VentureLab creates startup culture

Photo by Tyler Meuter

With 303 startups launched, $1.1 billion in outside capital, and a No. 2 ranking for incubators in the United States, VentureLab at Tech boasts some quite impressive statistics. Even with those remarkable figures and the startup center’s location in the fourth floor of the Centergy building, VentureLab seems unassuming.

The Director has outlawed meetings for the staff, walk-in appointments are always welcomed and couches and chairs are scattered across the breakout room. Ultimately, the startup center caters to any Tech student or staff member with an idea. VentureLab, then, aims to make that idea a reality.

“Our focus is to help Tech students, faculty and staff create companies and take their imagination out into the world,” said Dr. Keith McGreggor, the Director of VentureLab.

By following the motto “educate, curate and create,” the VentureLab assists Tech students and staff members in setting up the foundation for their startups.

“On the ‘create’ side, we help Tech students, staff and faculty create companies. We see a new invention here about twice a day. To curate, we go over on campus and walk the halls, and we go into the laboratories. We actively curate the campus,” McGregor said. “On the ‘educate’ side, our colleagues actively triage – decide if a project is a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser.’ We used to do that at VentureLab, but we do not anymore. We learned how to flip the problem around.”

VentureLab understands that most people can create neat inventions, but the center hopes to ground students by making them go out into the real world and ask the important question: “What makes people want to buy

The staff hopes to help individuals refine that creative invention or abstract idea by following a “listen to the world; don’t tell the world” mentality.

“Often you make something, and nobody wants it quite the way you make it. We will actually say to students, ‘That sounds great, but who cares?’ We want to get in the time machine and go forward,” McGreggor said.

Besides offering sessions and maintaining an open-door policy at VentureLab, the center now offers a Startup Lab pilot class for those students interested in learning more about the subject.

Last year, the class was offered to exactly thirty students, but because three hundred students attempted to sign up for the class, the class this semester has expanded and now has room for
120 students.

The class is composed of a Tuesday lecture or guest speaker and a Thursday lab where “students simulate a start-up.” Some projects created in class develop into actual startups.

“I think that an essential skill for someone graduating for Tech is to make your own job. Or make jobs for other people. We want to show you what it takes to do it early,” McGreggor said.

McGreggor continues to be excited about the novel startup culture spreading throughout Tech’s campus. Next semester, the VentureLab will be offering Startup GT1000 for freshmen students along with a ThinkBig Startup block for students interested in entrepreneurship.