VT center gives students first hand entrepreneurial experience

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR News) – A Virginia Tech center is training the next generation of business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Apex Center for Entrepreneurs is a place for students, faculty, and alumni to get the skills to turn their ideas into reality. The center has different programs that offer things like mentorship, advice and even a small kickstart loan to teams starting a new concept.

Center Director Sean Collins says the programs are designed to turn people’s interests and passions into action. He also says this hands-on experience these students are getting now, will allow them to exercise their entrepreneur “muscle” in a safe environment.

“To be able to work every day with passion students and faculty and alumni, and help translate their passion into new products and services that benefit large numbers of people, it’s fantastic,” said Collins.

Collins says starting a business, is a popular option that’s growing, and they’re giving them the tools they need to do that and more.

“When you look at a lot of the programs we run to help students navigate risks, deal with ambiguity, work in cross-functional teams, those are skills that are helpful in startups but they’re also skills that make them desirable to companies in all shapes and sizes,” Collins said.

Freshman Neil Cyrus and his group, Ahab Mohamed and Zane Saleevy are working on an app to make transportation more efficient on campuses and in cities.

“Without the Apex Center we actually wouldn’t have been able to advance this past the class project level,” said freshman Neil Cyrus.

They are working in a Pubic Sector Innovation Challenge with the Apex Center and hope it will help them turn the app into a real service.

“Where we can go to struggling communities and towns that experience low public transportation usage and high single occupancy vehicle usage and tell them, we’re going to make you a custom app,” said Ahab Mohamed.

The center is open to all colleges and all majors.

“Given that I’m an engineer, there aren’t many entrepreneurship opportunities, especially as a first-year in college. And APEX center has allowed this V-Transit app to become more than just a 60-second pitch for a business class,” added Saleevy.

Sophomore Neha Reddy, who is also taking part in the Pubic Sector Innovation Challenge, agrees.

“When you’re learning how to walk you have to do it yourself. You put one foot in front of the other and you have to figure it out. Having the center and being able to be whatever major you are or whatever you’re studying, you’re allowed to come here and show the ideas because everything in the American Dream is entrepreneurship,” said Reddy.

Lots of the current projects involve some sort of technology. As the tech industry grows, the director for the center says they and they’re partners have a vision to open the center for everyone and for the New River Valley to be a destination location for people to come work in the technology field.

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