The Princeton University Entrepreneurial Hub, a new incubator space to advance entrepreneurial initiatives and education for faculty, students and alumni, launched this summer.
The Hub resides in a University-leased building at 34 Chambers Street in downtown Princeton.
Associate Director of the Keller Center Cornelia Huellstrunk said the University established the Lab to respond to tremendous interest in entrepreneurship among students, faculty and alumni. The Hub aims to foster entrepreneurial collaboration within the Princeton community.
The Hub's main purposes are to provide a shared working space for students and faculty startups and significant learning opportunities through workshops, roundtables and networking events. Users have access to meeting rooms, classrooms, office hours and information technology support. Office spaces are available for license to faculty and alumni startups.
Both the semester-based eLab incubator program and the summer eLab accelerator program are housed in the same building.
Stephanie Landers, Program Administrator of the Keller Center, explained that the creation of the Hub was part of a much larger entrepreneurship initiative on part of the University. She noted that administrators realized the need for programming and support on campus.
“The way that Keller Center is involved is that we, for the past four years, have had the ELab accelerator program and also the incubator program during the fall and spring semesters where students can work on their startups or very, very early stage ideas that they might want to turn into a startup company," Landers explained."In the summer, the ELab is for students who have a startup and want to accelerate, to work on it over the summer and hopefully launch and properly find investors, gain customers and succeed. At the end of summer they give a demo-day to a large audience."
While these programs took place before in the engineering quad, the Keller Center now has a whole building to support them, she said. “We have a lot of space for workshops that are all focused on entrepreneurship, innovation and design.”
According to the Keller Center website, the Hub aims to help students, faculty, and alumni develop their creativity and make important contributions to society. Huellstrunk said the organizers are looking for faculty who might be interested in this type of arrangement.
She noted that the Hub has a very robust calendar of office hours with accountants, legal experts and entrepreneurship faculty.
“The programming that happens at the Hub is really for everyone on campus, and includes talks by entrepreneurs, design thinkers and social entrepreneurs,” she said, adding that tours happen at the Hub at all times.
Students interested in getting involved in the Hub do so by contacting Landers, who has been overseeing the day-to-day activities at the Hub, according to Huellstrunk.
Landers said the Hub is funded by the University as part of the University’s ongoing efforts to support of its students’ entrepreneurial passions.
David Pal GS, a Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, said that last year he was a counselor fellow in more than just the coursework at Keller Center, as he learned about the workshops and participated in various projects. As a graduate student, he was not able to work in the summer incubator because he had to work on his dissertation.
“Now that the semester is going and I’ve finished my dissertation and have a little bit of time before I graduate, I figured I would take advantage of some of the awesome programs they have going on at the incubator,” Pal said."The eHub is a pretty cool opportunity to have a co-working space with other people and other like-minded entrepreneurs who like starting businesses, are going through the same trials and tribulations, have the same needs. The Keller Center does a really great job of finding spaces and putting on programs and seminars to make it easier to get things done."
Pal explained that he’s currently working on a few different projects, specifically Marna’s Pals, which helps students whose families have been affected by cancer, giving scholarships to students who live in New Jersey. He’s thinking about starting another business as well, but he is primarily focusing on his non-profit.
Michalis Alifierakis GS, a fifth-year chemical engineering grad student, said he might start a business after taking a class in the Keller Center.
“I approached Stephanie Landers at the end of last year and asked her about the incubator program,” Alifierakis said."It sounded like a pretty good idea, so this year I applied."
Alifierakis noted the Hub has an excellent structure in place to help entrepreneurs, since it provides a space where entrepreneurs can seek the mentorship of experts like lawyers, accountants and even other entrepreneurs.
“We need people who have done it before and who can help us with the problems that we face,” Alifierakis said.
Ashlyn Lackey ’18, who got involved in the Keller Center last year and spent last summer interning in a Keller Center internship, explained that the eHub offers a myriad of helpful programs and opportunities and is, in itself, a unique space tailor-made for entrepreneurs.
“I know when I applied to Princeton, I was worried that there wasn’t really a strong business focus, but I think that the Keller Center and the eHub are definitely the University’s answer to this,” Lackey said.