Tufts Venture Lab provides resource for student startups

A student sits in the Venture Lab in 574 Boston Ave. on April 4. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

Tufts’ Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies (ELS) Program has launched the Tufts Venture Lab, an initiative headed by senior Alex Rappaport and junior Shreenath Bhanderi.

The Lab, located on the first floor of the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex (CLIC) building at 574 Boston Ave., is a collaborative working space for student-led startup groups to connect and collaborate on their projects and ideas, according to a program overview provided by Rappaport.

Beyond providing a working space for startup teams, the Venture Lab is also a major resource for students to connect with professionals who are experts within their field or industry. The lab has one-on-one office hours with experts and offers students the opportunity to connect with alumni working in different industries.

The lab will also host high-profile community events intended to garner further interest and support for the Venture Lab community, and such events will be centered around building skills for students to use in their own work.

While the application process for teams to become members of the lab has closed, there are Venture Lab-related events open to the wider Tufts community, like this week’s $100k New Ventures Competition. At the competition, teams of entrepreneurs in the healthcare, social impact and high-tech fields will compete for funding, according to the competition’s website.

Tufts Entrepreneurs Society (TES), a network of students who have a strong interest in learning about entrepreneurship, has played a key role in the lab’s development. According to Bhanderi, who serves as co-director of TES, the lab was started in response to the growing desire for community among different startups on campus.

“Tufts and the ELS program started the Venture Lab initiative because they started to see traction from students’ startups cropping up around campus, but they realized that these startups did not interact with each other,” Bhanderi said. “There was no common community. In addition, each of these startups struggled with common issues such as finding working space and mentorship.”

According to Bhanderi, the TES directors, in collaboration with ELS Director Inge Milde and Venture Lab Community Development Director Rowan Rice, have organized and developed the lab to fulfill those needs and to provide support and opportunities for the burgeoning startup community at Tufts.

David Pearl, a first-year involved in TES, has cited the significance of TES and Bhanderi and Rappaport’s efforts specifically in the growth of the lab.

“TES makes it a priority to contact and connect entrepreneurs and promote entrepreneurship across Tufts’ campuses,” Pearl said. “This semester, I have had the privilege of working for TES and creating marketing materials as part of an effort to expand our reach across campus … Working on planning events and reaching out to a broader community is very exciting.”

Pearl said that while the lab itself is a room that can house up to three teams at a time, the intended scope of the lab is much wider.

“Working in the Venture Lab gave me the opportunity to meet many like-minded individuals and gain insight from all of their experiences,” he said.  “I found that hearing stories, both successes and failures, from others was by far one of the most useful things about the Venture Lab, aside from those that we were connected to through events or simply meeting them in the lab.”