Emerson College President Lee Pelton repeated the word “innovation” in his inaugural address, delivered a mere 18 months ago.
“Our … commitment is to advance innovation,” he said. “For more than a decade, Emerson has promised that we ‘[bring] innovation to communication and the arts.'”
News released Tuesday proved Pelton is making good on that promise.
Pelton announced the launch of The Emerson Accelerator, a two-year, extracurricular pilot program open to undergraduate and graduate students, no matter their department or major. Beginning in the fall of 2014, accepted applicants will receive seed funding, mentorship and professional space on campus to build the beginnings of their business.
The Accelerator was born out of the frustration alumni Jake Bailey and Tripp Clemens shared while students at Emerson.
The duo each launched their own startup outside of the confines of campus. Although an entrepreneurial studies minor exists at Emerson, providing students with the ability to design their own business or nonprofit, the two were seeking funding and additional mentorship.
To Clemens, the school’s current Entrepreneurial Studies program is more about theory. The Accelerator, however, is more about exposure, allowing students to test out their products in the real world and “make mistakes in the safe place that is college.”
Stanley Miller, an adjunct professor of management, finance and accounting, as well as business policy and strategy, will help spearhead the accelerator and coordinate the day-to-day logistics. Throughout the two-year program, six of the city’s entrepreneurs will also come in on a weekly basis to coach startups in person.
Students will receive funding instead of academic credit, according to Clemens. Per semester, $6,000 will be up for grabs, and will be divided among startups based on merit. Teams will also be given the chance to participate in workshops, have the opportunity to network, as well as gain access to seasoned speakers.
“I don’t have to tell you that the new economy coming out of the recession is all do-it-yourself,” Clemens said, noting how strong the school already is at design and creativity. “At Emerson, we’re already thinking about how we can brand ourselves and market our skills. We’re thinking how we, as individuals, can be sustainable.”
It’s a trait Pelton has noticed himself.
“Work is play and play is work for Emerson students,” said Pelton in a previous interview. He also highlighted the community’s skill sets, however, adding, “What do we do well at Emerson? We tell stories. We want to develop a path to turn [students’] narratives into businesses that can make money for them and add value to society.”
Emerson has seen a wide variety of companies spring from the school, ranging from Second Glass and Roxy’s Grilled Cheese to Apostle, a TV and film production company opened with the help of actor and alum Denis Leary. With the college’s new Los Angeles campus now open, the opportunities for what could be built in the future are endless.
Clemens noted Emerson’s growth within the last five to 10 years. The school relocated from the Back Bay to the city’s sin strip, formerly known as the “Combat Zone.” And what that visionary decision resulted in was the revitalization of the downtown stretch of streets and the blossoming of the Theater District. Emerson has invested $450 million into the neighborhood, and now has the proper room to grow.
The school also has the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to keep the energy alive.
“Emerson students are always thinking about the next move,” Clemens said. “And by the nature of the [focus on] communication and the arts, the students are already really entrepreneurial.”
Applications for The Emerson Accelerator are now live. Clemens and Bailey will also be hosting two information sessions on the new program to help acclimate students. The first will be held Friday, March 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Charles Beard Room, while the second will take place on Friday, April 4, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in the Bill Bordy Theater.
“This is an exciting moment for the Emerson entrepreneurial community,” said Pelton in a statement. “I know from experience that I will be impressed and delighted by the work that emerges.”