InnovateEDU

Nov 12, 2017

InnovateEDU

Nov 12, 2017

Meet Cailey Newton, Co-founder of InnovateEDU, an organization committed to building the strongest student entrepreneurial ecosystem!

GH: WHAT IS InnovateEDU?
CN: InnovateEDU is an organization committed to building the strongest student entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our programming is based on our three pillars: connect, educate, and ignite. It’s run by students, for students. It’s structured around a semester-long venture creation competition where teams come up with an idea and build rapid iterations of their solution. Each team represents one of our five partner schools: BC, BU, Emerson, Northeastern, and MIT.
GH: WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT: HOW DID InnovateEDU GET STARTED?
CN: InnovateEDU was the brainchild of Connor Gross, who goes to Northeastern and is the Director. He piloted the program at NEU in Fall 2016 where he named it InNUvate, and he originally created it because he wanted to build a team of students who were committed to building a lasting business. I think he quickly realized that he could grow it to include multiple schools in Boston, and lucky for me, I ended up getting connected to him right when he was beginning to pitch the idea to students from different schools.
GH: HOW DID YOU BUILD/ ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT BUILDING YOUR TEAM?
CN: Building the teams that participate in the semester-long venture creation competition is application based. Each partner school sends out separate applications and selects four students out of a competitive pool of applicants to be a part of InnovateEDU. Building our management team has been one of the best parts about InnovateEDU. While turnover and logistics are always a challenge because we’re a student-run organization operating across five different campuses, it’s pushed us to think more critically and recruit smarter. Our team has gone from four people to eleven in just one semester and it’s because people are excited to tackle those challenges and bring more entrepreneurially minded students together.
GH: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS?
CN: Constantly ask for feedback. We learned a lot from our first customers, of course, but I think we missed an opportunity to learn more simply because we weren’t continuously asking for feedback. I think as students running an organization for students, it was easy for us to run on the assumption that we wanted what our customers wanted. Turns out, that’s an incorrect assumption for a lot of reasons, and our first customers taught us that!

 

GH: WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY PHILOSOPHY DRIVING YOUR COMPANY CULTURE?

CN: Our priority is the individual and diverse perspectives each and every InnovateEDU participant, mentor, manager holds. Our progress comes from embracing the differences across schools, teams, experiences, etc. We want to create a culture where value is added every single day because each unique viewpoint is shared.

GH: WHAT IS THE BOSTON ECOSYSTEM LACKING FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? 
CN: Ha, is it bad to say us? And by “us”, I mean students. A distinction between a student entrepreneurial ecosystem and Greater Boston ecosystem is necessary; however, I think that there is a huge opportunity to challenge each other to engage in more creative and meaningful ways. Sharing resources across the best colleges and universities has proved to be extremely beneficial, and those benefits can be optimized by thinking about all the ways that we can become better connected to the Boston ecosystem at large. This city holds some of the brightest and most exciting startups, venture funds, and companies; just think about all the ways that working more in tandem could shape mentorship, recruitment, retainment, and more.
GH: WHAT WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU LAST YEAR?
CN: The best thing that happened to us last year was that no one graduated. We went straight back to work after Ignite, our final competition, and committed ourselves to growing InnovateEDU. Our whole management team is back and more than double it’s size. There’s so much in store for us, and luckily, we all saw the potential of InnovateEDU.

 

GH: WHAT’S THE BEST/WORST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE GIVEN ALONG THE WAY?
CN: The best piece of advice we’ve been given is to own what we’re doing. As students, it’s easy to attribute our progress to people with more experience or just not acknowledge the progress that we’ve made at all. Being told to “own it” has empowered us to keep moving forward and stay true to our values. The worst piece of advice we’ve received is that we need to seek out large companies in order to grow. As Connor, the Director of InnovateEDU says, “We want to stick with student to student growth.” There are benefits of large companies- such as money, promo, etc. and while those perks are great, at the end of the day, that’s not what InnovateEDU is about. Our greatest successes have come from sticking to our guns and maintaining our student-centric approach.
GH: WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR InnovateEDU?
CN: We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I will unapologetically say that InnovateEDU will be a top resource for entrepreneurial-minded students in Boston, and soon enough, beyond Boston.
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