In six workshops throughout the fall semester, the Michael ’59 and Ellen ’60 Opell IdeaLab brought new and established entrepreneurs to help guide HWS students through key steps towards launching a new startup venture.
IdeaLab is an annual start-up accelerator program that offers students from all majors a creative peer feedback environment, mentoring resources, structured workshops and funding opportunities for the development of new student ideas. Hosted by the HWS Centennial Center, IdeaLab also helps prepare students to compete in the annual Pitch Contest.
This fall’s IdeaLab workshops spotlighted important lessons and advice from seasoned executives and innovators, culminating in a conversation with President and CEO of Chegg Daniel L. Rosensweig ’83 about his extensive entrepreneurial journey.
“IdeaLab addresses the critical ‘first step’ in the entrepreneurial process,” says Ed Bizari, the Entrepreneurial Fellow at the HWS Centennial Center. “So often, students become overwhelmed with how to shape an idea, what to work on first, or how to determine viability. Combined with rich stories from our guest speakers, IdeaLab helps make sense of the process and reduce the fear of starting.”
Beginning in September, IdeaLab participants met virtually for six consecutive weeks with regional and national business leaders and entrepreneurs, exploring idea generation and viability research, differentiation, value propositions, competition, cost structure and social responsibility.
Discussing the ups and downs of Chegg’s early days, Rosensweig told students that overcoming challenging moments is “all about attitude and effort and the ability to be agile and make changes…Your effort, your attitude, your energy, who you surround yourself with, how you deal with situations that didn’t work out — all those things are within your control.”
Rosensweig, the former COO of Yahoo! and former President and CEO of Guitar Hero, also emphasized the importance of the friendships and mentorships he formed at HWS, “relationships that are going to mean everything to you as you go through your entrepreneurial journey.”
In addition to Rosensweig, the fall semester’s workshops featured Chad Williams, CEO of New York Business Plan Competition winner DooProcess; Wade and Megan Forbes, owners of RedTale Communications; Maureen Ballatori, CEO of 29 Design Studio; Jim Cecere ’91, owner of FLX Goods; and Sam Solomon ’17, owner PizzaPosto and the 2017 winner of The Pitch.
Thanks to the support of Michael ’59 and Ellen ’60 Opell, the IdeaLab is designed to bring student ideas to reality as well as promote an entrepreneurial mindset on the HWS campus. Students submit a brief proposal that outlines an idea for a product, service or organization (for-profit or non-profit), and participate in a six-week accelerator program with expert faculty, staff and alumni with the goal of shaping, refining and differentiating an idea. At the end, student participants can submit a proposal to the Student Investment Committee for funding to advance their idea from a micro-investment pool of $5,000.
In the photo above taken in 2019, Entrepreneurial Fellow Ed Bizari talks with Kwame Morris ‘19 in the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship.