Student technology entrepreneurship group grows, starts speaker series
A campus group dedicated to students who are interested in technology entrepreneurship is on the rise.
Members of Washington University Technology Entrepreneurs (WUTE) are behind business ventures including the Greenvelope virtual invitation service and Cloudy, a social application.
WUTE was formed over the 2009-10 year. Its purpose, as listed on its website, is to encourage and train students to pursue business ventures related to science and technology. It primarily brings together students in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Olin Business School.
“It’s a small group of people who are very interested,” senior Phips Peter, co-president of WUTE, said. “It’s a focused space to start stuff up. It’s mainly a group to exchange ideas and get help and feedback.”
Peter said that the majority of the ideas flowing through the group are being pursued as personal projects. Most of the projects the group has discussed center on social media and online content.
“WUTE has a couple of projects we’ve worked on for fun, but [mostly] they’re their own individual projects,” Peter said. “The projects in WUTE are mainly websites—they’re a lot easier for people to break into the market.”
Freshman Adam Cohen, the WUTE’s director of communications, credits the group’s growth to the addition of an office space for its members on the third floor of the DUC, which they refer to as the “WUTE Lounge.”
“It gives us an actual space to work on programming and projects with each other,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for collaboration.”
The office has also allowed WUTE to launch a speaker series, which the group is hoping to make a weekly or bi-weekly occurrence. The series has been successful to date, featuring speakers from the St. Louis tech entrepreneur community, including Jim Brasunas of the Information Technology Entrepreneur Network (ITEN).
Cohen explained that bringing in speakers is advantageous for the WUTE members.
One speaker came from Capital Innovators, a St. Louis-based group that gives out over $50,000 in seed funding to tech companies every semester. After the speaker came in, one of WUTE’s co-presidents and another member applied for the seed funding for their own company.
“If it weren’t for the space to put on the event, we wouldn’t have heard about this opportunity,” Cohen said. “It’s opened up a lot of doors for our members to get involved.”
The group also hosts peer talk sessions called WUTE Whatever Whenever, or WWW. The sessions allow members with programming or social media marketing skills to share their knowledge with members who aren’t as familiar with the technologies.
While entrepreneurship groups aren’t new on campus—the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial studies, one of WUTE’s sponsors, aids other groups—Cohen says WUTE is unique for being tech-oriented, which he believes is crucial for college students interested in the world of entrepreneurship.
“The fact that we collaborate on programming projects and teach each other tech skills instead of just entrepreneurial skills make us very different,” Cohen said. “In today’s market it’s a lot more important to know tech skills, especially for college students.”
Senior Justin Ross, a member of the group since its founding, finds the new lounge useful.
“I go at least once a week to work on projects, either personal or for other people,” he said. “It’s great to have a space to meet up, bounce ideas and pick up skills.
Cohen and Ross agreed that the group’s focus on collaboration is one of its strengths.
“We’re aiming to maximize on the different types of education members have in programming,” Cohen said. “If one person knows a language and another doesn’t, we’ll hold a WWW for it. We’re all about collaboration.”
Ross said that the group has facilitated his meeting like-minded people.
“WUTE has helped me find people at Wash. U. who were passionate about building things and pushing themselves,” he said.