Stumptown Startups Blog

Graduating seniors should take advantage of startup opportunities

I realize many (if not, most) startup founders and employees have invested life savings, sacrificed time with families and taken risks based on years of experience in order to follow their passions and build businesses over time. They cringe at the idea startups only begin as portrayed in the movie, The Social Network.

But let’s face it: there are opportunities for the many graduating college seniors about to walk across a stage and into the “real world.” These barely-20-somethings with little experience and, often times, little to lose will be the ones willing to take a risk, enjoy a career adventure and grab onto an opportunity simply to prove themselves.

Maybe it’s been that way for a while, especially in the recent down economy, but colleges and universities are finally taking notice and trying to help their students get a leg up. Many are launching new startup accelerators or competitions.

Lewis & Clark began the Venture Competition this year for current students and recent alumni.  Brian Detweiler-Bedell is the school’s acting academic director for entrepreneurship and says the trend isn’t just about encouraging students to start their own businesses.

“Entrepreneurs innovate just as much within existing businesses,” Detweiler-Bedell said.  “The point here is that today's college graduates cannot rely on any simple path to a career, so they have to be ready to create their own opportunities.”

Five startups were chosen in April and will have a chance to win up to $30,000 next fall.

Portland State University is accepting applications until 11:59pm Friday (that’s today!) from students and faculty for the new PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge.  The competition offers a combined total of $50,000 in cash to help the winning teams bring their ideas to market.

Oregon State University has also come up with a new startup program: the Venture Accelerator.

I would imagine all these colleges and universities agree with Detweiler-Bedell that the new competitions and programs aren’t about winning.  They’re meant to fuel ideas with funding and teach a very ‘real world’ lesson.

“It's about acting, perhaps even failing, and learning a great deal from this about how to succeed,” he said.

What’s your take?

Are you a startup founder wishing universities taught certain skills better?  Or perhaps you’re a recent alumnus working for a startup?  Whatever your role – comment below with your experiences so we can all learn more.