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With Gift from Klaus, CREATE-X Will Build Students’ Entrepreneurial Confidence

CREATE-X will have a unique focus on Georgia Tech's undergraduate students.

Mar 31, 2015

Georgia Tech offers students plenty of chances to design their own inventions and build their own startups. But a unifying thread was missing -- something to link the entrepreneurial lessons in these experiences.

Now, a major gift from alumnus Chris Klaus is giving Tech a new way to do just that. On April 1, the Institute and the College of Engineering will formally launch CREATE-X, a collective of programs designed to boost students' entrepreneurial confidence and give them the tools they need to establish startups.

Many of the programs under the CREATE-X umbrella, such as the Startup Lab course, have already begun to be offered. But CREATE-X will unite them with a common goal: equipping undergraduate students with the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences to be entrepreneurially confident.

"These programs have always been part of a larger vision," says Professor Raghupathy Sivakumar, the Wayne J. Holman Chair in Electrical Engineering. He is the director of CREATE-X and one of the architects behind it. Professor Emeritus Ray Vito, a longtime champion of Georgia Tech’s student innovation ecosystem, is another architect behind the effort and serves as a special advisor for CREATE-X.

Open to all undergraduates across campus, CREATE-X is based on three simple principles: Learn, Make, Launch. The idea is that students who participate in CREATE-X will choose from an assortment of programs that correspond with each of these principles. The signature offerings of CREATE-X that correspond to each of the three principles will be, respectively, the Startup Lab course, the Idea to Prototype Undergraduate Research Experience, and the Startup Summer program.

Eventually, students will advance through all three concepts, and they’ll graduate Georgia Tech equipped with the entrepreneurial skills to succeed in both startup settings and larger, well-established companies.

One of CREATE-X’s defining features is Startup Summer, part of the program’s Launch portion. This summer, 20 teams are expected to participate.

Klaus, the namesake of the Institute’s Klaus Advanced Computing Building, has discussed his own experiences in entrepreneurship with students in the Startup Lab course. He is the founder of Kaneva, a social gaming company, and he sees Startup Summer as a transformational opportunity for Georgia Tech students.

By keeping students in school while they build their businesses, Klaus says, CREATE-X will occupy a unique position among startup accelerators. And, of course, students will get the business acumen and real-world experience they need to succeed with their companies.

“CREATE-X will be a revolutionary program for Georgia Tech, and I'm thrilled to help the Institute's efforts in getting students excited about innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says.

Other elements that will distinguish CREATE-X from similar programs at peer institutions will be its singular focus on undergraduate students, emphasis on the Learn, Make, Launch pathway that will cater to students throughout their undergraduate careers, and a strong reliance on the cross-disciplinary maker mindset that defines Georgia Tech.

Another part of what makes the program unique, though, is that participation requirements are somewhat flexible: No one will have to complete a strict regimen of courses to be involved.

That’s because organizers want to make it easy as possible for students to dive in to CREATE-X. All majors are invited to participate, but the program itself will be housed in the College of Engineering.

"We’ve built a reputation for innovation, and I’m excited to see how CREATE-X builds on that by focusing on entrepreneurial skills," says Gary May, the College of Engineering dean.

May is a member of the program’s executive team. That team also includes Professor Ravi Bellamkonda, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering chair; Professor Steve McLaughlin, the Steve Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Professor Bill Wepfer, the Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. School Chair of the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

"The 'X' in CREATE-X is based on the notion that our students can create anything they want through their ideas – be it their own jobs, exciting startups, a new world, or their very future," says Bellamkonda.

Eventually, organizers foresee the program reaching thousands of students across Georgia Tech. Other campus programs that CREATE-X will coordinate with in achieving its vision include VentureLab, the InVenture Prize competition, Startup Exchange, and Georgia Tech’s co-op program.

"Many of these opportunities focus on interdisciplinary work, a hallmark of Georgia Tech’s curriculum," says McLaughlin.

With Klaus’ gift to CREATE-X, more students will be able to polish their skills and prepare for the business world – whether they want to join a large company or make a startup from scratch.

"We are finally," says Sivakumar, "going to provide a platform for entrepreneurial students."