Students succeed at startups with Startup Shell

By Jamie Weissman

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The university has graduated some notable entrepreneurs, and, with the help of Startup Shell, there may be many more to come.

Located in the Technology Advancement Program building on campus, Startup Shell is a student-run incubator that fosters students’ ideas through collaboration. The Shell offers 24-hour access to technological resources and a workspace for students to bring their ideas to life.

Alumni Eric Rosenberg and Justin Searles created Startup Shell as a way to give students with ideas the opportunity to make them happen. Though the original founders have since passed on the space, the Shell has continued to grow and is currently utilized by roughly 75 students.

“When the Shell was started it was primarily a co-working hacker space, very open and free will. We’re hoping to focus more on ventures in the future because that’s where we see values on campus,” said Jeff Hilnbrand, the Shell’s current director and a junior mechanical engineering major.

The Shell offers a variety of materials to students ranging from desks and whiteboards to 3-D printers and prototyping equipment. The space is open to students with all majors and ideas and offers assistance from the Shell’s staff.

Just ask junior finance major Michelle Shahparast, who used the Startup Shell to develop Unwritten, an online consignment shop for college students.

“It’s really hard in college to find people that are willing to spend time doing a startup. All of them are very willing to join different ventures and they have a lot of resources,” Shahparast said of the Shell.

However, Startup Shell does not just operate space in TAP. The incubator also hosts workshops and networking sessions for students to expand their opportunities beyond the classroom walls.

“I went to one of their coding workshops and they taught us how to make a website. It’s always a great experience,” she said.

Other events include a 36-hour hackathon and a Startup Shell retreat, all opportunities open to students whether or not they are part of the Shell.

“We love when people come out even if you’re not working on a startup and not looking to be a member,” Hilnbrand said. “We have tons of events the sole goal of which is to educate people. We’re really about that community here in College Park.”

If you are looking to create a business, though, the process is simple.

“There’s no cut throat application. If you’ve shown steps and you’re serious, that applies to the Shell,” he said.

To apply to become a member of Startup Shell, visit http://startupshell.org/.

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