New cohort, sponsored by the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, will support student and local business ventures
Committed to venture creation, Towson University continues to provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs with the StarTUp Accelerator.
Sponsored by the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research (SPAR), the StarTUp Accelerator is an intensive eight-week, cohort-based fellowship where start-up businesses take residency and work in a collaborative space to accelerate their ventures.
The inaugural cohort—four ventures from the community and two student-run—will receive $10,000 equity-free stipends as well as mentorship, founder-centric programming and exposure to successful ventures that are alumni of this model.
There will also be a StarTUp Accelerator Showcase, where each venture gives a five-minute pitch to an audience of senior TU administrators, potential investors and clients, TU alumni and community members.
Introduced by TU’s new executive director of entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown, the StarTUp accelerator was one of his first priorities when he arrived on campus on Feb. 1.
“When I was hired as the executive director of entrepreneurship our first goal was to do Entrepreneurship. We quickly launched the Accelerator as we wanted to support local area entrepreneurs as well as Towson Student and Faculty Entrepreneurs," McQuown says. “We had very competitive applications and we are very pleased with the quality of ventures for our inaugural cohort."
Towson University already provides support for entrepreneurs through the TU Incubator,
which focuses on small business idea development. With the StarTUp Accelerator, TU
now supports investible ventures and has another support channel for entrepreneurs.
The inaugural cohort is six ventures and will have the support of fellow entrepreneurs as well as have 24/7 access to mentorship from McQuown. Additionally the cohort will have the support of other members of the SPAR team and ventures that are alumni of similar programs.
McQuown, a student entrepreneur while at George Washington University, is excited to mentor to these budding entrepreneurs. In fact, he likes to tell everyone that he has the best job on campus.
“I like to say that I'm not an instructor in the sense of ‘hey, do this and this and this, and then this,’” McQuown says. “But I will tell them that they’re walking down a path. I'm going to shine a flashlight. I'm going to tell you what to avoid. And it's up to you, as the entrepreneur, to take the right path.”
Adeel Afshar is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, where he received a dual degree in chemical engineering and physics.It was there where he gained his first glimpses into entrepreneurship through starting a solar energy business in Ghana through a partnership with a global non-profit.
His latest venture, Halal Beauty Cosmetics, is a 100% halal-certified
A native of Chicago, Afshar moved to Baltimore as part of Venture for America, a nonprofit whose mission is "to create economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs."
After struggling to find his place among an entrepreneurial community in his hometown, Afshar was excited to not only find a more accepting city in Baltimore but to also be part of amongst the first cohort like of the StarTUp Accelerator.
“We’re all here to support one another” Afshar says. “One of the really important
things for me is becoming involved with the entrepreneurial community. One of the most valuable aspects of this accelerator are
is the other members of this cohort and how I can help them."
“If I can connect people with other Venture For America fellows or if I can provide my own skills, it will be a worthwhile experience for me.”
After an injury prematurely ended his hockey career, he wanted to find a way to stay connected to the sport he loves. So after transferring to TU, he partnered with mathematics professor Elizabeth Goode to create Advanced Athletic Analytics.
Kapp is part of one of the two student-based ventures in the cohort. While he’s confident in the company’s mathematics and computer science component, he’s hoping McQuown will help with the business and marketing aspect of the venture.
“We felt entering this cohort would be an asset for us and provide us with those skills,” Kapp says. “We really want a plan of attack before we go to market. We’re trying to figure out the best business strategy and using the all the advice Patrick has to offer. Having someone with experience with start-ups is really valuable for us.”
The StarTUp Accelerator cohort has already contacted each other through video conferencing. The ventures were supposed to start residency on the TU campus on June 1, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official start date has been postponed.
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This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.