Venture Café: an introduction to student entrepreneurship

What’s it take to be an entrepreneur? Student panelists shared their experiences with others at the Sept. 17 Venture Café. The first of the semester, the Venture Café is sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship, a partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. During each session, students listen to and interact with other students with similar interests.

“There are problems you experience every day. It might as well be you who solves them,” said panelist Alex Bill. The psychology and sociology criminology graduate co-created AssessAble, a travel accommodation site for people with limited mobility.

All the panelists passionately encouraged students to participate in next month’s Start-Up Weekend, 54 hours of great life experiences and memories. Whether you’re interested in entrepreneurship and have a great world-altering concept or are just curious, all are welcome to see what it takes to start a business.

Start-Up Weekend is an excellent opportunity “to learn about the business development process then apply it to your own business idea,” said panelist Daniel Williams, a plant biology graduate student helping to develop AnyVent, an interactive guide to event planning for beginners.

Panelist Daniel Williams talks about Start-Up Weekend

Panelist Daniel Williams talks about Start-Up Weekend

All the panelists during this session were participants from the Innovation Engine Accelerator’s 12-week boot camp, where they executed their winning business plans from last spring’s Start-Up Weekend.

Business majors and non-business majors can pursue an entrepreneurship certificate through the Center for Entrepreneurship. Luke Pittaway, director of the center, said that the certificate program assists those interested in making an impact on the world, no matter their background.

This year’s Start-up Weekend is open to all students and majors and will be held October 18-20. To register, contact Start-Up Weekend Info

If you have questions or want to get involved with entrepreneurship, check out the following:

Innovation Center:


Innovation Engine Accelerator Program:


Digital Media Incubator:                 


Center for Entrepreneurship:

Director, Luke Pittaway:



Co-founder of the front page of the internet coming to OU!

Join us Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, at Ohio University

Ohnaian is embarking on a five-month tour of U.S. college campuses in hopes of inspiring a new generation of internet entrepreneurs. This tour isn’t just about hearing how Ohanian made “the world suck less,” but also listening to other success stories to demonstrate the tremendous entrepreneurship opportunities available on the internet.Want to be a part of figuring out the impact the internet has on the world? Attend the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Guest Lecture Series, presenting Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of on Monday February 24, 2014.

In his official tour announcement, Ohanian said, “We’re all still figuring out just what kind of an impact the internet will have on the world – let’s be the ones doing it.”

Ohanian has appeared twice on Forbes’ 30-Under-30 list, which chooses the best and brightest stars in creativity and entrepreneurship. He currently invests in over 70 start-up companies, serving as an advisor to some. Ohanian will sign copies of his book, Without Their Permission, following the presentation.

Ohanian will speak in the Walter Hall Rotunda at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24. Seating is limited, so you must register to attend the lecture. Click here to register now!

Have questions? Students can post questions in advance to:


Alumni Spotlight: Lillie Ranney


Starting a company is never easy. It takes imagination, perseverance, and incredible resourcefulness. Lillie Ranney has shown all of those talents with Foleeo, an online portfolio site for students and professionals to showcase their body of work.

Have you ever been asked for work samples, pieces, or other materials in an interview? Lillee had, but she thought that bringing a portfolio stuffed with 50 different projects was burdensome. Still, she wanted to showcase her skills and didn’t want to rely on the bullet points listed on her résumé. This is when the light bulb went off, and Lillie found a solution: create an online aid to build a professional portfolio based on experience! “The site was built to help people who don’t necessarily look good on paper, prove their skill and show off what they can actually do based on their true abilities,” Lillie says. “We actually want to help people build an online presence and market themselves in a unique light. That’s the goal and always has been the goal.”

How did Lillie make this idea a reality? She tapped into the Center for Entrepreneurship, most notably entrepreneur Kevin Aspegren and the Innovation Engine Accelerator program. In 2012, Lillie took an entrepreneurship capstone class in which she created a wide-scale business plan. She looked at what features Foleeo would include, what revenue streams it would have, what prototypes would look like, and more. Kevin gave Lillie the tools to help her business become a success. Lillie says, “Kevin helped me start Foleeo and then introduced me to another large connection who then became my mentor. I can’t thank Kevin enough, because he met with me constantly until I finally honed in on the Foleeo idea, and after I did, he helped me progress and set me up with my first business partner, along with everything else he’s ever done for Foleeo.”

Foleeo PresentationThe Innovation Engine Accelerator was instrumental in the nurturing of Foleeo as well. “The most important thing I got from it, besides funding, was the connections.” Lillie says. “Those connections were one of factors that helped me get to where I am now. Meeting people, and then those people introducing me to other people, it basically became a ripple effect.”

The ripple effect continued at Start-up Weekend in Columbus, where she was able to meet influential leaders from different levels of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including Jeff Lamb, who reshaped her perspective.

Lillie describes her first meeting with Jeff:

“[Jeff] asked me what I want Foleeo to be size-wise as we grow. I told him I wanted millions of users on the site. He asked me, ‘Why?’ I really didn’t have an answer, except that I wanted a lot of people to benefit from the site. He then asked, ‘Do you want to have a lot of money?’ I paused and said yes, not for personal reasons, but to scale the site and hire really good talent. Then he told me that Wikipedia is essentially a non-profit site that has a lot of “users” but they aren’t raking in the money because it’s free. Him asking me all of those questions really made me question what I was working for. Was I working to make millions? Was I working to have millions of people on the site? And if so, why? What was the purpose? That totally changed my mental picture of what success means.”

Foleeo became about passion. Every time Lillie had doubts about how Foleeo would turn out, she remembered that she was building it because it was fun, she believed in it, liked doing it, and knew people really needed it. “Success is trying, and doing something you want to do,” she says.

For those yearning to be entrepreneurs, Lillie offers this advice:

  • Don’t let your doubts sabotage your actions.  Honestly, you already know what you need to do, just go do it.  There isn’t one way of doing anything, so do what makes sense for the vision of your company. Test things out, not everything is going to work, but something eventually will.”
  • “Build relationships! Network as much as physically possible. Everywhere you go, network. I’ve gotten further by building relationships and asking for help than I have doing social media campaigns. People are willing to help if you just ask, and if you become close enough with them, they tend to become vested in your business and want to see you succeed and are more willing to help. Always ask for help and advice, the worst thing they will say is no or they won’t respond.”
  • “Understand that it takes time and is hard work. I had to get a full-time job and work on Foleeo at night and on the weekends. Not easy, but it was clearly doable.”
  • “There isn’t one way of doing things. If you are doing something different than everybody else, you are probably on to something. Build your own path. Eventually people will follow.

Foleeo has launched successfully and her team is testing out the value they’re delivering to students and professionals. Check out Lillie’s company at!

If you want to connect with,talk to, or get lunch with Lillie, she is more then happy to! Her email is She’s looking forward to your message.

hiVelocity talks about OU’s Innovation Engine Accelerator!

The Innovation Engine Accelerator received state-wide coverage in the hiVelocity e-magazine last week!

Please click here to read the original version of this article.

Here’s a snippet of the story:

innovation-engine-accelerator-logo“[…] The fledgling companies received up to $20,000 in seed funding and underwent a 12-week boot camp featuring mentorship opportunities with established executives and venture capitalists. Lynn Gellermann, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, taught in the program, offering his expertise in digital media IT.  ‘These six teams were selected out of 17 applications,’ says Gellermann. ‘They were screened, interviewed and selected based on their team, their idea and application.’

Viable ideas with viable markets won out. ‘We look at the prospect of [the company] being able to put together an idea or beta product in a short time that they can demo.’ “

Please click here to read the original version of this article.

Learn more about the Innovation Engine Accelerator here. Perhaps you can be our next standout student or team!

Epsilon Nu Tau (ENT): Explore your Entrepreneurship Drive

Do you see yourself transforming ideas into reality? Do you enjoy business innovation?

You may be an entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset,” said Jacob Freeder , re-founder of Ohio University’s ENT chapter. “Entrepreneurs are thinkers.”

Freeder is one of the founders of Epsilon Nu Tau, the nation’s first co-ed entrepreneurship fraternity. It’s a coed, professional organization that helps students launch and maintain sustainable businesses.

OHIO’s chapter is a part of the Center for Entrepreneurship, a joint initiative of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and the College of Business.

ENT membership is open to all majors. Members can obtain professional start-up guidance, receive sales training, encounter ethical business practices as well as participate in social events and activities — all leading to the establishment of their own nonprofit businesses. Everything is member-driven, from recruitment to participating in sales contests to organizing and collaborating with professionals in entrepreneurship to gain valuable skills such as marketing tactics.

Meetings are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Copeland 118.

For more information, contact:

Jordan Tyner

Follow: @OU_ENT


CREATE␣space presents Crowdfunding Workshop!

Interested in starting a new business or creating a new product?

Crowdfunding is becoming a viable source of revenue for those who wish to do something and can help you get the money you need!

Come learn about the basics of what crowdfunding is, how it works, and how you can successfully raise the funds you need for your creative works.

The event will feature Carl Wargo, COO of u-Wish!

– Where: Putnam Hall, Room 235
– When: Friday, September 20, 3-5pm.
– RSVP to

Crowdfunding Workshop

Learn more about Create_space here.

Six start-ups graduate from the OU Accelerator

The Innovation Engine Accelerator received state-wide coverage in the hiVelocity e-magazine!

Pitch2Six startup companies emerge from Ohio University’s digital media accelerator

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 10, 2013)—Six startup companies founded by students and alumni of Ohio University and West Virginia University emerged from an Ohio University summer entrepreneurship program aimed at keeping business and technology talent in the state of Ohio.  The startups that participated in the Innovation Engine Accelerator’s 12-week boot camp plan to launch digital media products such as event planning software, a travel site for people with limited mobility and an educational game platform that teaches users Arabic and other languages.  The companies received $20,000 in funding, extensive business mentoring and participated in the Lean StartUp curriculum offered by Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship this summer.

Although some regions sponsor stand-alone accelerator programs for entrepreneurs, the Innovation Engine Accelerator is unique because it is sponsored by Ohio University and draws upon its surging innovation and entrepreneurship programs, said Lynn Gellermann, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and TechGROWTH Ohio, a public/private partnership that encourages economic growth in southeastern Ohio through the provision of services and seed capital to technology startups.

“One goal of this program is to develop and retain talent in southeastern Ohio. Another is to further the culture of entrepreneurship that is so vital to commercializing research and finding new solutions for the societal challenges we face today,” he said.

The accelerator, which was held at Ohio University’s small business incubator, the Innovation Center, recruited 50Scripps business mentors who either worked one-on-one with the startups or provided specialized consulting on the various aspects of launching a new business and bringing an innovative product to market.

“Ohio University has a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem with extensive private and public partnerships throughout central and southeastern Ohio,” said Jennifer Simon, director of the Innovation Center. “We drew from this network to offer the startups professional expertise and coaching from Ohio’s top successful entrepreneurs.”

At the culmination of the accelerator program in August, the six startup companies gave presentations to regional investors and advisors. Each team of entrepreneurs explained their value proposition, product niche, potential market, benefits of their digital media technology, plans for sales growth and exit strategies.  Without the program, Alex Bill and his partners in the startup company AccessAble would have a lot of great ideas without the resources and know-how to make them happen, he said.

 “The accelerator not only opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship, but also provided me an understanding of business that will benefit me regardless of my career path,” said Bill, a recent Ohio University graduate.

This is the second year that Ohio University has co-sponsored the Innovation Engine Accelerator. Several of the companies from the 2012 cohort now are marketing products developed during the program, such as software that tracks the success of advertising campaigns and an interactive novel.  The program has helped the university strengthen its culture of innovation and entrepreneurship—both in the region and on campus.

 “What makes Ohio University truly unique is the robust infrastructure we have created to support entrepreneurship across the university. The accelerator program in digital media is a key aspect of that infrastructure because it helps the most viable projects matriculate from the idea stage to the commercialization stage,” said Scott Titsworth, dean of the Scripps College of Communication.

Program sponsors include TechGROWTH Ohio (administered by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs), WesBanco, Athenian Venture Partners, CreMedia and IMGUR, as well as Ohio University’s Innovation Center, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, Center for Entrepreneurship (a partnership of the College of Business and the Voinovich School), Scripps College of Communication, Russ College of Engineering and Technology and College of Arts and Sciences.

Profiles of the 2013 companies:

Razor-foundersMyCampus has created a mobile app that allows college students to quickly sell and purchase items in a secure and safe environment. Founders Brian Adams and Chelsea Browne developed a product that does not require users to provide personal information such as email addresses or cell phone numbers to exchange goods. There are more than 21 million college students in the United States, and they sell an average of $350 in used items (such as textbooks, tickets and furniture) per year.

Razor Dynamics offers a product that improves mobile phone location services. Current services are not always accurate or intuitive, says founder Christian “Rico” Sagardia, who developed the product with Gary Grant and Isaac Smith. The new product refines that technology using existing sensors in smart phones and provides a 3D graphical interface. The product could be used by fire fighters and first responders, or consumers looking for a better way to find friends and family in crowded or unfamiliar environments.

AccessAble has developed a website to provide travel information and booking services for people with limited mobility. The site provides comprehensive information about the accessibility of restaurants, hotels and other tourism sites. There are more than 56 million people in the United States with limited mobility, according to founders Ben Weiner, Frances Weiner, Alex Bill and Ryan Cox.

IMG_2284Atlas Language Innovations has created an educational online video game that can teach users Arabic and other in-demand languages. Most foreign language software programs rely on rote memorization and flash card techniques, but Atlas is focused on interactive stories that can teach vocabulary and grammar, according to founders Samuel Bockhoven and Sergio Gonzalez.

Foleeo has developed an online portfolio tool for job seekers in the business, engineering and technical fields. Users can showcase a full portfolio of work experience and samples, and the site contacts them about job openings that are a good fit for their skills. The startup also will pitch the product to recruiters seeking qualified applicants for jobs, according to founders Lillie Ranney and Joe Pollard.

Anyvent is software for inexperienced event planners. Many nonprofit organizations or student associations rely on people with little professional event planning experience to organize major programs. These positions experience high turnover, leaving organizations with little institutional memory from year to year. The software aims to solve both problems by creating a streamlined platform for event planning that can be archived by the organization, according to founders Sam Pattantyus and Daniel Williams.

Innovation Engine Website

Contacts: Lynn Gellermann, (740) 597-1722,; Jennifer Simon, (740) 593-1803,; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,