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New business incubator encourages student entrepreneurship

A new Student Innovation Incubator, a partnership between the USF Center for Entrepreneurship and USF Connect, will help aspiring entrepreneurs take their business ideas from concept to reality.

President Genshaft with students

Center for Entrepreneurship Director Michael Fountain said he envisions the incubator, which launched Nov. 20, as a place where students have all the resources they need to be able to succeed. One of the aspects of the incubator that sets it apart is that it will be student-run, unlike incubators that focus on growing already existing businesses. The incubator is located in the USF Connect Incubator complex in the USF Research Park on Spectrum Drive.

"They'll get a firsthand experience of what it's really like to start, grow, and mature their own companies," Fountain said. "We see this incubator as a vibrant living-learning laboratory for students and a critical link between the university and the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Tampa Bay"

The incubator is open to students across campus, with the goal of creating interdisciplinary collaboration among students. Through the student leadership of Desmond Williams and Keosha Poole, both graduate students in the entrepreneurship program, this vision has now become a reality, with 16 charter student companies in residence in the incubator. They range from an app to help college students find their classrooms on campus to bottled watermelon water.

student receiving award

Understanding the important role that mentors can play in such ventures, Fountain said the incubator plans to pair corporate leaders from the community with the fledgling entrepreneurs. The mentors will provide advice and share stories of lessons from their careers. It won't be the only help the students receive, though. The USF Small Business Development Center is also providing a certified business consultant on-site to help students on an as-needed basis, as well as provide assistance to technology-based businesses.

"We are looking forward to having a presence at the incubator, not just to help the student businesses there but to connect our clients with the facility," said Eileen Rodriguez, SBDC regional director.

The incubator is currently accepting additional student applications. Fountain said the goal for this year is to have 20 to 30 student companies in residence and to provide ongoing assistance to students from across campus.

To learn more about the Student Innovation Incubator, visit http://www.research.usf.edu/rf/sii/. The Center for Entrepreneurship is part of the USF College of Business, in collaboration with the USF College of Engineering, USF Health, and the Patel School of Global Sustainability.