As new students become acquainted with the campus of Mississippi State University, they are certain to be introduced to the new facilities, including the E-Center, a 2,000-square-foot innovation hub that celebrated its ribbon-cutting in April. While the structure may be new to practically everyone, Mississippi State’s commitment to entrepreneurship extends beyond those new glass walls. In total, MSU states that over 12,000 square feet across the campus is dedicated just for the purpose of facilitating entrepreneurship.
The university’s dedication to entrepreneurial pursuits has also been part of campus culture before this latest ribbon cutting. MSU’s Entrepreneurship Week (eWeek) is coming up in its sixth year. The last eWeek brought together nearly 30 student-led startups and awarded over $30,000 in seed funding.
The Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, better known as the E-Center, also plays part of a much larger set of programs and services that help all members of Mississippi State University, including staff members with a startup mindset. Students from all majors can pursue an entrepreneurship minor, and engineering students can enroll in the Jack Hatcher Certificate program, which helps them connect their technical knowledge with the business skills. Beyond the academic curriculum, any Bulldog can seek guidance from the E-Center.
And in a way, it’s very much like a guidance center for the entrepreneur. With the MSU Startup Company Track, one can be introduced to a basic set of paths of bringing an idea to a viable product. The work obviously must be done by the entrepreneur, but the E-Center has specific services that can help move it forward. The E-Center currently supports about 100 active startups, so their staff has a great grasp of the needs of the young entrepreneur.
Outside the E-Center, MSU has its own makerspace, The Factory. For $40 a semester, any MSU member can have access to the maker equipment, from a 3-D printer to a welding set. There’s also a clothing laboratory, complete with 20 professional sewing and serger machines.
In addition to simply supporting the entrepreneurial path with encouragement and guidance, MSU actually boasts its own Angel & Mentor Network. Established in 2010, the group has been assisting MSU-affiliated companies with some funding guidance. This independent network is now in process of creating the MSU Angel Fund, with the mission to fund only startups originated by MSU students, staff, faculty and alumni.
Given the reality that most startups do fail, why does Mississippi State invest so much in entrepreneurship? The university states that while these startups may fail, the skills and knowledge acquired through the process in itself is the education that puts the students ahead of their peers in life. By having that opportunity in learning to fail, the students at Mississippi State may be getting the best start for life after college.