Student-run Bear Studios aims to promote campus entrepreneurship
A new business incubator founded by students opened its doors last September and hopes to support student-run business at any stage of development.
Bear Studios, which is supported by the business school and the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, offers funding, counseling and a physical space in their offices at the Academy Building north of campus for businesses to use.
The largest project that Bear Studios has been supporting was created by a faculty member. The project, called clEAR, aims to create custom exercises for aural rehabilitation. Bear Studios has helped to create a website and redesign the logo for the project, as well as helping to develop a marketing scheme and financial plan, though the project has not launched yet.
Last fall, sophomores Peter Delaney and Will Papper noticed that—unlike other large universities such as Stanford or Harvard—Washington University did not seem to foster a sense of excitement to create.
“Everyone has their ‘Aha!’ moment, but no one really knew where they could go to turn it into something more,” Delaney said.
For the past year, Delaney and Papper have been working to set the foundations for Bear Studios. Since then, Bear Studios has added another co-director and grown the staff to nine people.
“We don’t just help students incubate an idea from scratch, but we also provide [help to] pre-existing businesses that may only need help with a specific problem,” junior Avi Felman, co-director of Bear Studios, said.
Delaney added that all of a project’s profits will go directly to the creators.
Although Bear Studios has received financial support from the Skandalaris Center, the student directors have worked to minimize costs. Bear Studios’ space in the Academy Building is rent-free, all of its staff work as volunteers and it uses campus events for advertising.
“We’ve only needed $300 in funding so far,” Delaney said.
Delaney and Felman said that they believe Bear Studios will foster more interdisciplinary collaboration between different schools at the University.
“Students are an underutilized resource on campus,” Delaney said. “There are a lot of talented kids, and we just thought there has to be one central space where people with ideas can come and make connections with them.”
Felman added, “Start-ups are not just businesses. They are visions, not limited to a single subject. Anyone at Wash. U. will look at a problem and try to fix it in a different way.”
Since opening their doors this past September, Bear Studios has already received eight submissions and are currently working with three.
Ideas at all stages of development are submitted through the Bear Studios website, reviewed by the executive board and given a critique. Students who they think have an idea that could develop into a successful start-up are brought in for interviewing.
In addition to clEAR, Bear Studios has also taken on smaller projects. They recently helped redesign a logo for a local business and are starting to develop a new idea created by a Washington University freshman.
Because the Bear Studios team is just getting of its feet, they do not have the capacity to take on every project submitted, but Delaney and Felman said they can offer advice and other support to help projects move forward.
“Part of our focus is being an accelerator. We want to help people get their ideas off the ground and hit those first milestones,” Felman said. “The question isn’t how far we are willing to help creators, but how far we can help them.”