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Student entrepreneurs expand opportunities

Boston University School of Management senior Paul Hlatky had been working for Greenhorn Connect, a website that connects entrepreneurs in the Boston area, when he realized he could create a similar resource for college-aged entrepreneurs.

“People are doing a lot of really awesome things, but it’s fragmented,” Hlatky, the director of community and student relations at Greenhorn Connect, said.

While Hlatky said the environment for entrepreneurs is great in Boston, the major problem within the community is the lack of communication.

Hlatky said the problem is no one knows about the great entrepreneurial environment and college students feel like they have nothing to contribute, which is just not the case.

“Even if it’s just a discussion or a networking event you can just hang out and meet people with similar interests,” he said.

A few months ago, Hlatky contacted the student leaders of business and entrepreneur groups at most of the city’s major universities. After connecting with the leaders individually, Hlatky organized a meeting at the Cambridge Innovation Center.

This was the beginning of the Student Tech Startup Group, comprised of college entrepreneurs from BU, Brandeis University, Northeastern University and other institutions.

“Our goal is to connect the students leading entrepreneurial efforts on their respective campuses in one organization,” said Cory Bolotsky, a Northeastern sophomore concentrating in business administration, and an executive board member of Northeastern’s Entrepreneurs Club, in an email. “The students all want to know each other and learn from each other, but because there are so many schools in the Boston-area each working on dozens of different projects it’s hard for them to connect.”

Brandeis junior Todd Kirkland, who is concentrating in computer science, said the group centralizes its goal around entrepreneurship, and Boston is a blooming area for that field.

The group feels that students do want to have input and get involved, so it seeks to tell members about business opportunities, Kirkland said.

“It’s an incredible place for a student to be involved and something that people definitely want at the university level and beyond,” Hlatky said.

Northeastern senior Greg Skloot, president of the school’s Entrepreneurs Club, said Boston is probably one of the best places a college entrepreneur can be.

Bolotsky also said entrepreneurialism coincides with the concentration of colleges in one area.

“It’s not a coincidence that we have the most densely concentrated entrepreneurial communities in the world,” he said. “The innovative work in Boston is a byproduct of the [more than] 65 outstanding colleges and universities in the area and the community understands that and supports and embraces student entrepreneurs.”

Hlatky said while there were between 10 and 13 students at the first meeting, the group has been receiving more than 15 requests a week on Facebook.

The group has committed leaders and some defined goals, but they also have a lot to figure out in order to be an organized and connected group. Skloot said some things to consider are whether every student entrepreneur in Boston will be involved or only people heading off the organization at each school.

“Do they want it to be a real organization with a brand or is it just kind of an informal thing?” Skloot said. “I think these are all challenges that somebody’s going to have to figure out in the next couple months.”

In the near future, the group will try to answer some of these questions and better define the group’s purpose.

“Right now we are working to develop a name, mission, leadership structure and legitimize ourselves as a formal association,” Bolotsky said.

Bolotsky said when the fall comes, the group will probably host monthly or bi-monthly board meetings.

“The main thing is that we’re trying to address issues at each respective school and seeing how we can better solve those issues and collaborate more,” Kirkland said.

Hlatky said that the members want this to be a very supportive, open group.

“This group’s main purpose is to build relationships,” he said. “We’re trying to just keep as many people involved in startups in Massachusetts as possible, and if anything, just raise awareness for it. So we’re all just very excited for what’s going to come of it.”

One Comment

  1. Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in learning more! Tweet @paulhlatky and join the group to stay updated on progress http://www.facebook.com/groups/112097528917146/