Whether delivering a monthly themed box of STEM activities straight to your door or creating a solar powered cell phone and tablet charging station, the startups springing out of Northeastern’s venture accelerator IDEA are nothing if not diverse.
The word “diverse” continued cropping up at the Northeastern Entrepreneurship Expo held Wednesday evening in the school’s Cabot Athletic Center. Roughly 40 ventures presented to a milling-around crowd comprised of students, faculty, alumni and members of the Boston tech community.
Among them was Hugh Courtney, dean of Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. In his nearly two-year tenure, Courtney has frequented roughly four NEXPOs, each getting better by the year. “As far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Courtney commended the breadth of the startups involved Wednesday. “The diversity of ventures … suggests to me a healthy venture accelerator,” the dean noted, soon pointing to another powerful part of the program: the students. “I really do believe it’s the student-run nature of IDEA that is the secret to its success.”
IDEA’s coaching team is made up of enthusiastic students whose sole goal is to see their peers succeed.
“They’ll do everything in their power to help you get to where you want to be,” said Shivangi Shah, co-founder of genius.box, the aforementioned startup dedicated to delivering a STEM education to its users. “The fact that Northeastern has this kind of support system has been so helpful.”
Last April, genius.box made its debut at the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club Husky Startup Challenge, winning the second-place prize of $1,250. With the help of the Northeastern community, the team was able to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign in November and has since gone on to raise an undisclosed amount of gap funding from IDEA.
Shah argued IDEA is only made better because it’s student-run. And Courtney agreed, adding that coaches are effective because they’re able to have authentic, honest, no agenda conversations. “I think that accelerates learning,” he said. “It creates an environment that facilitates rapid learning.”
Seeing how far IDEA’s various ventures have come is what Max Kaye has found so rewarding during his year-long tenure as the accelerator’s CEO. “That’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Kaye acknowledged, referring to the progress made. He also noted the breadth of industries IDEA now has in its portfolio, ranging from consumer retail to biotech. “We need to accommodate all of those,” he added. “It’s been the hardest part to scale, but also the most exciting.”
With commencement looming, Wednesday’s NEXPO was the last Kaye will be attending as CEO. Nick Naraghi, Northeastern’s former student body president, will be taking over the position and bringing a new perspective to the school’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“They wanted a fresh pair of eyes to assess what we’re doing and see how we can improve,” Naraghi said. Although he has not yet served on IDEA’s management team, Naraghi has been attending every NEXPO, noticing “every single person who’s involved with it has an immense passion.”
Now, it will be his turn to harness that passion and help move IDEA forward.
“I’m excited to see these companies grow,” Naraghi said.