Meet Five Hot New College Startups

Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) —

Most people still approach their time spent in college in a traditional way: Try to get into the best one you can, take what you think are useful classes and get good grades, and when you get close to graduation look for a “good job.” But some of the most famous people we know — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg — created their own jobs while they were in college (and dropped out).

In the movie The Social Network, the fictional president of Harvard, Larry Summers, famously tells the Winklevoss twins, “Harvard students believe that creating a job is better than finding a job.” (It’s probably no coincidence that Gates and Zuckerberg both went to Harvard.)

But there’s no need to drop out of school just because you’re in college and have a little entrepreneurial spirit. Microsoft and Facebook are the exceptions to the rule, in the grand scheme of things. Yet there are many college startups doing just fine. At the least, founding or co-founding one’s own company is an invaluable life experience to have, even if it ultimately fails. At the most, something you start in college may be the foundation for what you do after you graduate.

Colleges are even promoting entrepreneurship. For example, the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business is hosting their annual Entrepreneurship Invitational on Friday, March 30th. The governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, will keynote, and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, the founder of the Invitational (in 2006), will speak and judge.

Five finalist startups — Route One Apparel (t-shirts), Visionics (3D art for music), Reed Street Productions (real-life gaming), 10G systems (software services), and Food Safety Administration (restaurant training) — will pitch their businesses and compete for $25,000 in prizes. Hussein Hammouda of UMASS-Amherst has a nice writeup of these blossoming companies at College Magazine.

What’s interesting to me is that in an environment where seemingly every startup, incubator, and accelerator you read about in high-profile places is focused on consumer technology/software/Web apps, these University of Maryland startups are actually pretty diverse, ranging from IT to adventure gaming to entertainment hi-tech.

What a relief that the next generation of startup entrepreneurs is getting creative about their future.

Learn more about the Entrepreneurship Invitational here.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC.

Photo from University of Maryland.

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Corey McCarren

That is very cool, it seems like many start-ups right now seem to be for green/nanotech and social media so it’s great to see that there’s companies outside that spectrum in the mix.