UB’s entrepreneurship academy awarded big boost

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Entrepreneurship is big business. Consider what’s happening this weekend at 43 North, a business incubator that will award $5 million in prizes for new start-ups.

A number of folks in those start-up companies come from the campus of UB, whose entrepreneurship academy was awarded an $800,000 grant Friday to help broaden an already successful program.

UB Senior Alan Zhang is majoring in computer science. But his Friday afternoon class has little to do with keyboards and code.

It’s a class for young entrepreneurs, and Zhang is one of dozens of students who are learning to grow their ideas into money makers.

“We are not very sure about the business side,” he said. “We want to learn more about the skills, how to share equity, how to discuss with investors and how to present ourselves.”

Zhang created an app that offers real-time, peer-to-peer tutoring for college students.

And while the application may be the next best thing, Zhang understands it’ll never make it out of the development stages without marketing and business basics.

“It is the presentation and the business model which determines the winner. So that’s very important,” he said.

UB’s already strong Entrepreneurship Academy received a huge boost Friday, when it was announced they were one of five finalists for the Blackstone Foundation’s LaunchPad.

It’ll provide $800,000 over the next three years to build a business incubator at the Student Union and provide coaching and leadership for creating and implementing a business.

“We’re seeing students from across the university who have this interests, whether they be in the arts, humanities, it doesn’t really matter,” said Scott Weber, UB’s senior vice provost for academic affairs. “We really do have a lot of strength in this already, and what Blackstone is providing is really a way to capitalize on it further.”

And that’ll help to enhance a foundation for students, so they can capitalize on their ideas.

“It’s really the passion of the students,” said Bob Neubert, clinical assistant professor of entrepreneurship. “They come with rich experiences. We have very diverse culture, a very inclusive culture here at UB, and we’re using that to generate these new business ideas.”

There are dozens of stories just like Zhang in UB’s academy, and they come from all walks of life, across a number of majors, Weber said.

That diversity of ideas and backgrounds is just what the people at 43North will be looking for this week, when someone will walk away with $1 million to kickstart their new business.

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