At the University of Kansas, an innovative program gives faculty, staff and students the tools and knowledge they need to succeed as entrepreneurs. Best of all, they learn the ropes from people with experience, enthusiasm and a spirit of adventure.
Startup School@KU is a free, informative program that provides participants with a fundamental understanding of how to launch a successful company and further develop entrepreneurial skills. It was introduced to great success last fall and returned for six new two-hour sessions this spring. The once-a-week evening sessions are held at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at KU. The school continues through April 19.
“The response this spring is fantastic,” said Julie Nagel, interim associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship. “We opened it up to students focused on the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and we quickly reached capacity for enrollment.” About 80 people registered to attend this spring. The event is funded by a private gift to the School of Engineering.
Based on a model used at Stanford University, the curriculum features a flipped classroom approach. Participants watch a series of videos prior to class and then hear from a variety of guest lecturers. The lecturers engage in extensive discussion based on the topic and their personal experiences. The topics and presenters are:
Key Components of Successful Startups: Wilton Risenhoover is a serial entrepreneur in Los Angeles and a KU graduate. He advises early stage companies on fundraising and technology and launched his latest company, Fintel.io, last fall.
Generating Ideas: Brian McClendon is vice president of advanced technologies with Uber. A KU graduate, he was a co-founder of Keyhole, Inc., a geospatial data visualization company later purchased by Google to produce Google Earth. Keyhole itself was spun off from another company, Intrinsic Graphics, of which he was also a founder. He spent more than 10 years as vice president of engineering for Google, and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2015.
Building Product: Davyeon Ross is co-founder and chief operating officer of ShotTracker, Inc., in Overland Park. The company’s wearable technology provides basketball players with real-time shooting statistics. Previously, he was founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Digital Sports Ventures, an interactive technology company.
Financing Your Startup: Trish Brastad is president and CEO of the Wichita Technology Corporation, and managing member of Wichita Technology Ventures, LLC. She is also a successful entrepreneur and an active angel investor. She is joined by Jason Tatge, founder, CEO and president of Farmobile LLC in Overland Park His company produces a portable, plug-and-play device with embedded cellular to monitor and log raw operational messages from farm equipment in real-time.
Growth: Toby Rush is founder and CEO of EyeVerify in Kansas City, KS, which produces a software-only biometric solution that uses eye print identification for secure, password-free, private authentication.
Operating the Startup: Jeff Stowell is managing director of Royal Street Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund in Park City, UT, and Kansas City, MO. A KU graduate, he previously founded LawFolio LLC and co-founded Community Systems Group, Inc. In addition to the school, KU has created a proof of concept fund for student-led startup companies. Participating students can apply for competitive grants of up to $10,000 to enable early stage validation of a new venture concept. This could include user prototype research, market research surveys and other activities. As many as five proposals will be funded.
“These students are exhibiting a passion for entrepreneurship,” said Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs in the School of Business. “We’d like to equip them to take that next step toward launching a startup.”