I&E invests in providing hands-on, personalized coaching for those students who are deeply committed to moving their ideas to the marketplace, often in partnership with Duke alumni. Through multiple programs that provide 360-degree support, we help these innovators connect with the resources, funding, and intensive mentorship to support their ventures.
Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs
Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, our flagship, invitation-only program for undergraduate students who are ready to launch a company, continues to provide an exceptional experience for a select group of founders far along the path with their startups. Since its inception in 2014, more than 100 student founders have participated in the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs Program, raising over $21 M for their ventures, including investments from the Duke Angel Network. Two companies, Farm Shots and Smart Metals Recycling, have had successful exits. The 2019-2020 academic year saw 17 student entrepreneurs join the program, with nascent ventures spanning a wide variety of technologies and sectors. Highlights include Protect3d, a company that creates customized, lightweight protective padding for athletes using 3-D scanning and printing technologies, which took the top prize in the NFL’s Innovations to Advance Athlete Health and Safety Competition; and Audacity Labs, a startup incubator that provides education and resources to high school students interested in starting a starting an enterprise.
The Student Founder Program
2019-2020 was the pilot year of the Student Founder Program, launched to build upon the success of the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs Program. The goal of the Student Founder Program is simple: to support all undergraduates, graduate, and professional students across Duke who are interested in creating a product or service, testing a pilot, and someday launching their own venture—whether commercial, social, artistic, or beyond. Students in the program gain experiential education, mentoring, a tight-knit community, and resources including small prototyping grants. We also leverage the experience of alumni who have previously participated in our programs to coach and support our current student founders.
In its first year, the program brought together a diverse group of students working on ventures, as well as students seeking to learn and gain inspiration. Weekly group ideation sessions—which continued virtually during COVID-19—provided community and connection. Fourteen students were selected to participate in Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs, which now functions as the advanced track of the Student Founder Program for undergraduate students and confers additional resources; ten students were selected for participation in the Accelerator, working intensively on their ventures during the summer.
For student entrepreneurs working on creative arts projects, StudioDuke is a virtual creative lab that provides Duke students the opportunity to take their artistic projects—screenplays, films, stage plays, choreography, poetry, manuscripts, digital media, and more—to the next level in partnership with a coach from the entertainment industry. Operated in partnership with Duke Arts and the Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network (DEMAN), this program’s alumni mentors are drawn from companies including Universal Music, American Ballet Theatre, Netflix, Hello Entertainment, NBC, William Morris Endeavor, and CBS Sports, providing students with an unparalleled level of support.
Connecting Duke Innovators Worldwide
The Duke I&E network continues beyond students’ time on campus. I&E serves as a point of collaboration through programming and the facilitation of introductions and connection and maintains engagement with the Duke community around the world through the alumni-supported Duke Global Entrepreneurship Network (DukeGEN) and DukeTransform, an event focused inspiring and supporting Duke alumni founders.