BUzz Lab, a space for entrepreneurs on campus, opened Wednesday night in the same building as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program office with a competition to find a product to represent BU at the annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum Beantown Throwdown.
BUzz Lab, operated by the School of Management, is the first of its kind for undergraduate and graduate students to create products and businesses at BU, said Ian Mashiter, a professor in SMG and the director of entrepreneurship activities.
“The idea is to create a focal point for entrepreneurship on campus,” he said. “We’ve been running entrepreneurship programs probably for 10 years, but we didn’t have any physical space, and both faculty and student clubs felt space was very important.”
Keith Esposito, the events and operations coordinator at the BUzz Lab, said since its inception, members from the Lab have used social media as outreach to get alumni and students involved with the opportunities on campus.
“The entrepreneurship programs have existed for over 10 years, so there are a lot of connections with faculty,” he said. “There are representatives from COM [College of Communication] tonight, a professor from SHA [School of Hospitality Administration], and two of the students pitching are from ENG [College of Engineering].”
The launch featured pitches from students looking to compete in the annual Beantown Throwdown event, which showcases original companies created by students. CABINET, DevXApp, UNITIQUES and DOWNTYME presented.
ENG juniors Barron Roth and Luke Sorenson won the pitch with their product DOWNTYME, an app that connects students by creating a quick and easy way to see who is nearby and available to hang out. The potential of the product so far is promising, Roth said.
“Within two weeks, we had 1,200 users…so that was impressive for us,” he said. “We got so much feedback that was positive, and just feature requests. We know what to implement for the next version. We were recently funded by Rough Draft Ventures, so we’re going to use a lot of that money to pay for marketing costs.”
Several undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship clubs that met at the BUzz Lab expressed their excitement for the creation of the new space.
Josh Pearlstein, president of the graduate entrepreneurship club, said the Lab has created more opportunities to collaborate.
“We’re constantly talking to the undergraduate club about events that we have going on. You start to see the same faces over and over again, so you really know who is who,” said Pearlstein, a graduate student in SMG. “The professors in both the graduate and undergraduate club have made an initiative to be more collaborative as well.”
Laurens Spethmann, co-founder of BU’s Venture Accelerator Program, said the opening of the Lab will make entrepreneurship activities and programs run smoother.
“A lot of it is networking and everything. It adds an immense value to our venture accelerator program,” said Spethmann, a dual degree senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and ENG. “Having the professors upstairs, and having all the resources centralized in one space is creating a lot of new interesting opportunities.”
Many attendees of the opening were excited to see the progress of the students’ companies and saw the BUzz Lab as a great opportunity for similar student ventures to expand their ideas.
Greg Zoeller, a 2010 BU graduate, expressed his support for BUzz Lab.
“If you look across the river, MIT has a beautiful lab for innovation, and BU is following suit, and they’re doing it really well,” he said. “I can see that entrepreneurship opportunities are being fostered at the school.”
Nicholas Cheung, a graduate student in BU’s Media Ventures Program, said he was excited to begin utilizing the space for projects and future endeavors.
“I might possibly be struggling to work with my projects, so congregating with other students will help boost my ideas,” he said. “They’ll be able to point out flaws. They are not meant to be frowned upon, but they show where you can fix and strengthen your idea.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the BUzz Lab opened at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program office, rather than that the lab, operated through the School of Management, shares a building with UROP. The story has been corrected to reflect this change.