Published: June 5, 2014

Twenty-two entrepreneurial students are gearing up to turn their innovative ideas into serious startups this summer with the support of a new business accelerator program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kicking off on Saturday, June 7, with an inaugural cohort of six project teams, Catalyze CU-Boulder will provide mentorship, grants and space at Spark Boulder to support students as they launch startup companies to develop promising technologies. The technologies range from a mobile app for the sports industry that scores social media influence to a solar irrigation system for the developing world.

Over the course of eight weeks, the teams will aggressively develop their ideas, products and businesses with guidance from local business experts.

“Our goal is to move them to the next stage, whatever that is,” says Doug Smith, assistant dean for programs and talent in CU-Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. “It could be product development, raising capital funds, and, in some cases, releasing their products on the market.”

The engineering college launched the program in partnership with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business and Spark Boulder, a student co-working space and “innovation hub” founded by engineering senior Fletcher Richman and classmates.

Catalyze CU-Boulder is modeled after the best practices of business accelerator programs across the country, with input from local business icons Brad Feld and Jason Mendelsohn of the Foundry Group and Dave Cohen, founder of TechStars. The program builds on existing collaborations of students, faculty, alumni and local businesses committed to supporting student entrepreneurship.

“With numerous projects courses and business and technology competitions, we have a rich entrepreneurial community across the CU-Boulder campus,” says Smith. “But until now we haven’t had anywhere for these students to go next. We saw a need for this kind of accelerator community right here on campus. As educators, we want to teach our students, but we also want to help them launch their businesses.”

Catalyze CU-Boulder has attracted teams from capstone design courses and business competitions, such as the popular New Venture Challenge, that are inspired to take their projects to the next level. More than 35 teams applied to be part of the first Catalyze CU-Boulder class, including undergraduate and graduate students from degree programs across campus.

“We applied for Catalyze CU-Boulder because we feel we have a great idea but need to learn how to best articulate our ideas and market our products for our consumers,” says Jana Jefers, a member of the Dynamic Measurement Solutions team, which hopes to revolutionize the way prosthetic sockets are fit to help amputees return to dynamic activities more quickly and comfortably. “With the expertise assembled in the Catalyze CU-Boulder team, we’re sure to learn all this and more to make our business a success.”

Catalyze CU-Boulder is open to CU-Boulder students and faculty. Smith says students will finish the two-month program with a clear sense of their next steps and an invaluable network of supporters and connections in the community to help them continue their endeavors.

Teams participating in the inaugural cohort are:

  • Malleable Metals 
    Malleable plastics that can be molded directly onto the body to eliminate the need for mold-making currently required for custom orthopedics.
  • Dynamic Measurement Solutions 
    A novel device that uniquely measures displacement of a residual limb within a prosthetic socket during dynamic movements along multiple axes. 
  • Global Solar 
    A solar drip irrigation pump for rural farmers in India that uses mirrors to concentrate solar power and reduce the initial price by 50 percent.
  • QuintEssentials 
    A subscription service that delivers care package items to college freshmen in their residence halls.
  • Shinesty
    An online clothing platform that helps people who want to look awesome find outrageous and hilarious clothing.
  • IconPulse 
    A Web platform and app that scores social media influence for the sports industry.

Photo: Members of the Dynamic Measurement Solutions team at the April 26 Engineering Design Expo, where they demonstrated their socket technology for prosthetic joints to judges and the public