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Rice Launch unites students in entrepreneurial ventures

By Zara Khan     9/16/13 7:00pm

Entrepreneurs at Rice can now find support and opportunities through Rice Launch, an organization that is the amalgam of three formerly separate entrepreneurial clubs on campus, according to Launch Director of External Relations Rohan Shah. 

"[Launch] is the result of the merging of three separate groups on campus: OwlSquad, Rice Business Collaborative - Entrepreneurship and Rice Sprout," Shah, a Jones College senior said. "We aim to connect, energize and enable Rice undergraduates, graduates and [Master of Business Administration] students to initiate and pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures."

Launch External Relations Associate  Hersh Agrawal said part of the reason for the rebranding the three clubs into the umbrella organization Launch because of the confusion of the student club OwlSquad with OwlSpark, which is a three-month summer accelerator program for teams of entrepreneurs.  

OwlSquad co-founder and Isabel Scher said all of the events hosted by the three separate clubs in the past will also be held this year.

"The Launch leadership team and advisors are made up of students from all three organizations," Scher, a Wiess College sophomore, said. "We decided to take on events thrown by OwlSquad like the Entrepreneurship Summit and 3-Day Startup, as well as events thrown by RBC-E like the Undergraduate Venture Challenge. In addition, we are working diligently to bring in speakers for workshops similar to those that Sprout offered last year."

Scher said she is particularly excited for the Entrepreneurship Summit, Launch's flagship event that will take place on Sept. 21. 

"The summit is a day-long event that will bring together 200 participants, 40 mentors and 12 workshop speakers, panelists and judges," Scher said. "Undergraduates  will be placed on teams for the day and be challenged with brainstorming and developing a venture. They will later present their product ideas at the end in an [elevator pitch-style] competition."

No prior experience is required for participation in the summit or in the other events hosted by Launch, like the Undergraduate Elevator Pitch competition and Venture Challenge, Shah said. 

"All of the students who participate in the summit will get an unparalleled learning environment in developing ventures with their teams," Shah said. "The other Launch programs and networking events will also benefit any type of student, regardless of experience or background. Students will gain the skills and resources that they need to be successful in today's business world." 

Agrawal, a Jones junior, said a significant number of Rice students are interested in entrepreneurship.

"A sizable percentage of students from all majors have interest in entrepreneurship, and Launch is designed to serve these students," Agrawal said. "Launch provides the resources to learn about pitching and marketing, and it provides mentors and access to successful entrepreneurs who can help students learn about their potential."

According to Agrawal, Launch aims to encourage students to try new activities and not be afraid to fail. He said entrepreneurship can hinder students' creativity because it can seem risky.

"At Launch, we want students to be unafraid to take leaps," Agrawal said. "We want them to feel that there is a strong support system for them at Rice." 

For more information, visit launch.rice.edu.

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