The Illinois Institute of Technology just launched its Knapp Center Venture Accelerator Program, a first for the school and its Entrepreneurship Academy. And our own Phil Tadros had the unique opportunity to help mentor students this week.
IIT joins business schools like Northwestern University, DePaul University and the University of Chicago, among others, to help students launch tech startups and learn immersive entrepreneurship.
As a mentor at the Knapp Center Venture Accelerator Program, Phil helps teams of graduate and undergraduate students pursue entrepreneurial ventures, said Nik Rokop, the academy’s managing director. About 17 students are paired in multidisciplinary teams for about 12 weeks to develop a product or service, meeting with mentors as they pivot and restructure their ideas to presentable perfection.
According to IIT, students learn to develop a clarity of their product or service, obtain customer validation, develop and refine a financial model, and understand their market—all before making a final presentation at the end of the semester on “Demo Day.”
In a classroom, it doesn’t get more hands on than that.
“We started the program because much of what the school was offering in entrepreneurship was already in place in a less structured way,” Rokop told Doejo. “And the local tech community was growing so much, especially in the academic arena.”
Just this week the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye covered budding entrepreneurs in a piece called “Billionaire or bust.” Rokop was proud to point out the subjects of the story talking about their social-media-reward-program-startup, GoSosh, were IIT undergrads. And IIT Kent Law School graduate, Richard Komaiko’s AttorneyFee.com, mentioned in the article, is a Knapp Center company.
The overall goal of KCVAP will help prepare students for application to national accelerators such as Excelerate Labs, here in Chicago, and TechStars. The whole program sounds really exciting and a truly worthwhile asset to Chicago’s growing tech ecosystem. We at Doejo wish the new Knapp Center Venture Accelerator Program and Rokop the best of luck!