After three weeks of basketball bliss, Louisville and Michigan are suiting up for the Championship Game of the 2013 March Madness tournament tonight. Yet, as they’ve battled their way to the final round of the men’s NCAA tournament, students here in the Hub have been duking it out to see who’s out innovating whom in our accompanying Campus Innovation March Madness Challenge.
Babson and Northeastern beat out 10 other schools to make it to the championship round. But, only one school could be named the winner.
Northeastern trumped Babson, garnering nearly 86 percent of the vote. To answer all suspicions: students did hack the polling — that I have confirmed. But Babson attempted to do the same, thereby turning this competition into a battle of who hacked the hardest.
Although admittedly annoyed at first, I had to laugh. After all, what would a Campus Innovation Challenge be without a little campus innovation? Look at what happened when Dropbox announced “The Great Dropbox Space Race,” offering up two years’ worth of free online storage space for everyone at the winner’s school. Well, MIT students hacked the system, took first-place and were championed for their ingenuity.
Northeastern deserves the praise regardless. The University was already known as having one of the best business schools, yet poured $60 million into its program last semester with the help of alumni Richard D’Amore and Alan McKim. Northeastern has also launched a new Center for Entrepreneurship Education, and has attempted to create a more symbiotic relationship between what’s being taught in the classroom to what’s being offered outside of the classroom.
Frank Spital, Northeastern’s entrepreneurship and innovation group coordinator has previously broken down Northeastern’s work into three words: educate, incubate and launch. Students are educated through their courses, co-ops and alumni seminars, incubated through student-run venture accelerator IDEA and then launched through the help of the school’s investor network.
“Most universities do business plan competitions, we do businesses,” said Spital at IDEA’s most recent Entrepreneurship Expo. “We start stuff.”
In just four years, IDEA has gone on to grant more than $200,000 to ventures coming out of the University. The Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club has also grown to become one of the largest student organizations at Northeastern, with more than 1,000 active members. Despite a hack to the voting, it’s hard to deny the school’s smarts.
If you have any doubts, though, tonight is fittingly the Husky Startup Challenge. In January, more than 90 students applied to the contest and now nearly $5,000 is up for grabs. From a science experiment delivery service to a high-tech, low-cost chalkboard alternative, you can swing by the University’s Curry Student Center Ballroom from 6-8 p.m. to see what innovation means at Northeastern for yourself.
President Joseph Aoun said it best: “The world is about innovation,” and Northeastern is dedicated to promoting it.