StartUpX Program Focuses on Social Entrepreneurship

This past weekend, a number of Colgate students participated in a workshop called StartupX, a two-day crash course on high growth entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Danish entrepreneur and founder of the StartupExperience Henrik Scheel, who has spent the past several years try-ing to reinvent entrepreneurial education, led the StartupX workshop. Scheel has given several dozen of these workshops across the world, educating hundreds of teachers, professionals and students from Ireland to India. “I believe having an entrepreneurial mindset to life is important no matter what sort of path your life takes,” Scheel said. “This workshop is a super inten-sive experience that uses energizers to get people to think in a creative manner using new patterns of thought.” The StartupX workshop was brought to Colgate by Thought Into Action (TIA), the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Edu-cation (COVE) as well as the Robert A. Fox ’59 Leadership Institute. “The goal was to introduce students to the skills and philosophies associated with social entrepreneurship, using market-based innovations to create solutions to social problems,” Director of the COVE Krista Saleet said. “Students were taught core strategies and processes to think in-novatively about social change. This type of work is important in providing students with opportunities to see the range of methods to create positive change in the world today.” The main focus of the workshop was to col-laborate with a team of individuals to find a vi-able solution for a real-world problem. The very real application of these problems and solutions allows the teams to stay focused and engaged. “There are enough big problems that the world needs solving,” Scheel said. “For the workshop, it is important to add that layer of social responsibility.”

The prompt was simple: improve a quality of life issue in the state of New York. The only criterion was that this issue had to be a real problem affecting people in this day and age. The issues addressed by these teams varied from improving farming and teaching to the advancement of small-scale restaurants in rural areas. The teams were able to gener-ate a startup through a five-step process that included understanding the prob-lem, identifying the user, effectively im-plementing technology, generating ideas and developing a pitch. One of the more unique aspects of this ex-perience is a tactic Scheel describes as reverse brainstorming. This forces the members of the teams to come up with an excess of ideas, no matter how bad and then turn them into good ideas. For example, if the question is how to make students happy the reverse would be how do you make students miserable. “One of the greatest obstacles is that peo-ple are afraid not to succeed,” Scheel said. “It is important to get people to embrace failure.” For Colgate students, StartupX opened up the doors to many new possibilities. “The marriage between making a real social change and building of a for-profit business was fascinating,” senior Cody Breene said. “I always thought that non-profits were the only business model for affecting the greater social good.” There were also a handful of non-Colgate participants, including eight students from Hamilton College. Ujjwal Pradhan, who came to the United States a year ago, was excited to have this opportunity. “I am from Nepal and know how many opportunities exist in the world to really make an impact as an entrepreneur,” Prad-han said. “I think it is important to realize that it is no longer about just finding a job, but being able to create your own.” Scheel hopes that by providing the StartupX participants with the right tools that they will be able to make a true impact on the world.

“I hope that they take away a new mind-set, an entrepreneurial mindset where they take the initiative to go and do something,” Scheel said. “We should not accept the way things are but come up with a solution to make them better.”

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