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U. of I. student teams to get chance to turn ideas into start-up businesses

Mark Reutter, Business & Law Editor

Released 12/18/2006

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As graduates, they became major players in the technology world, establishing such companies as PayPal and YouTube.

Now even before they are out of school, computer science students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will get a chance to launch their own start-up companies.

IllinoisVENTURES, a seed-capital group created to commercialize university technology, will give four teams of Illinois students as much as $25,000 each to turn their ideas into working business prototypes.

“We were inspired by YouTube, PayPal and Google to some degree,” said Rob Schultz, senior director at IllinoisVENTURES. “We want to provide a program to engage student entrepreneurs in start-ups.”

The venture capital group will provide space, guidance and capital to turn “a big idea” into reality. Each student team is expected to come up with a working model by the end of a 10-week program this summer.

“We will help them with the paperwork in forming and setting up a company,” Schultz said. “And we will fund up to $25,000 per team, which we think is just enough resources to prototype an idea.”

The “iVentures10” program represents the first time IllinoisVENTURES has directly funded student projects. The group was created by the U. of I. Board of Trustees to accelerate the early development of rapid-growth companies based upon university research.

“Illinois has one of the top computer science programs in the country, but, historically, our graduates have gone to Silicon Valley to do start-ups. We have the resources to effectively do that in Champaign,” Schultz said.

Among those attending Illinois were Jawed Karim and Steve Chen, co-founders of YouTube, the popular video-sharing Web site; Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, an Internet payment processor; and Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, an Internet browser.

The four teams will be selected from applications submitted by undergraduate and graduate students. While emphasizing computer technology, the program is open to all Illinois students.

“iVentures10 is not focused on writing a fictional business plan,” Schultz said. “It will instead focus on building a real product. Our aim is that, by the end of the 10-week program, the teams will be able to demo their product to potential investors and customers.”

Each team member will receive a stipend of no more than $5,000, with the remainder of the seed money used to purchase specialized hardware, software or whatever else is need to build a prototype.

Student applications will be accepted through Feb. 21, 2007. The program will start on June 1.