School:Washington University in St. Louis

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=======================================Spring 2017=======================================
Since 2016, there have been many efforts by students to enrich the entreprenurship resources on campus, including Bear Studios and Y's Thought. Bear Studios is a student-run startup consulting organization that provides services such as web development and pitch coaching. Y's Thoughts is a student entrepreneur network that offers students opportunites to pitch their ideas.
Landscape Canvas:

The Skandalaris center, Olin Business Entrepreneurship department, Engineering and the Medical school are the major centers of innovation within Wash U. Annually, dozens of students come out of Discovery Competitions from the Engineering department and various competitions held by Skandalaris Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship center. DiscoveryCompetition,ArchGrantsandcompetitions like Skandalaris CuporLEAP Inventor Challenge are important sources for students to pitch their ideas and explore which projects are feasible and which are not.

Each year, a few groups come out from the Hatchery, a class held in the Business School. The Hatchery is an especially good opportunity for students who have already formed teams or are looking for leaders or teammates. This program brings in investors from St. Louis and advisors from the region to assist students in launching start-ups within the semester. Off campus, the university also frequently subsidizes tickets to3daystart-up and similar hackathons.

In addition, Washington University has a thriving community of entrepreneurial student groups including Sling Health, Engineering World Health, Center for Entrepreneur Partnerships, BetaVersity, and Washington University Tech Entrepreneurs. These groups have been greatly successful in culturing entrepreneurs, winning competitions, and launching successful ventures. Sling Health was recently featured in Nature Biotechnology for their largely successful MakerMovement/Lean StartUp style formula for biotechnology ventures that succeed at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Although the number of resources and paths for entrepreneurship exist, the amount of participation in both clubs and competitions could be much higher, especially in terms of undergraduates. The vast majority of participants of the competitions listed above are seniors, graduate students, and medical students. The undergraduate environment is not as entrepreneurial as it could be. It is many of the same students that take advantage of the resources available. For example, it seems as if students are more interested in grades and resume building rather than collaborating and pursuing Lean StartUp methods.

Nevertheless, undergraduates involved in systematically shaping the undergraduate entrepreneurial culture have made great strides in the recent years. With the support from the school of engineering, the first Co-Lab, spearheaded by BetaVersity and the undergraduate entrepreneur groups, was established as a precursor to future maker-labs. The CenterofEntrepreneur Partnerships has developed to begin uniting both undergraduate and graduate student groups to determine methods of programming to increase the number of students involved in entrepreneurship.

The Washington University in St. Louis entrepreneurial landscape has made strides in recent years. Compared to five years ago, the university has become much more focused on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, so much so, that one of the four pillars of the “Together, we lead” campaign, a university-led campaign focused on the future, is “Inspiring Innovation & Entrepreneurship.”Amainfocusof this pillar has been increasing funding for the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurship at Washington University. The Skandalaris Center has been integral to increasing entrepreneurship awareness on campus, with both programming and events, and has been the go-to place for many students and faculty to begin their entrepreneurial ventures.

Thereareamultitude of other clubs outside of the Skandalaris Center dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in some fashion or another, but many suffer from low attendance and a small presence on campus. Not many engage in holding large events to generate awareness and are difficult to get in touch with,ordo not meet frequently enough to sustain a strong attendance record. Many registered on the website for the Wash U Student Union are still listed but are defunct, also stymying efforts of interested first-year students who are looking for opportunities.

Those that are committed have been leading a charge, along with the Skandalaris Center, in recent years, however. Those groups and organizations can be found below.

Student Entrepreneurship and Innovation

There are many groups on campus that have been working hard to generate Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) awareness on campus. In Washington University’s campus I&E landscape, there are a multitude of organizations in the Discover sector, which first introduces students to the important and fundamental elements of I&E.

Engineering Project Review Board 

The Engineering Project Review Board (EPRB) is a student established fund set aside to fund personal engineering projects. Students write proposals detailing the problem they wish to solve (ie. a better way to purify water, a new medical device to help physicians, etc.)Afterward, a proposed solution and design is pitched with a budget to support their request for funds. Each student team can earn up to $1500. In the past, the EPRB has supported many student led startups and design competition winners such as SparoLabs 


The CEP is a conglomerate of student entrepreneurship groups such as IdeaLabs, Engineering World Health, Design for America, Engineering Test Kitchen, Student Entrepreneur Program, and WashU Tech Entrepreneurs. This cohort manages the Academy Space Co-Lab, Washington University’s first campus wide incubator space built by Engineering World Health, Engineering Test Kitchen, and IdeaLabs and designed by BetaVersity. The CEP plans faculty workshops for students to learn about entrepreneurship and become inspired. Since its grand opening, the space has seen an immense amount of traffic with the whiteboards never blank! 

Engineering World Health Co-founded and led by Huy Lam and Charles Wu, Engineering World Health (EWH), seeks to empower students from all disciplines to design devices that improve quality and access to healthcare in developing countries. Members are initially recruited in the fall and then put through a rigorous orientation program that includes idea generation, problem pitches by physicians, design reviews by its partner organization IdeaLabs. For the past three years, this chapter has won international competitions such as the EWH design challenge and placed in a myriad other competitions such as the Discovery Competition, CGIU Social Venture Challenge, and the Global Impact Award. With over 50 members and an innovation rate of 3 devices a year, EWH has greatly contributed to the undergraduate entrepreneurship scene. 

Sling Health (formerly Idea Labs)

Co-founded by a group of MD-PhD students at Washington University’s Medical School, IdeaLabs is the premier biomedical engineering entrepreneurial group in both undergraduate and graduate schools. It was recently featured inNature Biotechnology . Physicians at the medical school submit problems through their website. Project leaders from around the campus are then recruited. These project leaders recruit multidisciplinary teams composed of undergraduate and graduate engineers, PhD students, MBA students, etc. Teams are offered many resources such as intellectual property workshops, design reviews, and startup seminars. IdeaLabs has recently partnered with Engineering World Health to run student program and access more undergraduates. Boasting over 100 members and a myriad of St. Louis entrepreneur mentors, venture capitalists, and Washington University faculty, IdeaLabs has been a major entrepreneurial force in St. Louis’s biotech industry.

Engineering Test Kitchen

Co-founded by a group of mechanical engineering students, Engineering Test Kitchen (ETK) brings together engineering students to act as consultants for various St. Louis companies. ETK has exponentially grown in the past year and spearheaded the building of the Academy Space. 

The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurship

The Skandelaris Center for Entrepreneurship is the premier entrepreneurship academic platform on campus. Owned by the Washington University Olin Business School, the Skandalaris Center acts as a hub of entrepreneurial activity on campus. It hosts monthly pitch competitions called IdeaBounce which welcomes all ideas, whether in business, science, art, architecture, engineering, medicine, etc. It’s also another forum to connect students to community leaders. Directed by Emre Toker, the Skandalaris Center has been proactively engaging student groups such as IdeaLabs, Engineeering World Health, the CEP, and Engineering Test Kitchen. The Skandalaris Center has the following competitions:

  • IdeaBounce
  • Youth Bridge Social Venture Challenge
  • Global Impact Award
  • Skandelaris Internship Program
  • The Hatchery Course: Business for Emerging Enterprises

The Hatchery Course, Business for Emerging Enterprises has been a particular success as it connects graduate and undergraduate students with budding entrepreneurial ventures. It also rigorously requires these student teams to come up with robust business plans and network with St. Louis entrepreneurs willing to mentor new enterprises.

 Wash U Tech Entrepreneurs

Led by University Innovation Fellow, Blake Margraff, Wash U Tech Entrepreneurs is a student group that provides a forum for entrepreneurial discussion, idea generation, and idea refinement. This group invites students from all universities in the St. Louis area to share entrepreneurial experiences, recruit team members, and connect with faculty across different universities.

Student Entrepreneurial Program

The Student Entrepreneurial Program (StEP) provides an opportunity for students to own and operate businesses on campus. Students learn how to develop and follow business plants to start or maintain a business and gain experience with day-to-day operations of a storefront business. The following campus businesses spawned from the StEP program:

  • Bears' Bikes
  • Bear Discounts
  • Off the Row
  • SWAP-Sharing With A Purpose
  • University Trucking, Inc.
  • U-Shuttle​
  • Wash U Wash
  • Wydown Water

Washington University Engineering Discovery Competition 

The Discovery Competition is the premier engineering entrepreneurship competition. It is led by Professor Dennis Mell. Teams of engineering students enter, provided the team also has at least one student that is not from the engineering school. This competition provides engineering undergraduate students the forum to explore their entrepreneurial interests with support from mentors, to use their creativity to develop solutions for real-world problems and to compete for financial resources that could help turn their ideas into businesses. The competition includes multiple rounds held during the fall and spring semesters. At least $25,000 will be awarded to the winning team(s) each spring semester so the competition winner(s) can continue developing prototypes and ventures.​ Students interact with mentors, advisers, judges and other students through several events held during the academic year.​ Engineering World Health and IdeaLabs consistently generate teams that win prizes through this competition. 

Washington University Olin Cup

Since 1988 the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis has held an engaging competition for entrepreneurs to expand opportunities for collaboration, innovation and learning. With the support of the Skandalaris family, in 2003, the Olin Cup began awarding $70,000 in seed funding to competition winners and broadening the reach of the Olin Cup. Teams submit ideas, pitch to judges, and move through several rounds of business plan development, mentor networking, and judging. All students and members of the St. Louis community are eligible to participate in the competition. The first place team receives $50,000 and the second place team receives $20,000. Even if teams don’t win, they receive a myriad of connections and small financial support during the competition to experiment. 

Other Programs for Student Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Other organizations involved in the Wash U ecosystem are:

Startup (W)U Pre-O Program: The Startup (W)U Pre-O Program is a pre-orientation program created for first year students. It introduces students to the entrepreneurship resources available on campus and in the St. Louis community.

Skandalaris Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair: This specialized activities fair helps students interested in entrepreneurship find relevant organizations on campus. It contains a smaller number of clubs than the main activities fair, helping students find the most relevant organizations.

SU Activities Fair: The SU activities fair is the main activities fair on campus. It contains a booth for every student group.

Washington University Startup Training Lab (WU-STL): (WU-STL) is a free, non-credit workshop hosted by the Skandalaris Center that lasts all year-long, in the form of 22 training sessions, to serve as a comprehensive introduction to I&E. The workshop is independent from all other Skandlaris Center competitions and workshops are free and open to all.

TEDxWUSTL: A local version of TED hosted by Wash U. It includes local speakers, including students and faculty.

Occasional entrepreneurial speaker events: Speakers such as Sam Altman of Y Combinator, as well as local entrepreneurs, give talks for the WashU community.

FUSE: Igniting Innovation and Connecting Entrepreneurs: FUSE is an on-campus news source related to entrepreneurship. It seeks to cover the ecosystem on campus and in the community.

There are also organizations within the Washington University community that focus on allowing interested students to become more involved and learn about I&E. More specifically:

IdeaBounce: A two-minute elevator pitch competition on campus. Provides small prizes as well as feedback from accomplished judges.

Y’s Thoughts: Y’s Thoughts is an open forum for students to share businesss ideas and receive feedback from student members in attendance that has a goal of creating a more collaborative environment. The club meets weekly and the weekly student pitches are open to all students.

Boeing Patent Challenge:The competition is a collaboration between Phantom Works Ventures and the Skandalaris Center to mentor a patent translation/commercialization challenge based on Boeing’s intellectual property. Over 50 categories of patents have been selected for highest commercialization potential by WUSTL undergraduate, graduate & professional students, and faculty and finalists have the chance of winning $5,000 and the chance to take their venture to market, with Boeing’s permission.

Elevator Pitch Competition: A 5-minute pitch competition for undergraduate students that awards small cash prizes for finalists.

ArchHacks: A hackathon hosted by Computer Science students at Washington University. Sponsors include tech companies, and cutting-edge hardware is given out as prizes.

Majors/minors in entrepreneurship:Students also have the ability to major or minor in entrepreneurship through the Olin Undergraduate Business School.

There are also organizations within the Washington University community that focus on allowing students interested in I&E to apply their knowledge to a specific challenge and experiment. These organizations are below:

The Hatchery Course:In this course, student teams pursue their own business idea or support community entrepreneurs by researching, writing, and pitching business plans for new commercial or social ventures. Enrolled students can recruit a team to work on their own business idea, or can join a team working on another’s idea. Students attempt to raise money and launch a company by the end of the semester.

Bear Studios: The first student-run incubator on Wash U's campus. It serves all students and connects student entrepreneurs to other students with professional-grade skillsets who can help them take an idea to the next level.

Entrepreneurship BLOC: An in-progress application for a dorm space centered around entrepreneurship. Half a dozen or a dozen entrepreneurs could live together and work on startups in the same area.

Skandalaris Summer Entrepreneurial Internship Program: A program that matches students with St. Louis-area startups and pays them a stipend to work at the startup over the summer. Helps students gain hands-on experience with entrepreneurship.

Global Impact Award: It wasestablished to invest in promising ventures and highly motivated entrepreneurs whose technological products and services spur economic growth and catalyze social change for underserved populations.

SEIC (Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition):Its goal is to help energize the St. Louis region’s entrepreneurial spirit with education and an exciting business plan competition, in which winning nonprofits are awarded seed money to put their plans into action.

Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Once a student or faculty member has an idea and commits to an opportunity, there are a number of resources available to him or her to pursue it. In the realm of pursuing a venture, students/faculty at WashU can licenselicense a technology, form or join venture startup, and/or attain legal status.

BioEntrepreneurship Core 

The mission of the BioEntrepreneurship Core (BEC)  at Washington University in St. Louis is to educate students, faculty, and staff regarding biotechnology-based entrepreneurial opportunities and skills.  We also encourage greater exchange between Wash U affiliates and the St. Louis entrepreneurial community through organizing events which bring these groups together and facilitate social and professional interactions.  Above all, the BEC strives to create a network which brings together people of all disciplines—including science, medicine, business and law—that fosters and promotes scientific innovation.

Bear Cub Fund

The Bear Cub Fund was initiated by the Vice Chancellor for Research to support faculty in translational studies not normally supported by federal grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and other sources.

Bear Cub awards are designed to support translational research activities that will generate results improving commercial licensing opportunities and/or investment potential. The Bear Cub Fund strives to foster and enhance innovative and entrepreneurial talents through education, competition, and networking. The individual awards of up to $75,000 are intended to support research projects of one year or less.

Academic Programs/Courses in Entrepreneurship

Course ID Course Title
E62 BME 413 Engineering for First- and Third-World Health
E62 BME 401 Biomedical Engineering Design
E81 CSE 330S Rapid Prototype Development and Creative Programming
E35 ESE 499 Capstone Design Project
E37 MEMS 411 Mechanical Engineering Design Project
B53 MGT 421 Introduction to Entrepreneurship
B63 MGT 500T Social Entrepreneurship
B63 MGT 500U  Basics of Bio-Entrepreneurship
E81 CSE 507A  Technology Entrepreneurship
B53 MGT 424 Business Planning for New Enterprises (The Hatchery)
U19 SUST 4140 Sustainable Development and Conservation: Madagascar

Office of Technology and Management

Translation Labs, a new initiative by IDEA Labs and the Office Technology Management, is looking to create teams around WU research IP with a new class of teams/start-ups starting in January. Teams will be composed of Post-docs, MBA students and PhD students working on the commercialization of any one out of over 100 WU Research Projects currently disclosed to OTM. The teams will go through the IDEA Labspathway to commercialization and receive support in market research, patenting, LLC formation, and venture funding.

Other Programs for Faculty Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Venturewell Student Grants: With both grants for students and faculty, itcultivates opportunities for collegiate technology entrepreneurs by providing early-stage support and funding of up to $25,000.

Entrepreneurial and IP Clinic (Law): Provides pro-bono legal services to students and the St. Louis area.

BALSA Consulting: Consulting firm made up mostly of Washington University students. Helps with market research, strategy, and other business tasks.

Regional and Local Economic and Development Efforts

Outside of the Washington University community, there are ways in which on-campus ventures can commercialize and adapt to the real-world marketplace.

Arch Grants 

The Arch Grants Global Startup Competition helps to shape the image of St. Louis among aspiring entrepreneurs and others looking to have a formative role in building a new entrepreneurial climate in St. Louis.

Through the Global Startup Competition, Arch Grants selects promising startups to receive $50,000.  Typically, taking ventu

re capital forces an aspiring entrepreneur to sacrifice a significant stake in their company in exchange for funds.  This process is often limited to ventures with access to the startup hotbeds like Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston.

Cultivation Capital

Cultivation Capital has a track record of investing in successful technology companies across the Midwest. In Spring 2013, Cultivation Capital announced the launch of its Health and Life Sciences fund. Our newest fund is dedicated to investing in healthcare information technology and related mobile health platforms, medical devices, compound and drug discovery and plant/seed or biosciences technology. Their goal is to take businesses to the next level with help, expertise, guidance and funding. Their portfolio represents the best growth opportunities throughout the Midwest.


T‐REX is a world class venue providing the startup entrepreneur with low cost & flexible enterprise space, while serving the region with quality programming and inspiring community. Two years after it’s inception, T-REX occupies 5 floors of Lammert on Washington and growing. It is now home to 100+ startups, iTEN, Capital Innovators, Cultivation Capital, SixThirty, Arch Grants and home to many other entrepreneurial activity including Startup Weekend and StartLouis.


Deeply rooted in the St. Louis region, Polsinelli has a steadfast reputation in the legal and business communities and is known for its sophisticated work, industry knowledge, civic leadership, and an entrepreneurial spirit.   These qualities continue to attract talented lawyers as Polsinelli’s growth is evident in recent rankings as St. Louis’ 7th largest law firm and among its Top 50 regional companies. Polsinelli has many partnerships with entrepreneurship centers in St. Louis, such as providing pro-bono patent filing for student entrepreneurs and other legal services. 

Other Programs for Regional Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Other organizations involved in the Wash U ecosystem are:

TechArtista: An incubator in the Central West End of St. Louis, MO, is near to campus and provides a fantastic environment for growing companies in a fun environment. Bear Studios has a working relationship with TechArtista and once a venture outgrows Bear Studios' resources, they may advance onto TechArtista.

CIC: One of St. Louis' largest innovation communities, this incubator offers coworking, offices, and labs.

Arch Angels:The mission of the St. Louis Arch Angels is to provide opportunities for our members to obtain outstanding financial returns by investing in early-stage companies with high growth potential in the St. Louis Region and accelerating them to market leadership. The Arch Angels are a part of the region’s seed to later stage equity capital continuum and are targeting an investment range that is generally underserved by institutional venture capital firms.

ITEN:ITEN accelerates scalable tech startups with programs for rapid product development, connections to talent, essential networking, and access to funding. The core of its value proposition comes from enabling experienced entrepreneurs to help other entrepreneurs build successful, growing tech ventures. The critical connections are formed through direct mentoring access, a curriculum of graduated acceleration programs, and weekly and monthly networking programs.

Biogenerator: Biogenerator is a primarily healthcare focused incubator in the St. Louis region.

Venture Café: Venture Caféenhances and accelerates the innovation process through spaces, programs, and conversations for individuals and organizations to gather and build relationships.

Blake's Landscape Analysis (Presentation Summary)

Student Initiatives

*Entrepreneurial mindset is growing steadily
*WUTE: Wash U Tech Entrepreneurs
**Dozens of students from all majors
**Supplement student learning with speakers (visits from Reddit, Square, etc.)
*Notable number of startups, particularly in tech, emerging from school resources- upcoming goal to build incubator for these student initiatives

School Resources

*Ralph Quatrano, Dean of Engineering, is a major proponent of entrepreneurship
*Discoveries Competition integrates real-world ideas with cross-disciplinary knowledge
*Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurship- ally and intermediary for enterprising students directed by Ken Harrington, an experienced entrepreneur


Related Links

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis Student Priorities

University Innovation Fellows

Spring 2017:

Brett Gao

Rishil Mehta

Dan Zahka

Spring 2016:


Avi Felman

William Papper

Spring 2015

Varun Krishnamurthy

Stephanie Mertz

Chan Hyung Park

Huy Lam Fall

Fall 2012

Blake Marggraff

Related links