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Edson finalists come to SkySong, make final pitch to judges


May 18, 2011

In the first five years of the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, 521 ASU student-led teams applied to join the program that provides up to $20,000 in seed funding, office space at SkySong, and mentoring to help launch a business or non-profit venture.

This year, 250 teams applied for the same 15 to 20 spots in the 2011-2012 Edson accelerator program.

Tom Noble and his partner Steven Skoczen make up one of those teams. Noble is an MBA student in the W.P. Carey School of Business. He and Skoczen have designed a software-suite for small non-profits called Good Cloud.

“There is a real need out there,” Noble said. “Non-profit packages and tools are made for corporations or big non-profits. But small non-profits are the life-blood of our community.”

Noble and Skoczen began brainstorming the idea months ago but didn’t have funding.

“The Edson program is great for someone with a passion,” Noble said. “It taps into Arizona resources that are incredibly helpful.”

Students apply for the Edson program for a variety of reasons. Some have been working on their ventures for years, while others created a venture and came together at almost the last minute.

“The idea was brought on by necessity,” Ryan Clancey said, co-founder with his wife Colleen, of Simple Swaddle. Clancey is in the Supply Chain Management MBA program at ASU. His background is in manufacturing, and when their daughter, Catherine, was born three months ago, they couldn’t find a swaddling blanket that worked.

“Babies break out of their blankets easily," he said. "We want to provide a quality design at a cost that fits into the marketplace.”

Michael Hunter and Max Mendoza co-founded Entourage Marketing, a social media marketing agency. Mendoza had always been interested in starting a marketing agency. He co-founded ASU Undie Run, a charity event he grew to over 20,000 attendees through marketing efforts.

Similarly, Hunter founded several successful businesses and online communities, including Right Mindset, a “movement of individuals determined to challenge the status quo”. Their Facebook page has over 2,400 followers.

The duo began Entourage Marketing in August of 2010. Through ASU SkySong’s Hackspace, they have grown to a team of five with multiple clients. They are now looking for funding.

Students in the Edson program have access to the wide range of entrepreneurial mentoring programs based at SkySong. Venture Catalyst at ASU helps student ventures deal with intellectual property issues, forges connections with investors and refines business plans.

To date, 82 student ventures have been funded through the Edson program. Winning students represent all four ASU campuses, all 15 colleges and 44 different majors. The funding is made possible from a 2005 donation of $5.4 million from Orin and Charlene Edson.

This year’s Edson winners will be announced at the end of May.

Written by Derek Sarley