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StartX Training ground for Stanfords best and brightest

Posted by: Brian O'Connell on October 28, 2011 Source: Kauffman Foundation

Incubators and accelerators used to be terms more closely linked to research laboratories than to the entrepreneur market.

But times change and places for growing the hopes, dreams and, best of all, opportunities for fledgling business owners are now regularly found in such incubators and accelerators. One of the most promising, especially for life sciences entrepreneurs, is Stanford University’s StartX.

The university actually launched StartX in 2010 not because entrepreneurs were succeeding so wildly they needed some guidance and management, but because new startups in nearby Silicon Valley were failing so miserably.

The idea was to have entrepreneurial-minded students meet with successful Stanford graduates who had already launched their own successful businesses. So far, the idea is catching on.

StartX, which just moved into new offices on campuses donated by AOL, features whiteboard walls and laptop-loaded desks – each of which is usually occupied with a Stanford student with a passion and a dream for launching a new business.

That’s an important concept – and a real attraction for students. At StartX, young entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone. The sense that everyone is in it together is what attracts so much interest.

"We came for the office space," notes Brenden Millstein, a Stanford student and the founder of Carbon Lighthouse, a StartX-supported company that advises institutions on how to reduce their carbon footprint. "But we're hoping to stay for the community."

Organizationally, StartX (formerly SSE Labs) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that doesn’t charge students a dime for participating in the program. StartX is limited to Stanford students and graduates, and that seems to be filling the offices on its own. According to the StartX web site, the program has received applications from more than 1,000 Stanford students. Out of these, StartX has had 90 founders and 27 companies go through the program.

From the StartX web site:

Thus far, our founders have made incredible progress and showed some great results. The majority of our founders are funded by the end of the program. They have released products, been acquired, are profitable. However, best of all, they have learned a tremendous amount about themselves and about how to found a company.

And here’s what StartX has to say about its mission, goals and values:

  • A strong community of the most passionate, innovative, and talented Stanford entrepreneurs who learn from, motivate, and support one another.
  • An amazing network of mentors and alumni including VCs, angels and serial entrepreneurs that program participants can look to for guidance, support, and advice.
  • Tailored entrepreneurial educational resources including frequent workshops and office hours from Silicon Valley’s top experts.
  • Free business resources to lower the cost of entrepreneurship, including office space, free legal support, cloud computing resources, and more.

StartX doesn’t take any equity out of companies that go on to open their doors and thrive, but it does expect StartX “alumni” to come back and act as mentors for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

A good number of those entrepreneurs come from the life sciences field. Companies like Clear Ear, ThinkBulbs, Hungry Tribe and Morpheus all got started – or at least “accelerated” – at StartX.

As StartX is already showing, colleges and universities can play a huge role in nurturing young entrepreneurs.

We’ll be keeping track of other incubators and accelerators around the U.S., and let you know what they’re doing – and who’s taking advantage of them.

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