Northeastern University has a student-run venture accelerator with $250k cash. Is this what it takes to keep kids on campus?
College is crazy expensive—and it’s getting more expensive all the time. Entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel are fond of saying it’s not worth it. But 23-year-old Chris Wolfel, who is getting his bachelor’s from Northeastern University this spring, found college to be not only a good investment, but the perfect launching pad for his entrepreneurial dreams.
For the last two years, Wolfel has been the CEO of IDEA, the only student-run venture accelerator in the country. Founded in 2009, IDEA offers workshops, meetups, coaching, mentoring, and most importantly, funding, all from alumni donors, for student startups. Wolfel and his team were able to raise $250,000 to help launch almost 300 businesses by students from every school across the university.
"Northeastern right now is one of the biggest hotbeds of entrepreneurship I’ve seen," says Wolfel. He points to the longstanding co-op model to explain why—Northeastern’s five-year bachelor’s degree program includes three six-month-long full-time internships, so "people come here knowing they’re going to work no matter what." For the last few years there’s even been a self-co-op model for student entrepreneurs to take time off to work on their own projects.
It could be said that IDEA is challenging the very idea of university education.
Is the major purpose of convening a university and charging tuition to allow students to ponder the good life or expand the boundaries of human knowledge—or to turn collegians into entrepreneurs?
[Image: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson]