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Launch Camp to boost student startups

Emerson Launch, the College’s incubator program for businesses and nonprofits started by students, is hosting an event this weekend to energize the seven ventures already in the program and attract would-be founders.

Launch Camp will be held Saturday, January 23, 10:00 am to 3:30 pm, in Walker 417, and feature advice and feedback from the program’s advisors and alumni co-founders.

“I’m using it as a way to give the startups in our program a shot in the arm,” said Director Cathy Waters. “I’m also inviting some of the people at Emerson who see themselves as founders, or who might be founders in the future.”

Emerson Launch, formerly Emerson Accelerator, is free to students who are accepted. It provides mentoring, office space at WeWork on Atlantic Avenue, and up to $2,000 in seed money to get projects off the ground. Entrepreneurs Mark Donovan ’89 and Joshua Wachs ’87, both members of Emerson’s Board of Overseers, as well as venture capitalist Paul Santinelli ’91, serve as advisors to Launch students.

Emerson students are very enterprising, Waters said, and the College was number 13 on a 2015 Forbes list of the 25 most entrepreneurial colleges in the United States. The school offers a yearlong immersive minor called the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3), and is offering a new BA in the Business of Creative Enterprises.

“People at Emerson want to build things and create things,” Waters said.

This semester, Launch is working with seven teams, all in various stages of development, and solving a wide array of problems, she said. Ventures range from a platform for college freelancers and clients to connect, to a creator of educational videos for Rwandan entrepreneurs, to a custom snack food company.

Participants at Launch Camp will hear important lessons and advice from the program’s co-founders, Jake Bailey ’14 and Tripp Clemens ’13, as well as advice from the advisors on things like agile development and knowing exactly what you absolutely need at any given stage of the process, Waters said.

Founders and people with ideas will also break into groups, get feedback on their ideas and problems, and learn from each other, she said.

“The goal is to make sure everyone leaves with action plans,” Waters said.

Waters said her plan is to open up Launch to teams who may not have a fully fleshed out idea, but who could benefit from the guidance and goal-setting Launch offers. For Launch Camp, she said,  she is reaching out to students who have not applied to Launch, but may have an interest in creating a startup.  

Amy DePaola and McKenna Stephens, both MFA students in Emerson College’s Visual and Media Arts Department, know the challenges women in the film and digital media industries face.

Together, they had a vision of how they could make it easier for women’s work to get made, seen, and used, through a user-generated distribution network of content exclusively by women.

But it was Emerson Launch that really helped turned their “chatter” into a viable venture called Indiemediary.

“It helped us legitimize our idea,” DePaola said. “It gives a realistic road ahead of you rather than sort of sitting around and trying to make something happen [on your own].”

DePaola said she teaches film production management at Emerson and tells her students to think like entrepreneurs.

“I think for the type of landscape that creatives and future graduates are going to be entering into, with our economy and the way the world works now, even if you don’t have an idea coming to Launch Camp, it’s useful,” DePaola said.

For more information, email There are still a limited number of spots available to students; registration required.

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