U-M Student Group, MPowered, Gears Up for 1,000 Pitches, Looks to Help Build Startup Ecosystem
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social media. “Once you submit your pitch…it automatically goes on to our YouTube channel so everyone can see your ideas,” Barch said. She added that those videos also get published to the group’s Facebook page.
Mehta said this year the group is hoping to “increase this conversion rate from after students pitch the idea, to take the next step to starting a business.” One of the ways they’re doing this is through a peer mentorship program that pairs students who have viable pitches with more experienced students who know what it takes to start a business.
While the organizers would like to see more pitches turn into real businesses, MPowered already has a number of success stories to tell. One of them is “MPowered student” Allen Kim, a finalist in Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of the Year Award, for his company that allows families to rent baby clothes online in a fashion similar to Netflix.
To help foster more ideas like Kim’s, MPowered also has partnerships with University of Michigan organizations such as the Engineering school’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which was founded at around the same time as MPowered.
According to Doug Neal, managing director for the center, groups within the university and Ann Arbor have been working for about 10 years to bring a culture of entrepreneurship to the area. “There is no natural ecosystem here like there is in Silicon Valley, so we’re trying to create our own ecosystem,” he says.
MPowered and the Center for Entrepreneurship work closely with other university groups like the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which is housed in the university’s business school. In addition, the organizations help to introduce students to the greater Ann Arbor startup scene by hosting a career fair in February featuring startups from around the area.
“There’s multiple touch points throughout all of our programs,” Neal says.
The result, he says, is a campus community that is well connected with the city’s startup incubators like Ann Arbor SPARK—founded by the Republican nominee for Michigan governor, Rick Snyder—which people hope will lead to the growth of Ann Arbor as a startup hub.
And though the ultimate goal of MPowered is to foster entrepreneurial growth in Ann Arbor, Mehta says at its core the organization is really about helping students utilize their talents to make an impact. “We’ve seen students identify a problem and, using an entrepreneurial mindset, be able to solve that problem,” Mehta says.