Sixteen Bowdoin students recently took part in an intensive, entrepreneurial workshop run by a renowned Silicon Valley startup professional. The workshop, which also included participants from Bates and Colby, aimed to teach students how to turn ideas into successful business ventures. The weekend was organized by Drew Sigfridsson ’98, managing partner at CBRE | The Boulos Company, a commercial real estate brokerage. Sigfridson, who runs the company’s operations in Maine and New Hampshire, approached administrators at the three colleges with a proposal to hire a highly regarded expert in entrepreneurial thinking from the West Coast to run a two-day immersive workshop.
“I hope this program encourages alumni and administrators’ support of students’ entrepreneurial efforts and fosters connections to Maine and the opportunities in our State,” said Sigfridson. He got the idea for the event after having conversations with Boston venture capitalist Sean Marsh ’95, and coming to the realization that small liberal arts colleges tend not to focus on entrepreneurship education. They approached Henrik Scheel, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and founder of the Startup Experience, whose workshop program has successfully coached students in more than twenty countries.
Over the weekend of February 4-5, 2017, around sixty students from the three Maine colleges met in Portland to learn how to identity a problem, develop a solution and turn that idea into a viable business. The students came from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, majoring in everything from anthropology and art history to computer science. Split into teams alongside complete strangers, they worked to formulate, test, refine, and ultimately pitch business ideas to a panel of judges who are themselves successful entrepreneurs and investors. Among them, Sandra Stone ’77, former chair of the Maine Angels investment network. The students were also guided by a number of mentors, including Sigfridson, Marsh and Sean Sullivan ’08, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild and co-founder of Buoy Local.
Among the students attending was Kevin Ma ’17. “The Startup Experience deconstructed and de-mystified the idea of entrepreneurship,” he said. “In fact, it really made the idea of starting my own business exciting and enticing. Maybe I’ll work on my startup idea after graduation!”
Sigfridson said he hopes the event will be a catalyst for for future collaboration among Colby, Bates and Bowdoin students and alumni for developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Maine. “When they think about starting a business after graduation, I hope they consider starting it here. These students really have an opportunity to make a huge impact on the future of our state.”