Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has long been known as an engineering powerhouse: The first WiFi network was famously invented on campus back in 1993 and the University’s robotics department has emerged a pioneer in autonomous vehicle research. This hotbed of technical talent has inspired an increasingly entrepreneurial community. Notable technology founders such as Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems and Andrew Ng of Coursera who grew their roots on campus have paved a path for future CMU founders. The University has also dedicated a number of resources to support innovation and entrepreneurship on campus.
As a current CMU student and student team member at Rough Draft Ventures, I’m proud to support and foster entrepreneurship on campus. Rough Draft Ventures is General Catalyst’s student-led program that backs founders at the university level and is supporting and connecting the largest network of student entrepreneurs.
In an effort to help aspiring founders navigate the startup ecosystem, I’ve outlined some of the best entrepreneurial resources available at CMU and in the Pittsburgh area based on my experience here, as well as notable alumni in tech and venture capital.
The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship provides entrepreneurial programs and activities to encourage education, engagement, and collaboration across campus. Almost all on-campus entrepreneurial resources are a part of or affiliated with the Swartz Center. Some programs that the Swartz Center houses include:
- Project Olympus, an on-campus incubator program that provides startup advice, micro-grants, incubator space, and student-faculty connections.
- Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows, graduate students who are selected to partake in a program that develops each Fellow’s entrepreneurial potential and leadership skills through hands-on experiences, networking, mentoring, and courses in entrepreneurship.
- Innovation Scholars, undergraduate students who are selected to partake in a program that fosters innovation and seeks to increase the number of successful startup companies involving CMU undergrads. One exciting aspect of the program is an all-expense paid trip to Silicon Valley to visit startups and venture firms.
CMU Summit on US-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a two-sided platform that connects American and Chinese scholars and startups with leading entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and industry leaders. They host the New Venture Competition in which startups across the country compete for $15K in prizes.
Sequoia Capital’s Campus Ambassador is a student who facilitates Sequoia involvement with CMU-created projects, startups and events. The Ambassador changes each year, so check out their site for the most up-to-date info.
Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association (UEA) holds competitions and events throughout the year to promote entrepreneurship and support student founders.. They help organize events including the CMU Venture Challenge and Hack-A-Startup.
Scottie Ventures is a CMU group that teaches the fundamental skills of venture capital and private equity through internships and unique programming. They organize the Intercollegiate Investment Challenge.
Rough Draft Ventures is General Catalyst’s student-led program that backs founders at the university level with up to $25K in funding.
The Foundation Capital Fellowship is Foundation Capital’s student-led program that invests $25K in student and alumni startups at schools across the country, including Carnegie Mellon.
Contrary Capital is a relatively newer, decentralized student-run venture capital group investing in student founders.
The VentureBridge Program, run by CMU, helps student teams transform their concepts developed at the university into startups, giving entrepreneurs at CMU access to unique resources at the university’s Silicon Valley campus.
Robotics Hub is an accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by CMU and GE Ventures to invest in robotics companies.
The Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund provides early-stage business financing to Carnegie Mellon alumni who have graduated within the past five years.
Select Startups On-Campus
Inventory Connection, founded by Kerolos Mikaeil (ECE and Engineering & Public Policy, 2017), is a platform allowing vendors to receive real-time product data, empowering sales representatives to spend more time selling and less time counting.
RoBotany, founded by Austin Webb (Tepper MBA, 2017), is transforming modern indoor agriculture with automated robotics and software analytics.
AlphaLab is a nationally ranked startup accelerator providing seed capital, mentoring & space to innovative companies in Pittsburgh.
AlphaLab Gear is one of the world’s first hardware and robotics accelerators.
Idea Foundry is a non-profit innovation acceleration and commercialization organization with more than 170 companies in its portfolio.
Innovation Works is the single largest investor in seed-stage companies in the region and one of the most active in the country.
Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse is an economic development, investment, business incubator firm committed to empowering entrepreneurs to build innovative and successful life sciences companies.
Ascender is a hub for Pittsburgh’s starters and builders, providing programming, insight, and connectivity.
Notable Alumni In Tech/Venture
Andrew Ng (Coursera)
Boris Sofman, Mark Palatucci & Hanns Tappeiner (Anki)
Don Burnette (Otto)
Henry Thorne (4Moms)
Jim Swartz (Accel)
Luis von Ahn (Duolingo)
Matt Rogers (Nest Labs)
Scott Dietzen (Pure Storage)
Shanna Tellerman (Modsy)
Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems and Khosla Ventures)
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Akshay Goradia is a junior Information Systems major at CMU with an additional major in Human-Computer Interaction. Akshay is the co-founder of Scottie Ventures, a student team member at Rough Draft Ventures, a Foundation Capital Fellow, and an Innovation Scholar. Akshay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angel Zhou is a junior Computer Science major at CMU with anticipated minors in Robotics, Human-Computer Interaction, Drama, and Chinese. Angel is an innovation scholar and the Sequoia Capital Campus Ambassador for CMU. She is also the director of an upcoming CS + Drama event on campus called the Pausch Challenge, planned to first take place in the Spring 2018 semester. Angel can be contacted via email at email@example.com.