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Bright IDEA: Student-run venture accelerator celebrates fifth anniversary

At left, Annika Morgan, DMSB'16, the first Altschuler-Meyer CEO of IDEA, is congratulated by Sam Altschuler, center, and Marc Meyer at the fifth anniversary celebration for IDEA in April. Altschuler and Meyer made a gift to endow the CEO position for IDEA. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

Student, faculty, staff, and alumni stakeholders in Northeastern’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem came together Friday night to commemorate the fifth anniversary of IDEA and celebrate the announcement of a gift endowing the student-run venture accelerator’s CEO position.

Dan Gregory, the founding faculty adviser of IDEA, beamed with pride as he recalled the organization’s first student management team coming together and finding its way in its salad days. “The summer and fall of 2009 planning IDEA was about the most satisfying time I’ve ever had in my professional life,” he told about 150 people who had gathered at the university’s Visitor Center in West Village F.

Gregory rattled off a string of impressive statistics, including these figures: roughly 1,500 entrepreneurs have sought support and guidance from IDEA; 52 ventures have received IDEA gap funding over the past four years and 70 percent of those companies are still in business; and the program has launched 33 ventures that have collectively raised more than $22 million in external funding. But even more impressive than these numbers, Gregory said, are the students behind them.

“The reason IDEA has remained strong is that we’ve had a great series of CEOs and management teams,” said Gregory, who is the co-director of the Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurship Education.

Hugh Courtney, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, speaks during the fifth anniversary celebration for IDEA. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

Hugh Courtney, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, speaks during the fifth anniversary celebration for IDEA. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

Throughout the night, many speakers also recognized the late Thomas Moore, the former dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, for supporting IDEA early on and appropriating funds to help get the organization up and running. Over the past five years, IDEA has grown into a vibrant hub of entrepreneurship activity on campus, providing resources such as gap funding, mentoring, coaching, and networking.

Gregory said “experiential entrepreneurship education” is at IDEA’s core, noting that its student-centric approach fosters valuable learning acquired by both IDEA’s student management team and the students, alumni, and faculty working with IDEA to launch their businesses.

The fifth anniversary celebration underscored IDEA’s past success and looked ahead to its bright future. Hugh Courtney, dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, announced that two IDEA board members—Sam Altschuler and Marc Meyer—have partnered on a gift to endow IDEA’s CEO position.

Meyer—who is the co-director of the Center of Entrepreneurship Education, the Robert J. Shillman Professor of Entrepreneurship, and a Matthews Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern—then introduced the first Altschuler-Meyer CEO of IDEA: Annika Morgan, DMSB’16. He also presented Morgan with new business cards.

“We’re investing in the future, and the future I know is going to be bright,” Meyer said.

Noted Altschuler: “What’s been accomplished [at IDEA] over the past five years has been tremendous.”

Morgan is studying global social entrepreneurship and is the former vice president of Northeastern’s Entrepreneurs Club, among other roles at the student organization. She also leads the development branding, educational programming partnerships, and customer engagement initiatives for Fresh Truck, a retrofitted school bus turned mobile farmers market.

“I’m incredibly honored, and a little nervous, to be in front of a room of people who are brilliant, passionate, and crazy enough to start an organization that grew to be what we all known and love to be IDEA,” Morgan said, “and I’m equally as excited to be with all the brilliant, passionate, and crazy people who are going to join me in building it to all it can be.”

All of IDEA’s former CEOs and many management team members attended the celebration, flying in from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York to be there. Ashkan Afkhami, IDEA’s first CEO, recalled pitching IDEA to Moore and then springing into action to recruit a founding team—including Nick Sammut, DMSB’11, whom he found jogging around the track at the Marino Center at 11:30 p.m. that Friday night. Founding IDEA, he explained, was just like founding a venture from the ground up.

“Every single person I worked with added to the value of this program,” said Afkhami, DMSB’09, MS’10.

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