NEXPO spotlights student entrepreneurship

The breadth and depth of Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem were on display Thursday night at NEXPO, the showcase run by IDEA, the university’s student-run venture accelerator.

More than 30 IDEA ventures—as well as a range of student-led organizations such as Scout and the Entrepreneurship Club, and university centers and resources focused on innovation and entrepreneurship—set up shop in the Cabot Cage.

The student- and alumni-led ventures were grouped based on their current stages within IDEA:

Ready: In the IDEA program’s initial stage, student entrepreneurs focus on understanding the problem their product or service is trying to solve and collecting customer validation.

Set: Ventures in this stage work on their business models, including developing the initial product or service.

Go: Here the goal is to reach that next business milestone, whether it’s raising external funding, connecting with another accelerator, or becoming a self-sustaining enterprise.

NEXPO served as the culmination of Global Entrepreneurship Week at Northeastern, a celebration of the university’s entrepreneurial spirit. IDEA is a key component of its entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing coaching, mentoring, and gap funding to student and alumni ventures.

Here are a few of the ventures that were on display Thursday night:

Bharat Babies

NEXPO 2015

Sailaja Joshi, DMSB’06, left, is the CEO and founder of Bharat Babies, Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

A publishing company that produces developmentally appropriate books featuring stories of India’s heritage, but with messages to which all young readers can relate.

“Today is our one-year anniversary,” said founder and CEO Sailaja Joshi, DMSB’06. “We were at last year’s NEXPO presenting our design and today we have four books on the market and one in production. So we are here to show that Northeastern was instrumental in our company launching from just an idea.”

Commonwealth Coffee Co.

NEXPO 2015

Olin Nelson, SSH’13, founder of Commonwealth Coffee Co. Photo by Matthew Modoono

A micro-roasted and micro-brewed cold coffee company that gets its products from all around the world.

“I was impressed with IDEA’s really strong push for customer validation…getting out there and really listening to what customers would want,” explained founder Olin Nelson, SSH’13. “And that impacted a lot of how we operate today, from our packaging to who we would sell to.”

Bloom Backpacks

NEXPO 2015

Andrew Colabella, E’20, describes what a customized backpack could entail. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

This venture won the first-place award at the Fall 2015 Husky Startup Challenge Demo Day on Monday, where burgeoning entrepreneurs presented the early-stage business plans that they had been working on all semester.

It allows users to design and customize their own backpacks to fit their specific needs. Each component of the backpack, from straps to pockets, is interchangeable.

“The initial idea for this came when I was walking outside in the rain and wished I could have an umbrella attached to my backpack,” said Andrew Colabella, E’20, one of the students who started the company. “From there we talked about wanting to build the perfect backpack but realized what we think is perfect is different from what others might think is perfect.”