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IDEA, School of Law team up to support local startups

Through a new partnership between IDEA and the School of Law’s Community Business Clinic, the Boston-based entrepreneurs unaffiliated with Northeastern have been accepted to the university’s student-run venture accelerator for the first time ever.

The clinic, directed by law professor Peter Sessa, offers law students real-world experience in providing free, business-related legal services to startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in the Boston area.

“This is the real practice of law,” Sessa explained. “It’s not a simulation course. We expect the unexpected.”

Sessa’s clinic teamed up with IDEA to provide three of its clients with business support from IDEA that is typically reserved for startups with a Northeastern affiliation. Previously, unaffiliated clients could attend workshops and receive coaching from the IDEA staff but could not get funding—until now. IDEA’s $1,000 Prototype Fund Grants will be available to these ventures.

“The value added is the coaching, mentoring, and business planning support we can provide them,” said Max Kaye, CEO of IDEA. “This was a community outreach opportunity for us.”

Practice Gigs, a social networking platform that helps athletes find practice partners, is among the first group of local ventures selected through a new partnership between IDEA and the School of Law's Community Business clinic. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Practice Gigs, a social networking platform that helps athletes find practice partners, is among the first group of local ventures selected through a new partnership between IDEA and the School of Law’s Community Business clinic. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Students in the clinic selected three of their clients to join IDEA: Pixel Life, an underground and hip-hop clothing brand founded by Northeastern psychology major Vlad Dimitrov, S’15; Envite Design, a design and production company; and Practice Gigs, a social networking platform that helps athletes find practice partners.

Toni Oloko, the 17-year-old Boston Trinity Academy student who started Practice Gigs, spoke highly of working with Northeastern. “My experience with IDEA and the Community Business Clinic has been great,” Oloko said, noting that a mentor at the Small Businesses Association referred him to the law school clinic. “With their help, Practice Gigs Inc. attended NEXPO in November, but more importantly we have received advice on our business model and business plan.”

Kaye has received positive feedback from all three ventures, which have already attended workshops on business modeling, pitching, and financing. Last month, Envite Design joined Practice Gigs in participating in NEXPO, a biannual entrepreneurship exposition hosted by IDEA.

The law students, for their part, are also benefiting from this new partnership. According to Sessa, their service has taught them the importance of collaboration and delegation.

“All new lawyers experience some stress because they think they need the answers to all their clients’ questions,” Sessa explained. “My students learn the value of collaboration and being able to send their clients to another resource for certain questions.”

January marked the beginning of the law school’s second quarter of the year, which means new clients and new students for Sessa’s clinic. Both he and Kaye said they hope to add three new ventures to the IDEA family in addition to the original three, which are expected to continue working with IDEA.

“The sky is the limit as far as I’m concerned,” Sessa said.