Team Formation: A Place for Students to Test Ideas

Buerk Center Team Formation Nights OngoingA legendary writer famously shared his approach to life as “buy the ticket, take the ride.” What might surprise you is how common that feeling is with entrepreneurs and innovators. Time and time again, the most successful  venture capitalists tell students to put themselves out there, share their ideas, and be proactive. Upcoming team formation events offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship provide the kind of safe, open place for students to do exactly that.

“There aren’t many places where you can be completely open about your early concepts, but these events are just that,” said Terri Butler, assistant director at the Buerk Center and manager of the Health Innovation Challenge. “If you have any inclination at all toward new, innovative ideas, you won’t want to miss these!”

No one is expected to have fully-formed ideas. In fact, the goal is to celebrate the process of sharing an idea, receiving feedback, and evolving it. Many students realize they share the same goals with someone from another unit on the University of Washington campus. That connection brings together chemical engineering, computer science, biology and business students, among others, and allows them to discover if they might really have something worth building.

“This is a great opportunity to meet like-minded students,” said Amy Sallin, associate director at the Buerk Center and manager of the UW Business Plan Competition (BPC). “Whether you’re working on your own idea or looking to join an existing project, this event can help.”

Students who have attended in the past felt they could give a short pitch without giving away the “secret sauce” that defines their idea. The organizers know that building trust is a big part of the event and everyone understands that most ideas are early-stage. Dave Parker, the CEO of Code Fellows, spoke at a recent Straight Talk for Entrepreneurs event and addressed one of the common concerns of young entrepreneurs.

“Ideas don’t die of overexposure, or because they are stolen,” said Parker. “They die because not enough people know about them.”

Just two team formation nights remain this fall. On Wednesday, November 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in HUB 145, a panel of past participants will share their experiences. Marene Wiley will talk about JikoPower, which earned the grand prize of $25,000 at the 2016 BPC. Alex Jiao was part of the miPS Labs team that competed in two years of competitions and Emily Willard and her team with Engage Biotech won the grand prize at the inaugural HIC in 2016.

The last team formation during fall quarter is set for Thursday, December 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in HUB 145. Students can also attend a team formation event on January 19 at 7 pm in Anthony’s Forum with the student group SEBA (Science & Engineering Business Association) following the Science & Technology Showcase.

So what if you can’t make it to any of the live team formation nights? The Buerk Center encourages you to check out the Team Formation website. You can create your profile, move on to the showcase page, and open yourself up to some incredible opportunities to connect with other students. The startup resources page on the Buerk Center website offers additional information on everything listed above, plus materials on how to write winning business plans, find mentors, and a lot more.

Looking for prototype funding to take your idea to the next level? The prototype funding application window for teams who want to compete in the Health Innovation Challenge (HIC) opens November 14. Most prototype awards are between $500 and $3,000. The deadline to apply is December 12. Prototype funding applications opens for teams who want to compete in the Environmental Innovation Challenge beginning December 1. In this case, funding is only available for teams in Washington.