Accelerate@Shea gives a boost to student ventures
BC’s business accelerator enrolled 15 teams this spring
Cars have turbochargers. Rockets have booster engines. And student entrepreneurs at Boston College have Accelerate@Shea.
Like its technological cousins, Accelerate@Shea, the business accelerator at the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, aims to give an extra push: it helps student entrepreneurs move forward faster in turning their business ideas into companies.
“We provide funding and mentorship for startup teams at BC,” said Michelle Wu ’18, head of the student team that manages the accelerator. “We’re trying to consolidate the University’s resources for student entrepreneurs.”
This past fall, 40 student teams applied for entry to the accelerator, and 15 were admitted, she said. Over six weeks this spring, the admitted students will participate in weekly workshops and hear from speakers on topics relating to starting and running a new venture, including marketing, prototyping products, and legal issues.
Student entrepreneurs receive $500 in seed funding when they enter the accelerator, said Kelsey Kinton, the Shea Center’s assistant director. In exchange, they’re expected to attend all of the weekly educational sessions and meet milestones to show that they’re developing their business ideas, she said. If they show enough, they can receive another $1,000 at the end of the six-week program. Participants also can use a workspace in Cushing Hall, where the Shea Center is housed.
Anders Bill ’17 will participate in the accelerator for the second time this spring. In last year’s inaugural version, he was part of the team that created EchoMe, which went on to win the University’s Venture Competition last spring. (The company was then called Emocean.)
This year, Bill and Theo Chapman ’17 are participating as the founders of Darkroom. They’re creating a web-based platform from which photographers can sell professional-quality prints. The Darkroom duo won the BC Elevator Pitch competition last fall.
Bill said that even a small amount of seed money can help a student startup. Just as important, he said, is the expectation that students show progress over the course of the accelerator in turning their ideas into businesses. “That’s good for making you hit your goals,” he said.
Accelerator participants also become a community, lending support to each other and sharing ideas and frustrations. “You’re surrounded by like-minded people—all of us last year became really close,” Bill said. “The entrepreneurial ecosystem at BC is small, but thanks to Shea, it’s growing quickly.”
Accelerate@Shea was conceived by Riley Soward ’18. He’d started a company, Campus Insights, as a freshman. In doing so, he realized that BC student entrepreneurs didn’t enjoy much collegiality or cohesion. He saw an accelerator as a way of fostering a community and suggested the idea to Kinton and Jere Doyle, Shea’s executive director.
“It seemed like a great way to bring people together,” he said. “I’ve found that the single biggest thing you need when you’re trying to build a company is a community. It makes you feel less isolated, and you can learn from talking to each other.”
Soward teamed up with Wu, Andrew Bernstein ’17, and Cindy Xu ’17 to flesh out the idea for the accelerator and its programs. This year, in addition to Wu and Bernstein, the student management team includes Andrew Donohue ’19 and Annie Roberts ’19.