Originally published by the Duke Chronicle.
One on-campus organization is getting into the business of student-run businesses.
DUhatch, Duke’s student business incubator, held its biannual company showcase Wednesday in Teer Hall. Five student groups presented their business ideas to an audience of undergraduate students, graduate students and local entrepreneurs before meeting with the audience individually over Korean food.
“We don’t make companies. We make entrepreneurs,” said Jim Mundell, director of DUhatch and adjunct associate professor of engineering, as he opened the meeting.
Members of the student businesses each gave short presentations about their concepts. The companies included a mobile phone app designed to help men dress better, an online marketplace for selling luxury goods to Chinese consumers and a custom storage unit website.
“There are a lot of students here who have a lot of ideas,” said Pranav Deshpande, communications manager for DUhatch and a first-year master’s student in engineering management. “DUhatch is here as a resource if they want it.”
Mundell added DUhatch was useful in providing students with a physical space to creatively think and develop their ideas.
Aditya Murthy, manager of DUhatch and a first-year master’s student in mechanical engineering, said the organization has given him exposure to businesses at every stage of development.
“[DUhatch] provides office space and a good work space for the student, [which] is hard to find and almost impossible to find in the real world without proof of concept,” Murthy said.
DUhatch currently has nine “teams,” or fledgling student-run businesses at various stages of development. “Coaches on Call,” often local entrepreneurs or lawyers, help teams by giving them advice on various aspects of the business development process.
“Being on campus gives you access to Duke’s [research and development] network,” Murthy said.
Brad Rubin, a first-year master’s in engineering management student, runs the mobile application “Stylehand,” an app designed to help young professionals and colorblind men avoid fashion mishaps. He noted that his experience with DUhatch has helped him get his concept off of the ground.
Spencer Ryals is a sophomore and co-founder of another team—Smartmove. He said DUhatch was instrumental in the company’s transition from an idea to a market-ready business.
Murthy noted that the more the Duke community knows about DUhatch, the more opportunity there will be for everyone to develop business ideas.
“We want to allow the community to become more tight-knit...so everyone is aware when an opportunity comes up,” he said.
Deshpande said events such as the student showcase are important to getting the DUhatch name out there.
“The primary purpose of DUhatch is education, and that is never going to change,” he said. “We just want to take that a step further and make it more engaging.”
Murthy added there will be many more events like Wednesday’s in the near future.
“There is a lot of DUhatch coming around the corner,” he said.