The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well within the student body and greater campus community at the Institute. Last year, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Tech as the eighth most innovative higher education institution in the nation. Last week, the 2023 Demo Day, supported by CREATE-X, highlighted the Institute’s commitment to supporting innovation and student entrepreneurship.
CREATE-X was founded as an educational program in 2014, comprising 30 students divided into eight teams. These students and their endeavors were supported by alumni donor Chris Klaus, Institute leadership and the Marcus Foundation. CREATE-X’s founding principle consisted of providing students with the mentorship and resources necessary to equip them with entrepreneurial confidence for launching their startup ideas.
The 2023 Demo Day had startups ranging across a variety of industries; AI, sustainability, B2B software, consumer applications, goods and retail, deep tech, health, manufacturing and hardware were the primary categories that projects were divided into for this year’s launch.
Rahul Saxena, director of CREATE-X, spoke about this year’s Demo Day, emphasizing that it had the strongest turnout in the history of the event with over 3000 RSVP sign-ups. Additionally, industry leaders, venture capitalists and alumni were also part of the extensive attendee list.
The startups launched on Demo Day were part of the 12-week summer program known as the CREATE-X Startup Launch. This program is geared towards current students and Institute alumni to translate their startup visions into reality through an immersive program that offers hands-on mentorship to startup founders.
“We have our primary requirement that one person on the founding team has some affiliation with Georgia Tech. And then there are a few exceptions; we have slots for some of the local schools. So if a team from a different school won one of the hackathons that we’re sponsoring, then sometimes we give them an automatic entry to the Startup Launch [program],” said Saxena.
Saxena also highlighted the program’s flexibility in molding to the founders’ needs and allowing them to continue building their startup at whatever stage they might enter the Startup Launch program.
“So we meet all the founders where they are. We’ve had founders who have gone through the Startup Launch with the same idea that they started with and we’ve had some that ended up pivoting halfway through the program into a completely different product. That’s why we want to meet [founders] where [they] are in the process. And our purpose is to help students accelerate their startup business and bring in the resources and whatever else to help them [be] successful,” Saxena said.
At the Institute, the Startup Launch program is just one avenue students can leverage to learn about entrepreneurship. CREATE-X also has a Startup Lab, which helps students understand how to define problems across all majors and schools at the Institute. This type of design and problem-solving-oriented thinking is taught to students in the class by having them interact with customers to properly highlight and assess problems.
Similarly, Idea to Prototype (I2P) is another experience open to students under the CREATE-X umbrella. Students carve out a few hours of their week during the academic semester to work on their prototype, collaborate with an assigned faculty mentor and receive $500 of reimbursement for physical expenses. Furthermore, the CREATE-X Capstone is a section of the undergraduate senior design course that encourages interdisciplinary teams to create a product, making the class unique from a conventional senior
design project environment.
Saxena also spoke to the Technique about efforts made by CREATE-X to create more interdisciplinary teams for their programs and how they attract people from different schools of the Institute.
“We have a Faculty Fellows Program to recruit faculty who can help in a lot of the other departments to introduce entrepreneurship in some ways in the programs. And then really, it is word of mouth. And so the best ambassadors for us are our founders because they can go and be able to at least showcase and help other students understand that they don’t have to be part of a certain major to work on a startup. So we’re always looking for ways to get that awareness out. And for people to have that kind of confidence to give entrepreneurship a shot,” Saxena said.
As for where he sees CREATE-X and its programs in the next few years, Saxena voiced his hope that he wants for 100% of Tech students to try something entrepreneurial before they graduate, whether that be doing an entrepreneurial project in a class or launching their own startup.
He also explained that CREATE-X hopes to grow in the future and has a goal of launching at least 300 startups each year.
“That would also include branching out into fall and spring and eventually do Startup Launch, not just in the summer, but also in the following spring. So that people don’t have to choose between an internship and working on their own startup, which is something that’s risky. But that is the overall vision, just making Georgia Tech the premier entrepreneurship school in the world,” Saxena said.
For more information regarding the 2023 Demo Day and the CREATE-X, program please visit their websites: create-x.gatech.edu/demoday and create-x.gatech.edu/, respectively.