New program to help student start-ups

Last week the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation announced its new B-Start pre-accelerator program, which will help guide IU students through the process of starting a business.

Dana Palazzo, the project’s manager, said when looking at how other communities grew their economies, BEDC employees noticed most of them had two or three incubator or accelerator programs. These are programs which take in start-up businesses and provide them with the resources and connections they need to succeed.

“With the two universities, IU and Ivy Tech, we have lots of start-up interest here in Bloomington, but we don’t have an incubator or an accelerator,” Palazzo said. “So we decided that we probably needed to start something to fill that gap and to get students interested in staying here.”

The B-Start program will not be like the incubators and accelerators in other communities.

Because BEDC, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, does not have the capacity to organize something on such a large scale, they created what they call a “pre-accelerator program.”

“We think this is very important, so we’re going to do this with what we have,” she said. “We have to be flexible since we don’t know how it’s going to go. There’s really nothing like this anywhere that we’ve seen.”

She explained the program organizers will reach out to the two college campuses and work with entrepreneurial student groups like the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization at the Kelley School of Business.

“We want to reach in and get them off campus, ?introduce them to what we have here,” Palazzo said. “We want to get them excited about starting their business, but also get them serious about it.”

They are hoping to start out with six students who want to create start-up technology companies. They will begin accepting applications in August.

“Tech is the industry that we’re looking for because technology is everywhere these days,” she said. “That’s also where our expertise lies and the job growth in that industry is larger than in other industries right now.”

Once the candidates are selected, the BEDC team will help connect them with mentors from the community. They will also get the aspiring entrepreneurs in touch with accountants and legal advisers. They will help them prepare a pitch and organize meetings so the different start-up teams can bounce ideas off of one another.

“It’s kind of what we do anyways as an organization,” Palazzo said of the BEDC, whose main goal is to work with industries to bring new money into the county. “We connect people and get them the resources they need.”

The program will last four months, at the end of which each student start-up team will present their pitch to potential investors and other community members. Funds are also being raised so students might receive a graduation stipend or a pitch prize to use when developing the start-ups.

The program is open to all IU-Bloomington students and all Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington students. Applications will be accepted starting August 1 and will no longer be accepted after August 28. The program will begin September 14 with anywhere from six to 10 start-ups.

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