New KU business accelerator will help students turn ideas into startups

By Ben Unglesbee

Kansas University students with startup ideas will soon get help launching them from a new university-run business accelerator.

The KU Catalyst, a joint project between the School of Business and the Bioscience and Technology Business Center, or BTBC, will connect students with the workspace, mentoring and capital needed to create new companies.

Beginning in February, the KU Catalyst will be housed in the BTBC offices. Wally Meyer, director of KU’s entrepreneurship programs, said the space would have moveable walls, plenty of white boards for writing, and would come equipped with media technology, all so that students could easily collaborate.

“We’re setting up the rooms to be comfortable and usable by a number of different teams as they want to come and go and be part of this,” Meyer said.

The accelerator will accommodate 10 to 12 student teams at a time. Its ultimate home will be the new business school building, slated to open in the 2015-16 school year.

The new building will include space for KU Catalyst on the main floor visible to passersby from the foyer, Meyer said. Entrepreneurship faculty offices will be built near the accelerator workspace so that students can have easy access to mentors when challenges arise.

Students can also get help from a board of advisers comprising more than 30 people with business experience who can be matched with students based on interests and expertise.

KU Catalyst will also give students support in writing grants for funding and entering business plan competitions, which often come with capital awards. Meyer said some KU alumni could also provide capital in return for getting a first look at investing in the business later.

Students wanting access to the accelerator will have to provide a business plan, validation of the concept by potential customers, some initial financial investment and evidence showing the team is passionate and dedicated.