Startup Weekend East Lansing 2020

Bringing the World Closer One Startup Weekend at a Time

In the time before a once-in-a-century pandemic, attending an East Lansing Startup Weekend was a raucous occasion, replete with pizza, pop, and all-night work sessions. Since 2012, over a thousand students, community members, and mentors have gathered for one of the nearly two dozen East Lansing events—some participants coming from as far away as Montana. For 54 hours, Startup Weekenders would form teams around ideas, solve problems through collaboration, and, culminating in a final night of pitches, take home a year’s worth of frosted animal crackers.

East Lansing Startup Weekend November 2019
East Lansing Startup Weekend participants prepare to disperse into teams during a November 2019 event.

Today, though, while Spartans work to keep one another healthy, the team behind the Burgess Institute’s East Lansing Startup Weekend has quietly reinvented the event. They’ve trimmed it down to 30 hours and transitioned work sessions into the virtual space. What remains offers students new ways of fostering community, connection, and creativity.

Startup founders are well-acquainted with change and risk. Entrepreneurs and their teams need to pivot quickly through shifting customer behaviors, evolving supply chain dynamics, and the countless other unexpected challenges thwarting their paths. With lean teams and finite resources, these brave souls place a high price on adaptability and high-risk appetites.

“East Lansing Startup Weekend is all about building confidence,” Aubrey Haase, the Burgess Institute’s events & projects coordinator, explained. “It’s a platform where students, no matter their major or college, can bring their ideas to the table. You work hard to see if those ideas are attractive to the marketplace. Startup Weekend is the starting point where you show yourself — and your peers — what you can do.”

Haase, a recent graduate from Michigan State, knows this program firsthand. She’s seen it as a participant and now orchestrates the event as part of her full-time role with the Burgess Institute.

“Now that we’re virtual, these experiences are highly refined and tailored for students. We match skills, knowledge, and interests with submitted ideas, teammates, and expert Spartan alumni mentors. As Startup Weekenders build their teams and jump-start the venture creation process, we want to help them continue growing. That’s why we’re here.”

Like SKOOP digital, BRITE bites, CAPNOS, and Erudis Games, successful student companies have emerged from East Lansing Startup Weekend experiences. Their founders took their companies from the event directly into the Burgess Institute’s Discovery program.

Brendan Wang (Supply Chain ’22), founder and CEO of CAPNOS, made the most of his experience. “East Lansing Startup Weekend is energizing,” he said, “it’s a weekend that truly embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. Startup Weekend gave me the confidence to turn my idea into reality.” (Hear more from Brendan on Hatchcast.)

Wang, now part of the Burgess Institute’s most advanced entrepreneurial track, Launch, marshaled a team around his product idea, which has grown into the CAPNOS Zero. “In 30 hours, you have to convince your peers that your idea offers value, get them as excited as you are, and together we execute. Market research, prototyping, customer discovery, and building a compelling pitch. These are skills every entrepreneur needs.”

How You Can Get Involved

For the 2020–2021 academic year, the Burgess Institute offers four East Lansing Startup Weekend e-sessions — two in the fall (October 2 – 3 and November 6 – 7, 2020) and two in the spring (February 5 – 6, and April 9 – 10, 2021). This fall’s sessions saw over 140 East Lansing Startup Weekenders attend the virtual events.

While the transition to the virtual setting heightens student involvement, East Lansing Startup Weekend is seeing a dramatic uptick in alumni who want to be part of the community as student-team mentors. East Lansing Startup Weekend depends on talented, experienced alumni from a broad range of backgrounds, from experienced entrepreneurs to venture capital investors to seasoned operators of successful startups.

“It’s incredible,” said Christopher Sell, the Burgess Institute’s director of alumni and entrepreneur engagement. “We’ve always seen alumni enthusiasm around these events,” says Sell, “but under non-pandemic circumstances, we would be limited to inviting alumni who live near the Great Lakes Region. Now, we’re seeing mentors join us from across the nation. It’s impressive seeing this energy and the positive impact on our students.”

“The last time I participated in East Lansing Startup Weekend, I gained confidence that I can build a business in just a weekend,” said Vigneshwer Ramamoorthi (Sophomore, Computer Engineering). “But, this time, with [the event being] all virtual, Startup Weekend broke my personal record! This experience proved to me that we can build a company in just 30 hours, irrespective of where you are. I would like to thank the Burgess Institute who made me believe that we can do great things even if we are living in this new normal.”

Spring 2021’s East Lansing Startup Weekend first session is already accepting registrations for its February 5 – 6, 2021 event. The deadline to register and submit ideas for this session is January 29, 2021. Interested in attending? Please visit: Are you an alum ready to mentor? Reach out directly to Christopher Sell.

What's Your Venture?

MSU’s Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Rises to Fourteen in National Ranking

The Princeton Review announcement marks the third consecutive year of distinguished recognition

Contact(s): Aaryn Richard, Caroline Brooks

For the third straight year, Michigan State University’s Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is recognized as a leader in entrepreneurship education. The Princeton Review announced today its top 25 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the nation, and Michigan State rises from #16 to #14.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem at Michigan State has received deep investments since its 2012 inception, fostering a culture of innovation where participants hone a mindset that attracts the attention of talented, motivated student and alumni venturers.

“Providing students with real-world opportunities to take action on their ideas is a serious undertaking,” said Lori Fischer, the Burgess Institute’s assistant director. “Since 2012, we’ve helped Spartans build the courage to take calculated risks and fortified those risks with tangible resources. Our programs are designed not only to assist students in launching successful ventures but also aid them in refining an entrepreneurial mindset.

MSU’s Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation launched in 2016 and continues to be one of the fastest-growing minors in the university’s history. With more than 700 students currently enrolled, the minor welcomes undergraduates from all MSU disciplines.

“When we launched the undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, our vision homed in on cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship at MSU. Being recognized by the Princeton Review for a third straight year confirms we’re doing something right,” said Ken Szymusiak, the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s managing director of academic programs. “This recognition highlights the depth and breadth of what we offer students — from an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship and innovation to a student incubator to a summer accelerator to a venture capital fund, we’re supported by participation from all undergraduate colleges.”

Year over year, participation in the Burgess Institute’s programming has seen exponential growth. In fact, over the last five years student venturers have launched 691 startups, a 38% increase since 2015.

Beyond the entrepreneurship and innovation minor and 50+ entrepreneurship-related undergraduate courses, MSU’s student offerings include participation in national startup competitions like SXSW (South by Southwest), mentoring opportunities with successful entrepreneurial alumni, student organizations and clubs, as well as dynamic spaces for students to create.

“We had nearly 4,500 students participate in our academic entrepreneurship courses last year, representing 129 unique majors across all colleges. This is what sets Michigan State apart,” Szymusiak said.

“The colleges on our list have truly superb entrepreneurship programs,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. “Their faculties are genuinely engaged in entrepreneurism. Their courses are rich with in-class and out-of-class experiential components, and the financial and networking support their students receive via donors and alumni is extraordinary.”

To compile the 2020 ranking, The Princeton Review surveyed more than 300 schools offering entrepreneurial studies across data points related to scholarships and grants, successful alumni entrepreneurs, and faculty support.

Spartan Gift Guide

 11 Spartan-owned, Michigan businesses to support this holiday season

As the holiday season quickly approaches, use this guide to explore goods from MSU alumni and student entrepreneurs. 

This holiday season, consider giving a gift that will help a fellow Spartan. The Broad College and Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation joined together and compiled 11 Michigan-based businesses, run by MSU alumni and students, as a handy holiday guide for your gifting this season. 

Read the full article by clicking here.

Adam M. Enfroy and Joshua Cooper

SKOOP digital Founder, Josh Cooper, Named 2020’s Adam M. Enfroy Digital Entrepreneurship Scholar

The Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has chosen Joshua Cooper, an Advertising Management senior with a minor in entrepreneurship, as 2020’s Adam M. Enfroy Scholar for Digital Entrepreneurship. Cooper is the founder and CEO of SKOOP digital. The startup company offers its customers a robust software platform to manage their marketing messaging and creative assets across their existing, as well as tailor-made, digital screen infrastructure.

Adam M. Enfroy (Media and Information, ‘12) established the annual scholarship to recognize and support talented, highly motivated student venturers creating within the digital entrepreneurship space. Each year, the Burgess Institute selects a scholar who demonstrates traction within the digital entrepreneurship space and exemplary engagement within the Burgess Institute’s Discovery and Launch programs. Ideal scholars also show aptitude, passion, and commitment to their academic success and the ability to balance building a startup with the inherent demands of academic rigor. The Adam M. Enfroy Digital Entrepreneurship Scholarship awards $2,500 for the awardee to apply toward student expenses through the office of financial aid.

“Hard work pays off,” beamed Cooper, who has been part of Michigan State’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for three years. “SKOOP would not be where it is today without the resources and support received from the Burgess Institute.”

Cooper is an alumnus of the Conquer Accelerator program’s 2019 cohort, receiving a $20,000 investment in exchange for an equity stake in SKOOP digital. Also, in 2019, Cooper took home the top prize at the Burgess New Venture Challenge.

“The Burgess Institute and its team never give up on their students. It’s an honor to be a part of this ecosystem—and I’m humbled to be named 2020’s Adam M. Enfroy Digital Entrepreneurship Scholar.”

Earlier this year, Adam M. Enfroy established the undergraduate scholarship in his name specifically for digital entrepreneurs.

Enfroy’s path to success was more winding than he anticipated. In a recent Hatchcast interview, Enfroy admitted he was not a model Spartan student during his time in East Lansing.

“College life was difficult for me. I didn’t take the opportunity as seriously as I should have, and, at the time, didn’t know what to do with my life.” In fact, by his junior year, Enfroy had failed classes. “Academics took a backseat to partying and having a good time.”

“It took me over five years to complete my degree from MSU. After graduation, I still felt pretty lost and was unsure what to do with my life. After a number of failures, I realized it was time to buckle down and make some big changes.” Ultimately, Enfroy taught himself digital marketing, traveled across the country taking marketing positions for tech companies, and was promoted five times in five years. After gaining enough experience, he decided to strike out on his own, launching his marketing blog,, in 2019.

Today, Enfroy’s blog reaches over 500,000 monthly readers, who are learning how to start and scale successful online businesses. In a recent Forbes interview, he highlights his personal struggles and how he now makes over $80K per month from his blog.

“Having this opportunity to give back is important to me,” said Enfroy, “entrepreneurs do not create in a vacuum, and our successes are the result of the help and support we receive along the way.”



Burgess Institute Launches Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

The Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Michigan State University welcomes five successful Spartan entrepreneurs into its Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program's inaugural cohort.

Starting this fall, students in the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation's globally recognized program can expect to receive even more in-depth, one-to-one mentorship and learning experiences. Open to all majors, students who are part of the institute's programming explore entrepreneurship as a career path and hone their entrepreneurial mindset.

Burgess Institute 2020–2021 EIR Cohort

Jamene Bowdry• Jasmene Bowdry (B.S. Fashion Merchandising, '05) is a retail strategist and fashion entrepreneur. She launched SHIFT StyleHouse®, a contemporary clothing boutique for the modern renaissance woman. Joining her love of business and passion for fashion, Bowdry also founded The Boutique Teacher, LLC, which provides both current and aspiring boutique owners with proven retail strategies to grow and scale their online businesses.

• Curtis Daniel III (B.S. Psychology, '95) is co-founder and CEO of Patchwerk Recording Studios. Under Daniel, Patchwerk Studios has been the home to more than a dozen Grammy-nominated audio engineers and over 100 gold and platinum records. Patchwerk has also been the creative force behind several educational programs and music events, such as Music University, Weekend Workshops, I Do Music, and R&B Live.

Stacey Marsh• Stacey Marsh (B.A. Marketing, '86) is the co-founder and former CEO of Flatout Flatbread. She lives by the simple words her father said to her," Never wonder 'what if.'" In 2015, she and Flatout Flatbread co-founder, her husband, Michael (B.A. Marketing, '85), successfully sold their company to Lancaster Colony. Today, she enjoys giving back and helping young entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life.

John Rood• John Rood (B.A. International Relations and Political Theory, '05) founded Next Step Test Preparation, which grew from a two-person tutoring operation to a market leader in pre-health entrance exam test preparation before selling to private equity. Today, he is the managing director at Greenrood Holdings LLC, which invests in education and edtech businesses.

Jim Wirth• Jim Wirth (B.A. Accounting and Information Systems, '89) is a co-founder and CEO at GiantMouse, LLC, and owner and CEO of Golden Gate Goods, LLC. Wirth started his career as a Computerized Information Systems Auditor at Price Waterhouse. He co-founded BASE Consulting Group in the San Francisco Bay Area, which merged with Knightsbridge Solutions before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard.

A vision outlined in 2012 has carried through to today: The Burgess Institute's team believes the same skills that make for successful entrepreneurs also make for successful humans. Further, Michigan State University is the destination for students to launch their high-impact, entrepreneurial journeys.

"The Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation empowers students to learn through action," said Paul Jaques, the institute's managing director of venture creation. "By providing campus-wide programs, courses, and resources, we're watching how students have the freedom to test their ideas. They fail, they learn from their mistakes and make decisions about how to refine their processes. Together, we nurture an entrepreneurial mindset, improve empathy skills, and, in many cases, take new ventures to market."

With the EIR program's advent, student entrepreneurs can expect a more profound, meaningful experience in creating and launching their startups.

Christopher Sell, a social innovator and the Burgess Institute's director of alumni and entrepreneur engagement, brings together Spartans from across the nation. Since 2016, Sell has been laying the foundation for entrepreneurial alumni, connecting them with students building startups at Michigan State University. Of the 2020–2021 inaugural cohort, Sell believes, ". . . [w]e couldn't ask for a more passionate, more dedicated group of Spartans. 2020's EIR cohort brings accomplished entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals to the table. These Spartans offer students a diversity of thought, backgrounds, and industry expertise."

The venture creation process is a challenge, which is why 2020's inaugural cohort welcomes alumni who demonstrate coaching and advising savvy, not to mention a deep capacity to understand the role and responsibility mentors play in students' daily lives.

Sell goes on to say, "Across their year with us, EIRs are expected to meet at minimum two hours per week with their mentees. From professional advice to listening and thinking through some of the most challenging problems our students face as creators, these mentors are here to prepare our students for a 21st-century career and economy."

The EIR selection process focuses on applicants' track records, availability, and deep commitment to giving back.

"It's an honor," says Jasmene Bowdry, who joins this first cohort. Bowdry is a retail strategist, fashion entrepreneur, and founder of SHIFT StyleHouse®, a contemporary clothing boutique for modern renaissance women. "I'm committed to helping our students find their passions and look forward to watching them grow."

Stacey Marsh, co-founder and former CEO of the successful Flatout Flatbreads also joins the 2020–2021 cohort. "What I find most inspiring about this program is its real-world applications. Its tangibility. Right now, especially, we crave meaningful connections. This program harnesses that desire."

Neil Kane

Neil Kane: Why today is the right time to start a business

Neil Kane is an educator in the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and co-author of The Innovator’s Secret Formula.

Despite the many challenges in today’s world, from social unrest to a global pandemic to economic catastrophe for many and the uncertainty that entails, it is still a great time to start a business.

[Read the entire article by clicking here.]

Burgess New Venture Challenge Announces Inaugural Competition Winners Circle with Right Arrow Icon

(April 18, 2019) The Burgess New Venture Challenge (BNVC), an early-stage pitch competition bringing together Michigan State University student entrepreneurs and business leaders from across Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, announces the winners of its first annual contest. Last evening, fifteen Michigan State University student startups pitched their ideas to a panel of expert judges, competing for scholarship prizes totaling over $40k in scholarship funding.