Moses Lee

Students: Start Your Social Ventures Today!

What do the following four social ventures all have in common: Driptech, D.Light, Click Diagnostics, and Embrace?

They were all started by students. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

I’m a big believer in student-formed social ventures. Students are arguably in the best position to start a social venture. They have incredible support, access to unbelievable resources, and can take on risk that others can’t.

Think about it. If a student team needed help on financial forecasting, it just needs to pop into a finance professor’s office. Need legal counsel? No problem. Talk to your fellow student attorneys or law professors. Want to learn how to create a company website? Take a course or ask your CS major buddies. Looking to raise capital? Milk your student status to the max. Or leverage your university’s alumni network. Especially at University of Michigan, alumni are very supportive and want to help.

I believe in the empowerment of students for social entrepreneurship so much that Nick Tobier, professor at the School of Art & Design, and I started the course, Social Venture Creation, this winter term through the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan.

To date, the class has just under 30 students working on four ventures addressing a variety of social issues such as food access, city traffic, internet access in Africa, and healthcare training in rural communities. Students work in multidisciplinary teams and spend an entire semester crafting a business plan and taking steps towards implementation.

We’ve been very fortunate to have the help from some industry players in our venture creation process. Mid-semester, we’ll be having consultants from IDEO come in to evaluate and help improve business plans.

At the end of the course, the students will make presentations to a variety of faculty members, a handful of industry experts, and potential funders. Because funding is such a big issue, we’re currently exploring an online mechanism to support the cause. Something similar to Big Ideas @ Berkeley.

I’ve shared a handful of class videos on this post. Watch and hear 1) Why students are taking the course (above) and 2) Students working with IDEO’s design thinking methodology (below).

If you are currently a student, I encourage you to make the most of your time at your university and try starting a social venture. If your school doesn’t have any courses on social entrepreneurship, talk to your professors and ask them why not. Or send them a link to this post. I’m confident that there will be some faculty members who will want to do something.

And if you are a UofM alum and want to help out the efforts at the University of Michigan, please contact me!