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Incubator program takes off

The vision of John Lorentzen, BN’77, has become a reality. Thanks to his generous donation, the Lorentzen New Venture Hatchery will provide six Drake students an unprecedented opportunity to start a business while in school.

“I hope that participating in this program reminds students that if they have a passion, interest, and vision, then anything is possible,” says Lorentzen. “In an absolutely perfect world, I’d like for these teams to figure out how to turn their idea into their vocation for the next three to five years, and hopefully make a lot of money for themselves and others along the way.”

The program will provide students with office space and equipment at StartupCity in Des Moines, as well as mentoring, coaching, and other assistance from Drake faculty, the Hatchery’s program director, Geoff Wood, and other local entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is a network-driven industry,” says Tom Swartwood, assistant professor of practice in entrepreneurship and assistant director of the entrepreneurial centers at Drake. “We’ve been able to attract mentors, advisors, speakers, and business leaders from all different backgrounds—all eager to support this program. We’ve also attracted students from across campus.”

The students and their businesses were selected through an application process. Four teams will participate this year:

  • AP Lumina: Naren Bhojwani and Benjamin Mullis are creating a new brake light system for cars.
  • Frank’s Fixies: Aaron Hermsen and Joaquin Valdes are building custom track bikes using their own frames called Shanghai 1.
  • Reflex Fight Gear: Kevin Clark is working on a hand-eye coordination product and related martial arts training products.
  • Opportunity On Deck: Dylan DeClerck is developing a sports clinic for inner-city youth.

Organizers hope the program will continue to grow in the coming years, allowing the current teams to serve as mentors for future cohorts.

“We are so thankful for Lorentzen’s donation, which allows us to provide our students with an incredible immersion experience,” says Deb Bishop, associate professor of practice in management and international business and director of Drake’s entrepreneurship centers. “By the end of the summer, we’d love to see our students pitching their ideas to potential investors.”

The program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students at Drake. Applications and summer 2015 program details will be available at the beginning of the 2014–2015 academic year.

“John really wanted this generation of students to have an opportunity he didn’t have,” says Swartwood. “So he’s generously stepped up to make that happen, and we are very excited to see where this program will go.”