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Friday, September 20, 2019
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Student-Run Startup Clubs Taking Off at Emerson

Cailey Newton enrolled at Emerson after taking a gap year to intern with an international girls’ summer camp in Berlin.

Newton ’20, who called the small nonprofit “basically a startup,” came to Boston eager to make her own contribution to the local entrepreneurial scene.

“I wanted to be involved with something I had started and I felt very engaged with…not just as an intern,” said the Business of Creative Enterprises major. “I kind of wanted to be a founder.”

Cathy Waters, director of Emerson Launch, the College’s incubator program, wanted a student to take the reins of a club for and by students interested in startup culture. So when Newton approached her at an orientation event last fall, Startup Springboard, Emerson’s first student-led founders’ club, was born.

Waters said a culture of entrepreneurship needs to “bubble up” from the students. She pointed to Northeastern University, known as a local hotbed of campus entrepreneurial activity, with a number of student-run programs, including competitions and the IDEA accelerator program.

A more traditional “entrepreneurs’ club” wouldn’t work at Emerson, Waters said, because it implies a heavy business focus that wouldn’t appeal to enough Emerson students.

“But ‘starting something’ is a common theme to the many creative students who freelance or create groups, events, and activities,” she said in an email. “An organization like Startup Springboard includes students who may start their own venture, and also those who just want to work in the startup sector, where creativity and initiative are important.”

Newton said the skills, connections, and feedback available to students through clubs such as Startup Springboard are useful to students whatever their major.

“Whether you’re [studying] Writing for Film or TV and you have an idea for a TV show, or you’re [Writing, Literature and Publishing] and you have an idea for a novel, you’re still talking about some of the same things you [talk about] for a business,” she said. “You have to find an investor, no matter what discipline you’re in.”

The new club, currently with between 10 and 15 members, also fills a niche for those students who may not be that advanced in their ideas or that sure of what they want to do. Students can minor in E3 (Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship) or they can develop a business plan through Emerson Launch, but Startup Springboard is being positioned as “a place to start,” she said.

In fact, the Springboard is just one student startup organization being piloted this year.

Newton is also a campus director of InnovateEDU, a competition/partnership between students at Emerson, MIT, and Boston and Northeastern universities. Teams of five students from each campus come up with venture concepts and compete for a cash prize and a chance to pitch to a Boston accelerator. The first competition is slated for April 12, and Newton said the organizers hope that next year, as many as 10 schools will be involved.

The ultimate goal of both organizations, Newton said, is to connect likeminded students.

“I think in terms of Startup Springboard and terms of InnovateEDU, and in terms of ‘entrepreneurs’ in general, you connect to so many people, and there’s someone who can help you and who you can help,” she said.

Students interested in Startup Springboard or InnovateEDU can contact Newton at cailey_newton@emerson.edu.