A nonprofit center for entrepreneurship is expanding its summer entrepreneurship program for college students. The Mill says next year’s cohort for Startup Summer is growing from eight to 10 weeks and will be open to students throughout the state. Head of Accelerator Programming Andy Lehman says this summer’s pilot cohort was a success, with student founders launching their products and one startup landing major funding.
The program is a paid internship that allows students to focus solely on their startups, and Lehman tells Inside INdiana Business that was key for the students’ progress this summer.
“I think that was one of the biggest things we heard back was, ‘If you weren’t doing this with us this summer, what you would be doing?’ And they essentially universally said, ‘Well, we’d probably still be working on our startup, but we wouldn’t have the focus or being doing it full-time. We’d have to get part-time jobs to kind of supplement.’ And so, one of the great things about this being a paid internship is that they don’t have to do that. They can focus here.”
The pilot program exclusively included students from Indiana University, who received a $2,000 stipend to help cover costs throughout the summer. They also received a summer membership to The Mill, and the program provided various programming to help the students grow their business.
Lehman says the pilot began with a trip to Indianapolis for the Elevate Nexus conference, which turned out to be a great bonding opportunity for the participants.
“That’s really one thing that we learned was they had learned about what an entrepreneurial ecosystem was in school, but that’s a hard thing to kind of really wrap your head around until you’re in one,” he said. “When we provided our Lunch and Learn programming, opportunities to talk with other ecosystem support folks, opportunities for them to be mentored and also mentor other folks, they really got immersed that way.”
Among the success stories from the pilot was Finniva, a startup co-founded by CEO Andrew McMaster and CTO Brandon Wening. The company has developed a software platform designed to streamline the material sourcing process for large multifamily and commercial development projects.
Finniva was the winner of The Mill’s 2022 Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition, where it took home a $2,500 investment from the Flywheel Fund. The startup also received a $20,000 pre-seed investment from the Elevate Nexus regional pitch competition in July.
Lehman says making next summer’s program available to students throughout the state was always a goal.
“We are part of the Indiana Coworking Passport, so there are these kind of spaces all across the state, and there’s resources for everyone,” he said. “We’re just hoping to be able to provide an opportunity for these students to really see and experience what working and living and building a company in Indiana will look like.”
The 2023 program will run from May 17 through July 26 at The Mill. The stipends are being increased from $2,000 to up to $4,500, which Lehman says will help all participants, including those from out-of-town, cover housing costs.
“Ideally, I would love to have kind of an equal number of Bloomington students and students from outside of the region, so we could maybe do a buddy system so they would at least have a friend they could lean on if they needed some help getting around town.”
The participants will also receive an extended, four-month membership to The Mill in order to receive ongoing access to resources.
“Obviously, we want these very talented young people to stay in the state,” said Lehman. “They don’t necessarily have to stay in Bloomington, but it’d be awesome if they chose to stay in Indiana and continue to work and grow their company. That’s good for all of us.”
Applications for the next Summer Startup cohort are being accepted through Nov. 4.