Moses Lee is co-founder of truApp
, an online platform that empowers top college students to showcase their portfolio of work and land their dream job. He is also the assistant director at the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. In this role, Moses direct TechArb
, the student startup accelerator.
There is an entrepreneurial revolution happening in Ann Arbor, and it's being driven by college students. This summer, students from the University of Michigan (UM) are working on 31 startups around the clock in TechArb, UM's premier student startup accelerator.
This is a long way from the three teams in TechArb four years ago. Since that time, we've supported nearly 300 student entrepreneurs on 119 teams with notable startups such as Lecture Tools
, Own Point of Sale
, Are you a Human
, Backyard Brains
, and Shepherd Intelligence
. Teams have raised collectively over $5 million in funding from outside sources and generated revenues in excess of $1 million.
Supported by the Center for Entrepreneurship
, the Zell Lurie Institute
, and the Office of the Vice President of Research, TechArb aims to empower student entrepreneurs across academic disciplines in their pursuit of their entrepreneurial endeavors through training, community, mentoring, networking, training, space, and grants.
TechArb runs two six-month sessions for students starting May 1 (summer session) and Nov. 1 (fall session). The accelerator supports teams in a variety of industries such as software, healthcare, clean technology, applied engineering and manufacturing, consumer products, etc. At the end of each term, we have a showcase where teams demo their products and services to alumni, entrepreneurs, and investors.
For our 8th session of TechArb, which started last month, select teams received grant awards between $5K to 10K to help drive their ventures forward. Some of the notable ventures in the summer session:
Brio Device, LLC
| develops airway medical devices with technology to assist first responders who insert breathing tubes for patients in emergencies.
| a note-taking application that helps get your to dos, ideas, grocery lists and anything you need to remember out of your brain and into your workflow
| a college lifestyle card that gives you perks and discounts at all your favorite spot around campus
PicoSpray | develops an electronic fuel injection system with a low enough cost to convert the majority of the 70 million small engines produced each year
EXO Dynamics LLC | helps hospitals protect their surgeons' backs without restricting their performance, through a novel electromechanical brace.
SkySpecs, LLC | provides a low cost and automated solution for monitoring the health of public infrastructure using unmanned aircraft systems
The Beet Box
| a restaurant with a purpose – a healthy fast-food service that supports and rewards a healthy lifestyle
Torch Hybrid Marine
| revolutionizing the way boats are powered by supplying boat manufacturers with next generation hybrid electric jet propulsion
| spreads the warmth with nonelectric and instant heat technology to save infant lives
| designs for positive social impact with communities and companies in Detroit.
| a web and mobile service that delivers innovative, fan-to-fan sports broadcasting in styles not available on major networks
If you're interested in connecting with our community, follow us on twitter @umtecharb or visit our website
Don't you love a good underdog story? We Americans love them. Why do you think Rocky
is one of the most popular movies of all time?
As much as none of us like to be down and out, there's something inspiring about being on the "us-against-the-world" team. The woes of Michigan have been well documented. Michigan has high unemployment and apparently people are fleeing the state at a staggering rate. Michigan is often the butt of jokes on late night TV and political commentary. I, for one, am going to fight for this state and help restore it to its former glory.
I'm going to roll up my sleeves and build an amazing startup in this state and encourage others to do likewise.Seriously, Michigan is a great place to start a company. We have great talent, universities, infrastructure, community, and culture. And the cost of living here is so much more affordable than the other tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and NYC. (While I was working in NYC, I spent $1,000 a month to share a studio on the upper west side. In Ann Arbor, $1,000 a month gets you a 1,200 square foot apartment!) And more risk capital is flowing into the state to help spur entrepreneurship.
Here's my story: I co-founded truApp
with other alumni from the University of Michigan. We are a talented bunch with backgrounds in engineering, architecture, humanities, and business. We are housed in the new Menlo Innovations
office space, where we get to interact with Richard Sheridan
, CEO, on a daily basis!.
Before Menlo Innovations, we were in the Ann Arbor Spark Incubator
for six months, receiving all sorts of help, including a microloan. (We quickly outgrew the space and had to move!) Every day I meet entrepreneurs, investors, and state officials who want to help us build and take truApp to the next level.
Our startup is closing in on a sizable seed round and we are thrilled with the experience that our investors and mentors are bringing to the table. And we believe our core concept will directly help keep collegiate talent in the state! We currently have over 1,300 college students and 140 companies on the platform, such as Under Armour
, Pay Anywhere
, and SapientNitro
But it hasn't all been smooth; there are definite challenges to starting a company in the state. For one, raising capital is not that easy, as there are fewer angel and VCs here (and specifically those looking to fund digital media deals) than elsewhere. In addition, we don't have many areas with a high density of entrepreneurs as say California, Colorado, or New York. And culturally, we as a state are still learning what it means to embrace risk and failure.
Despite this, I can't imagine starting truApp anywhere else. Will we succeed? We will. And I can tell you that just like many others starting companies in this great state, we are going to fight hard for it. Don't you want to be a part of this amazing story?
Reach Moses at email@example.com or @mosesklee
Campus recruiting is back, and it's as strong as it has ever been.
I recently had a conversation with a key executive at a mid-sized tech company in Michigan and he told me that at a staff meeting, the company announced it intended to actively recruit college students to fill positions because it was losing relevancy with the younger demographic and the company needed an injection of fresh ideas.
Lots of companies today are starting to figure out that college graduates can do a lot more than just make great coffee; if you empower them correctly, they can add significant value to product development, branding, marketing, sales, and culture. As one college student told me, "We can help make a company cool." And in a day and age when consumers and businesses are making purchasing decisions base on the reviews they read online, "cool" can go a long way.
But how do you successfully recruit the modern day college student? And more broadly speaking, how can we keep great collegiate talent from leaving the state of Michigan?
Here are some thoughts to consider:
The college student today cares deeply about organizational culture. When deciding where to work, students want to know about the environment and what it's like to work with the people in a company. Do employees work in cubicles or in an open, collaborative space? (The latter is more attractive, btw.) Do people go out together after work? Is the workplace collegial or hierarchical? How open are executives to the opinions of junior employees? Is there any unique flair in the organization that makes it special? Culture can be a competitive advantage when recruiting college students. Make sure to emphasize it (or invest in it!).
The college student today is very thoughtful about how his or her work impacts people and society. A failing campus recruiting strategy is approaching college students as cheap labor to do remedial tasks. College students are more skilled and accomplished than ever before and they aren't afraid to work long hours as long as they know it's for a good reason. As one student recently told me, "I don't want to work for the sake of working. I want my work to have meaning, even if it means making less money."
What will I learn? How will I grow?
Good or bad, most college students see their first job out of college as a transition and really want to make sure that wherever they end up, they are growing and learning. That is why it is so important to communicate what an employee will learn on the job and who they will learn from. If you haven't done so already, it might be good for your company to come up with a talent development plan. In the long run, it will pay dividends.
The Medium is the Message
College students are very web savvy and will do a lot of internet research on you and your company when deciding where to work. Does your company have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a website? Are you trying out various online tools to try and reach talented college students? Are your key employees and executives on LinkedIn? As much as you want to do research on potential hires online, young people are doing research about your company online. And the key question is: are you properly engaging and communicating the right message? A poor online presence could spell doom.
The above insights come from years of working with college students at the University of Michigan and my startup, truApp. These are also generalizations and won't apply to everyone. I am hoping that my reflections will help you better recruit talented college students to work for your company and #KeepTalentInMichigan.
Reach Moses at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mosesklee.