U-M students launch downtown incubator - TechArb

"What about a place for the kids?" is a statement sure to make most eyes roll, but a group of University of Michigan students are dead serious about such a subject when it comes to business incubators.

These young adults know about Ann Arbor SPARK and co-working spaces in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, but they want their own home geared toward their needs. So instead of waiting for the grownups to get their act together, these kids decided to create their own – TechArb.

"The needs (that places like Ann Arbor SPARK cater toward) didn't necessarily cater to students," says Jason Bornhorst, an organizer behind TechArb. "The needs of students are definitely different than someone who has graduated."

Those needs range from not paying rent to being surrounded by peers who they aren't afraid to fail around. Bornhorst is a fourth year computer science engineering major at U-M and founder of the start-up Mobil33t.com. He and some other student entrepreneurs went looking earlier this year for an incubator space that fit them, such as a basement or a classroom.

The ended up leveraging RPM Ventures and the U-M College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship to find their own space in the basement of a downtown Ann Arbor building. About 10 student-run start-ups now call the basement home this summer as part of a trial run.

"It's a summer experiment," Bornhorst says. "We have been here for five weeks and its going great."

He is cataloging what happens at the incubator in the hopes that documented progress will show an institution like the university that TechArb is worth funding and not redundant. Bornhorst sees it as sort of minor leagues for young entrepreneurs where they can take big risks with little chance of embarrassing themselves in the big leagues of Ann Arbor SPARK or elsewhere in the everyday business world.

Source: Jason Bornhorst, organizer behind TechArb
Writer: Jon Zemke
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