Bridge Mentorship Program for Advanced Student Companies at UMass Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2010 - $29,000

The NCIIA-funded UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative (UMassEI), a one-credit course, has greatly increased student participation in entrepreneurship on University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, having grown from five students in 2007 to over 200 from thirty majors running over 100 active student companies. While UMass faculty are currently formalizing a program that connects the most advanced of these student companies to outside mentors, increasing their chances for success, there remains a large gap between the mature teams and the teams in need of support. Many student companies lack the maturity or level of development to take advantage of the mentorship program after completing the one-credit UMassEI class.

This grant will help bridge the gap and connect more students more effectively to outside programs and mentors. Faculty will develop a “bridge program” for students, with the objective of providing early student companies with the knowledge and support they need to cross the gap between completing the introductory course and reaping maximum benefit from outside advisors. The program will consist of three elements: independent studies with faculty across campus who will mentor student innovation projects; bi-weekly seminars for all student proto-companies in the program to build peer-mentoring networks (a result of feedback from mentors who said students were not “ready” to talk with them yet), share successes, answer questions and make them accountable to the group; and weekly networking sessions with external entrepreneurs.