Princeton adds to facilities, programs as interest in entrepreneurship grows

In January, tenants began moving into the Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs, a new incubator space for early-stage science startups. The building, on the Forrestal campus, is open to faculty, graduate students, and others not connected with the University and will offer both wet- and dry-lab co-working spaces. Potential occupants include companies working on new drugs or vaccines, material sciences, and medical devices, according to Anne-Marie Maman ’84, director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.

The Biolabs facility is the University’s second entrepreneurship-focused building; the Entrepreneurial Hub opened in downtown Princeton as a co-working and educational space in November 2015.

The University has been working on collaborations to encourage innovation, Maman said. “We have started to see these relationships and connections begin to flourish,” she said. 

The Biolabs opening followed the first Tiger Entrepreneurs Conference in Boston, providing an opportunity for University programs to get more visibility. More than 200 students and alumni attended the October event, which offered faculty classes on entrepreneurship, panel discussions on venture capitalism and sports enterprises, and a “Pitchfest” featuring Princeton startups.

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The University’s certificate program in entrepreneurship — which saw its first 11 graduates in 2017 — is also gaining momentum. Twenty-one seniors are participating in the program, which includes two core courses on the foundations of entrepreneurship and design thinking, and electives on topics such as venture capital, the history of American capitalism, and leadership. 

Cornelia Huellstrunk, executive director of Princeton’s Keller Center — which helped launch the certificate program — said about 800 students per semester take a course in entrepreneurship or participate in the center’s programming. 

Entrepreneurship programs continue to expand:

  • The e-Lab Summer Accelerator Program, which provides student startups with funding, co-working space, and mentorship for 10 weeks. The program has grown from four teams with 15 students in 2012 to seven teams with 40 students last year.
  • Tiger Challenge, a design-thinking program that matches students with community partners to tackle societal problems such as improving access to affordable housing and mitigating academic stress among K-12 students. The program has grown from 20 participants in 2016 to 74 in 2018. 
  • The Princeton Startup Immersion Program, which provides about 60 students the opportunity for summer internships at early-stage startups for 10 weeks. The program has been underway for two years in New York City and one year in Tel Aviv.
  • The OfficeHours mentoring program was created last year to connect alumni mentors with students and young alumni entrepreneurs who are seeking advice. 

Students and young alumni entrepreneurs who have founded companies are eligible to pitch to the Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund, a group of alumni investors that provides up to $100,000 in matching funds to promising early-stage startups. Since 2014, the AEF has invested $1.75 million in 25 companies across a variety of industries. The AEF is fully funded through donations — if the alumni panel thinks a company is worth investing in, it makes a recommendation to the provost, who makes the final decision whether or not to invest.