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        Auburn Entrepreneurship: Innovate, Accelerate, Soar!

        November 12, 2020 By Joe McAdory

        All News



        The Innovation Lab inside Horton-Hardgrave Hall provides ample space for student entrepreneurs to work and learn in a team setting.

        Entrepreneurship at Auburn University and the Harbert College takes students from the classroom to pitching in front of potential investors, to launching real-world businesses.

        What should an investor expect from an Auburn entrepreneur? Work, hard work? That’s a given. But what else? “An investor should expect an entrepreneur whose business knowledge has been developed,” said LaKami Baker, Interim Executive Director of the Government and Economic Development Institute at Auburn University and former Director of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at the Harbert College. “They can be assured that these entrepreneurs can solve business problems and have an understanding of value proposition. 

        ent“Our entrepreneurial program is designed to increase the entrepreneurial mindset of all Auburn students. By engaging in this program, students will have the skills that can transcend into, or transfer over, the business world.”

        Much of Harbert College’s entrepreneurship program’s roots can be traced to the establishment of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship in 1998 – which resulted in the development of an entrepreneurship curriculum in 2001. It has continued to grow with the opening of Horton-Hardgrave Hall in 2019, which includes and Innovation Lab where students can work on their business ideas.

        We’ve come a long way. 

        Auburn Entrepreneurship has yet another reason to celebrate! An 80,000-square foot Research and Innovation Center at The Park, part of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, is home of the New Venture Accelerator.


        The New Venture Accelerator will be housed inside the  new Research and Innovation Center, located at The Park.

        The New Venture Accelerator has 7,000 square feet of office space that will be dedicated to students focused on startups, learning how to create business models, pitching to investors – and space for multiple mentors who will guide them along the path. It’s where Auburn’s Incubator and Accelerator programs will be housed and new dreams will be realized. 

        “This new space gives us a place where we can foster innovation, help students develop their ideas, prepare them for pitches and help them take what they have learned and translate it into successful business ventures,” said Lou Bifano, Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy at Auburn University. “We will have space dedicated to teams that can work privately, space for teams to work together, and individual office spaces for Entrepreneurs in Residence, Scott McGlon and Phil Fraher, who work closely with our teams in developing their business plans and concepts.” 

        Whereas entrepreneurship was a curriculum for many years – and still is – the program catapulted itself to the next level with the advent of a student business pitch competition in 2014. Tiger Cage, molded in the image of the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” allowed students to develop comprehensive business plans and financial models – then pitch their ideas before industry professional judges and potential investors for early-stage seed capital. 


        The Tiger Cage student business idea competition, founded in 2014, has provided entrepreneurs with the opportunity to compete for startup capital and pitch their ideas before industry professional judges.

        Chris Maurice, who earned a degree in finance from the Harbert College in 2018, created Yellowcard Financial – now an international cryptocurrency business – while he was in college. “The entrepreneurship program at Auburn and the skills I learned working with the professors and advisors put me and our company at a huge advantage,” said Maurice. “Learning how to pitch, how to build a deck, how to think about equity, etc. is unbelievably important. It also puts you at a huge advantage over others who might be smarter than you on paper, but haven’t developed these skills.”

        Aside from competitions and other programs outside the classroom designed to foster entrepreneurship development, Harbert College still offers a timeless approach to learning the tools of the trade: a five-course Entrepreneurship and Family Business minor open to all Auburn University undergraduate students.

        The minor introduces important entrepreneurship terms and concepts, and students also start working on critical skills during class, like researching market demand, leading innovation, managing cash flow, and determining a startup’s valuation. But that’s just the beginning. Through the program, students learn to develop business plans, utilizing marketing, management and financial data for their startup. Students also learn about franchising, produce case studies in a team environment, and take a deep dive into the world of angel investors.

        “One of the most exciting recent developments for the entrepreneurship minor is the opportunity for non-business students to take courses within their majors that can serve as electives,” said Franz Lohrke, Lowder Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Harbert College of Business.

        What can a student entrepreneur expect from the program? 


        In Auburn's entrepreneurship program, students learn about more than making business plans, but also franchising, marketing, cost analysis and consumer trends.

        “It’s going to provide them with the insight to problem-solve,” said Baker. “It’s going to help them develop their abilities to analyze the competitive environment, understand and identify opportunities and problems and develop solutions to those problems. If you go to a company that’s focused on new product development or innovation, you will be an asset to that organization because you have engaged in Auburn’s entrepreneurship program. If you want to build a startup, the Auburn Entrepreneurship program is a great starting point.”

        What is an Auburn entrepreneur? Bifano sees potential across the university landscape. 

        “An Auburn entrepreneur can come from anywhere,” he said. “Business, Engineering, Kinesiology, Music, you name it. They might come from different academic units, but they all share similar characteristics. They are hard working. They are willing to take risks … that’s a fundamental, foundational point. They are innovative, and when they graduate, they pour themselves into their businesses.” 

        What started as a curriculum and research model blossomed into an outreach program that develops students with a hands-on approach. It has the students. It has the professional and mentoring resources. It has the programs/competitions. Now it has 7,000 more square feet to operate.  

        Auburn Entrepreneurship: Innovate, Accelerate … Soar!