Maternova often tracks innovative products that have come from university design or engineering classes. These incredible products benefit from the natural incubation that a vibrant learning community provides. Unfortunately, sometimes with the close of the academic year, these companies struggle to maintain momentum. Maternova asked Warmilu LLC, which grew out of the University of Michigan, to talk about how they navigated the post-academia environment, and how other start ups can thrive after class is over.
Warmilu LLC's Shwetha Maddur writes....
Entrepreneurial fever has hit college campuses around the country! More professors are encouraging students to pursue their own dreams and create jobs for themselves in our recovering economy as university classes are becoming a breeding ground for startups; but its not a task for the faint at heart. It takes more than dreams, colorful post -its, and lots of coffee to keep an entrepreneur going as it becomes increasingly difficult to transform a class project into a sustainable business. A few lessons learned during my time working at Warmilu have made it just a little bit easier.
The first step, is to acknowledge that you are no longer working on a class project, but a company in the making.That in itself is a huge step forward. Being stuck in that mentality of a classroom setting is easy and at times comforting. But entrepreneurship is all about getting way far out of that comfort zone. There is no longer a professor providing strategic guidance every step of the way. There are no more reminders of deadlines approaching. There are no more rubrics! Most importantly, your decisions and actions have consequences that affect your team, investors, and your company’s future. While daunting at times, it’s an exhilarating experience that provides adrenaline when you are working into the wee hours of the night - night after night after night.
Now, remember how much fun the sandbox was to play in on the playground? It was a place for you to go create things, meet your friends, and have fun! Well, incubators are sandboxes for grownups! It is important to surround yourself with a good network of mentors and investors that share your goal and want to help you achieve it. Incubators, Accelerators, Narnia - call it what you may, but they are a great place to start a new business. At the University of Michigan’s incubator, TechArb, start up companies have open workspace and resources beyond their wildest beliefs. Warmilu has been fortunate enough to receive great mentorship and guidance from serial entrepreneurs and subject matter experts from TechArb affiliates, making great friends along the way. Working at incubators makes the work a lot more fun! In fact, some places have rules about not sleeping overnight so as to ensure that residents actually get some sun. The resources invaluable, networking opportunities bountiful, and friends plentiful. Essentially, a sandbox.
Keeping these points in mind as you progress from an idea in the classroom to a pitch in the conference room, your class project can transform into a sustainable business venture.
-Shwetha Maddur | Co-Founder and Chief of Medical Relations Warmilu LLC