CMC Center Caters to 5C Entrepreneurs

Claremont McKenna College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) held an open house Oct. 11. The center, founded last year, is working to expand its 5C presence and to continue to provide student entrepreneurs with mentoring, funding, and other resources.

The CIE focuses on building a “strong intercollegiate community around entrepreneurship,” wrote CIE Director and CMC economics professor Janet Smith in an e-mail to TSL.

The center, which is located on North Mills Avenue just south of Sixth Street, includes professional meeting rooms, casual lounges where students can collaborate, and walls covered with whiteboards.

“I think the whiteboard walls are excellent,” student co-director Samantha Kunz CM ’15 said. “I can’t study now anymore if I’m not at the CIE.”

Last year, the CIE focused on creating a better organizational structure, establishing a Web presence, and creating a physical space for students. The center set up workshops, a speaker series, networking events, pitch events, and a startup fair, and also sponsored summer fellowships so students could work on their projects full-time during the summer.

“A lot of what we do really involves interactive-type workshops, such as bringing experts here to CIE to speak to students," Kunz said.

The center is also continuing to develop its mentoring program, which it established as a way for students to get advice on fine-tuning their pitches, testing their ideas, and receiving funding.

Two mentors hosted a pitch event this week at which they gave feedback to 10 students on their venture ideas, Smith wrote. Students can pitch their ideas to members of the CIE’s advisory board, which is composed of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other business leaders, including many CMC alumni. The advisory board offers students feedback and advice, as well as some financial support. 

"It’s a pretty casual pitch, and they give you immediate feedback,” student co-director Thomas Hague CM ’16 said.

The CIE also works with CMC’s Kravis Leadership Institute on a number of joint initiatives, such as the Innovative Start-Up Award.

Although the center is open to students from all 5Cs, Hague said that some mistakenly think that it is only for CMC students.

“Our biggest challenge is finding ways to increase visibility across the 5Cs,” Smith wrote.

Kunz said that one way the CIE seeks to expand is by designing a sequence of courses so students across the 5Cs can minor in entrepreneurship.

Next month, the CIE is planning to launch The Vanguard, an online publication that will cover entrepreneurship and highlight student ventures on campus. The center has hired writers and editors for the publication, which will be updated every two weeks.

The center also has invited Idealab founder and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gross to speak on campus Dec. 1, and in April it will be hosting a weekend of events called "Entrepreneurship," which will include a panel discussion about women and entrepreneurship, a fast pitch event, a startup fair, and mentoring workshops.

“We will continue to work on our network, and would welcome collaboration with Pomona [College] students and students from the other Colleges,” Smith wrote.