Incubator for student entrepreneurs opens at Duke Feb. 19

Duke University students now have a formal place to nurture their ideas into fledgling companies.

DUhatch, a new business incubator on Duke's West Campus, opens Thursday, Feb. 19, with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. A formal opening ceremony with the leaders of four Duke schools follows at 6 p.m.

This new enterprise is led by Lawrence Boyd, associate director of Duke's Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization (CERC) at the Pratt School of Engineering.

"DUhatch is a place where entrepreneurial students can meet and interact with other students, faculty, staff and outside guests brought in for their expertise in starting new businesses," Boyd said.

In addition to supplying students with the facilities and resources to grow their businesses, DUhatch will connect young entrepreneurs with outside funding sources, lawyers and local business people. DUhatch will also run a mentoring program that helps students partner with faculty, industry or alumni, as well as a "coaches-on-call" initiative, in which professionals and consulting firms donate their expertise to the new companies.

"Entrepreneurship is an area where classroom learning is made relevant through doing," Boyd said. "DUhatch will provide this experiential component to make entrepreneurship a more integral part of the undergraduate experience. Our focus on all Duke students and on education as a mission is what sets DUhatch apart from most commercial business incubators."

DUhatch is located on the second floor of the Teer Building on Duke's campus.

"DUhatch represents another visible example of Duke's and Pratt's commitment to empowering our students with the resources they need to make a difference for society," said Tom Katsouleas, dean of the Pratt School. "The world more than ever is looking to engineers to innovate our way out of a global recession and into a new (and greener) economy, and DUhatch will help prepare Duke students to be the generation of leaders that does just that."

Five budding companies are setting up shop in DUhatch. A number of them have already won national business plan competitions. The companies are:

-- A Jobs List: Offers a novel online approach to matching employers with qualified applicants. -- Cerene Biomedics: Developer of a chip to be implanted in the brain of epileptics to control seizures. -- Fooala: Created a suite of Web applications to connect restaurants with their customers. -- The Green Cooling Group: Invented technology to chill liquids 120 times more efficiently than current methods in an environmentally friendly way. -- SpinFuSe: Organized a system to supply orthopedic equipment to surgeons in developing countries.

In addition to Katsouleas, other officials to speak at the formal ceremony are Bruce Kuniholm, director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy; Blair Sheppard, dean of the Fuqua School of Business; and George McLendon, dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

"That this is a multi-school effort involving Pratt, Fuqua, Trinity, Law and the nascent School of Public Policy is a reflection of the many dimensions that necessarily go into entrepreneurship in the public interest," Katsouleas said.