IDEA Center promotes entrepreneurship
Adrianna Fazio | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Notre Dame’s IDEA Center, located on the third floor of Innovation Park on Angela Boulevard, is home to a plethora of whiteboards and colorful markers, Google-esque decor and people with a passion for innovation. A resource for anyone affiliated with Notre Dame, the IDEA center is transforming the way students think about entrepreneurship.
The IDEA Center is one of the many offices in Innovation Park — a building and community dedicated to collaboration and business acceleration. Beyond the IDEA Center, the other Innovation Park residents are growing companies that are committed to meeting needs in their respective markets.
Karen Slaggert, the director of student entrepreneurship, has been leading the efforts to expand opportunities for students within the IDEA Center and Innovation Park as a whole.
In the IDEA Center, Slaggert said there are countless resources for students in any stage of the thought development process — from the inception of an idea to launching a successful company. The Center calls the process of surrounding students with resources part of the “commercialization pipeline.”
As with any business development process, funding is an essential resource in the Center’s business-acceleration model.
“We have one more pitch event this year and I think at that point we will have given away about $50,000 to our students to work on their ideas,” Slaggert said.
Slaggert said one of the most prominent opportunities to gain access to funding is the McCloskey Business Competition, a competition for Notre Dame students, faculty and alumni.
Slaggert said that this year the competition will offer about $400,000 in cash and prizes: $256,000 of which is cash prizes, and the rest is in-kind offers — donated services from various alumni and companies.
“The prizes are great, but the real value of the McCloskey Competition is getting help and mentoring, judges who evaluate at different stages of the competition and give them feedback,” Slaggert said.
Slaggert emphasized the importance of networking and alumni relations, both of which are at the core of the IDEA center programing.
“The one thing about Notre Dame people is that they are always willing to help. They are always willing to give back,” Slaggert said.
The IDEA Center connections proved to be especially valuable for seniors Luke Maillie and Andrew Munch, Notre Dame students who have developed wearable technology to detect the damage level of UV rays at any given moment.
Slaggert said the members of the family behind Radio Flyer — the makers of the little red wagon — are Notre Dame alumni who heard of Maillie and Munch’s creation. Instantly, they said they would love to work with the product.
“One thing that resonates with students on this campus, we believe, is that even though you might say ‘I’m not an inventor, I’m not an entrepreneur,‘ it’s safe to say that most students on this campus want to make the world a better place. They want to bring about change, and entrepreneurship and innovation is the way to do that,” Slaggert said.
In order to increase exposure to the entrepreneurship process, Slaggert has also been heavily emphasizing internship opportunities in Innovation Park as a whole.
“Just in the IDEA center, we have hired just about 60 [interns] since last summer,” she said. “I would love to double that by placing students with other startups in the building, connecting students to other students to work on their ideas.”
To this end, the IDEA Center is creating a database to connect students with the internships they are interested in pursuing.
“We are going to have a platform so students who want internships can post their resumes and indicate which of those groups they would be willing to intern with,” Slaggert said. ” … Once they indicate what their preferences are, their resume will be available to everyone who is hiring.”
Overall, Slaggert stressed that all students should look into IDEA Center and Innovation Park opportunities.
“I would want students to know that they have a place they can come where countless people will do anything they can to help them figure things out,” she said. “We can help. Just come check it out.”