicated group of people in the right environment, the amount of work that can be done is phenomenal,” he said.