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ASU students head to France for global entrepreneurship experience


group of students showing ASU pitchfork sign

From left: Sidnee Peck, director of the W. P. Carey School's Center for Entrepreneurship; Mayank Prasad from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Jennifer Hudye, Megan Kirk and Ting Yin from the W. P. Carey School of Business; Christopher Workman from the Fulton Schools; and Garret Westlake, associate dean of student entrepreneurship at ASU's Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, sport shirts for Just Start, an ASU campaign for student entrepreneurs.

The students are among 11 headed to the European Innovation Academy in July.
Photo by: Chad Musch

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June 30, 2015

Mayank Prasad wants disruptive innovation to occur everywhere, especially in his home country of India.

The Arizona State University student, who is the founder of two start-ups, is pursuing his master’s degree in computer engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He has seen firsthand how most Indian youth, rather than pursuing their interests, feel compelled to pursue engineering, medical or MBA degrees as a result of societal pressure to follow a traditional career path.

“The pressure to succeed by way of finding a great job is so much that most young people don’t even consider their passions and think entrepreneurially,” he said. “I’d like to encourage free thinking in India, help young people make their ideas happen.”

Prasad hopes to start a network of spaces in India that encourage entrepreneurial thinking, discussion and collaboration, similar to ASU’s Changemaker Central space.

To help refine his entrepreneurial skills, build valuable contacts and seek mentors from all over the world, Prasad, along with 10 other entrepreneurial ASU students, is headed to Nice, France, this summer to join nearly 600 students from 65 different countries and nationalities around the world at the European Innovation Academy (EIA). 

The academy, which begins July 6, is a three-week-long extreme accelerator program focused on propelling students’ ideas to viable start-ups. This year, the residential program is focused on helping students launch IT innovations.

“ASU is implementing some of the most cutting-edge student entrepreneurship programs in the country,” said Garret Westlake, associate dean of student entrepreneurship at ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, who was instrumental in implementing the partnership.

“Being part of the European Innovation Academy, which is a global gathering of some the world’s best entrepreneurial students, allows us to showcase our accomplishments and exchange best practices with other entrepreneurial institutions, such as Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.”

Sidnee Peck, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W. P. Carey School of Business, will be accompanying the student group to Nice.

“The ASU students participating in the academy are some of our best risk-takers and have proven themselves as leaders in class and outside of it. We look forward to the experience,” Peck said.

The accelerator program kicks off with an ideation session that helps students generate or refine their ideas. The multidisciplinary, multicultural teams formed at the boot camp then work together on transforming their respective ideas into start-ups by building a business model and learning how to grow a customer base, address intellectual property and legal issues, and find financing.

Finally, the teams pitch the start-up idea to investors from world-class venture capital firms such as Khosla Ventures, Sand Hill Angels and Alchemist Accelerator, among others.

In addition to receiving mentoring from nearly 100 industry leaders and professors, participants will hear from speakers including Andreas Ehn from Wrapp and formerly Spotify; Takuo Suzuki and Martin Omander from Google; and Kaisu Karvala from Rovio Entertainment, the company that launched Angry Birds.

The accelerator program has been developed with the help of experts from universities such as the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University, and corporations such as Google, Samsung and Rovio. It will include more than 50 sessions, including an art hackathon, a 3-D printing competition, an IT hackathon and a venture-capital investment competition.

This is the first year that Arizona State University was invited to participate in the academy alongside universities, such as Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University. In its first pilot year, the experience was open to students at the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“Our students’ participation in the academy continues to reinforce ASU’s commitment to entrepreneurship,” Peck said. “We hope we can share the message and bring some of the experts to ASU to highlight how we’re building this 83,000-student-strong entrepreneurial community.

“My best advice to the students attending is absorb everything at the academy and just start working on tasks and ideas that feel uncomfortable. Take the lessons you get from EIA and grow your ventures when you’re back at ASU this fall.”

Learn more about ASU's Entrepreneurship + Innovation programs at entrepreneurship.asu.edu.

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