Banking & Finance, Education, and Small Business & Startups

GVSU launches entrepreneur program

77 IdeaLab will teach students how to grow an idea into a business.

November 22, 2019
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Grand Valley State University is about to launch its first semester of a coaching program for student entrepreneurs. 

The Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation is accepting student applications for the first cohort of 77 IdeaLab.

The “startup bootcamp” will show 10 teams how to grow an idea into a business, according to Matt Gira, the center’s entrepreneur-in-residence and lead for the project.

The teams can be comprised of one to four people, and each team selected for the program will receive a $1,000 grant. All the students need to take part is “a passion for a problem that is worth solving,” the center said.

Beyond that, the scope of what will be accepted is pretty broad, and the ideas can be brand new, well-developed or anywhere in between, Gira said.

This program is a way to give students “training wheels” as they learn how to be entrepreneurs.

“We really want students to think outside the box and to be as entrepreneurial as possible,” he said.

Teams will receive “intensive and accelerated” entrepreneurial training in a cohort model. They will learn how to pitch their ideas and will network with students, entrepreneurs and mentors in the startup ecosystem. The program will help prepare the team to compete for over $200,000 of funding from regional and national student pitch competitions, GVSU said.

“That way, as the student graduates, they are plugged into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Grand Rapids and maybe elsewhere, too,” Gira said.

Students also will learn about finding customers, branding, business finance and personal development.

The program will run during the 2020 winter semester. Applications are due by 6 p.m. Dec. 3 and can be found at

This type of program is becoming more and more popular, and some of the large schools have very large programs, Gira said.

“It’s a big career aspiration to be an entrepreneur for a lot of students,” Gira said.

Gira graduated from Hope College in 2016 which a chemistry degree. In 2014, he launched a tech company called Fathom Drones, which made underwater drones. Starting in 2016, he spent three years as the entrepreneur in residence for Hope College, where he helped launch an entrepreneurship program.

Alongside Fathom, he took part in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute as an intern.

“Basically, my entire job was to learn what they were doing and bring it back to Hope,” he said.

Shorty after leaving Hope College, Gira said he was asked to launch a similar entrepreneurship program at GVSU.

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