Over the weekend of Feb. 7, about two dozen Brandeis students descended on the International Business School for the annual 3 Day Startup competition. 2015 marks the fourth year that a 3DS competition has been held at IBS. Originally held at the University of Texas in 2008, the program is now operated at 60 schools around the world. According to the 3DS organization’s mission statement, they seek to “kickstart new student-run companies and build entrepreneurial capabilities in students and their university communities.”
As the name implies, students spend 3 days at the 3DS working to design the next great startup company. Through an extensive process of working with fellow students while receiving advice from experienced professionals, the participants craft a business proposal ready for the eyes and ears of venture capitalists and startup accelerators. Winners of the Brandeis 3DS often get entered into a larger startup incubator contest called MassChallenge.
Viola Morse is the Brandeis chairperson of 3DS as well as the IBS senior associate director of administration and student services. “One of the M.B.A. students came to me with the idea, and it [looked like] a great experience for anyone interested in entrepreneurship. We were excited to be the first in New England that [3DS] worked with,” said Morse about the start of 3DS on this campus.
3DS organizer Igor Berman ’17 was the “sole heir” of the entrepreneurship club in his first year and is a member of the Brandeis 3DS committee. He talks about the 3DS competition being in a constant state of improvement and becoming valuable to students looking to get involved in the startup economy. “In the world that we live in, starting a business is a very alluring idea. ‘Startup’ is a big buzzword in hubs like Boston and San Francisco, and the Internet has lowered the barrier of entry to doing something without having to put in as many resources into setup. Why couldn’t Brandeis be a leader in the startup world?”
“We try to create an environment as close to how building a startup actually is. We invite people with experience in technology, business and finance to give real world wisdom into how to make the ideas work. A startup is really cool to join, but in terms of creating your own, it’s a really scary thought. We’re trying to lower people’s guards against doing it … Why wait until you graduate to try it out when you can do it in the comfort and safety of campus?” Berman explains.
Dan Driscoll is a part of the large 3DS network. He went to the University of Texas and participated in a 3DS competition in his first year of graduate school. The startup that he designed went on to become his full-time job in the form of a company called reQuip, which is “a marketplace for athletes to buy and sell cycling, triathlon and outdoor sports gear.”
Driscoll came to Brandeis to help as an organizer for this year’s 3DS. He passionately pitched to participants the key to a really good 3DS proposal. Thinking about what he likes to see in a startup, he says, “The drive. You need people who are willing to prioritize their startup above everything short of family. It’s people who dream big and have a reality distortion field, and who can see the forest and the skyline and not just the weeds and the trees. You need people who are proud of themselves and their work, and who are resilient enough to take a punch in the face. The people who refuse to be any less than their full potential. People who have a good idea and can stick with it make the best entrepreneurs.”
Octavian Bodareu was a student participant from the Republic of Moldova working on his master’s degree at the Heller School. He worked on a project called “CommunityCare,” which focuses on the problem of there being fewer family caregivers and working age adults to support an aging society. He says, “3DS is a useful platform to exchange experience, to work in [a] group and to have more business ideas.”
Shaima Ahmadi is a first-year graduate student focusing on finance and risk management at IBS. Her team was made up of four people from IBS and the computer science department. They worked on a project called “DressCode,” which is an application that helps users gather votes, reviews and comments from friends, the public and community members on their daily outfits. “The three days of the project were full of experience and good moments, where we worked hard as a team to develop our idea,” she recalls.
Samuel Zucker ’18 was the only first-year undergraduate at the 3DS. He’s working on an economics major, and worked from 10 to 13 hours a day on his project. He recalled once talking with a venture capitalist about his line of work over dinner one night of the project, and another time presenting his idea for a startup to a group of 25 strangers all older than he. “The great part about being a [first-year] was that everything I was told or taught was new information to me … I was constantly learning from fellow participants about their fields of study.”
Morse hopes to continue making the 3DS better, though not necessarily bigger, and perhaps one day even partner with Brandeis’ future innovations center for which the university recently received a $2.5 million grant.