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Spider Ventures to start accelerator program for student entrepreneurs

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<p>The entrance to the Robins School of business.</p>

 

The entrance to the Robins School of business.

Spider Ventures, an entrepreneurial organization founded by University of Richmond junior Julien Wadhwa, is introducing a 10-week virtual accelerator program this month to provide students with resources to make their start-up business ideas possible. 

Spider Ventures offers its members workshops, pitch competitions with cash prizes, the opportunity to work with local start-ups and mentorship from the organization's advisers, Wadhwa said.  

Wadhwa was the vice president of UR's entrepreneurship club his sophomore year, he said. He felt there was not much assistance for the entrepreneurial community on campus, so he started Spider Ventures during summer 2020, he said. 

"There were a lot of alumni who became entrepreneurs who would come back saying, 'You know, I wish there were more resources, more help, because even though I built my business, it was tough to build it in the atmosphere we had here at UR,'" Wadhwa said. 

"Learning that, I wanted to make an organization, and a good environment for entrepreneurs by giving them advisory capital and the connections necessary to really fulfill their business goals." 

Sophomore Randy Bi is the marketing executive for the Spider Ventures team and runs the organization's website, as well as its Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn accounts. 

The organization has about 50 active members, Bi said. 

"We’re very different and unique than any other business club," Bi said. "If you look around campus, we are literally the only entrepreneurship club, and if you look at the alumni list, it's kind of sad how many students we have here versus how many entrepreneurs we have. Sure, it can be hard on the way to become an entrepreneur, but we're here to help." 

The Spider Ventures executive team currently has 13 students and 15 advisers, Wadhwa said. The advisers are a combination of UR professors and Richmond business founders and CEOs, Wadhwa said. 

Page is the group's chief adviser. He is an Entrepreneur in Residence for the Robins School of Business and is the co-founder of RunRate, a financial and strategic advisory firm. 

Spider Ventures provides an inviting atmosphere for new entrepreneurs who want to learn more through the professional workshops and pitch competitions that the organization provides, Wadhwa said.

"[There is also] a speaker series," he said. "We've brought on some great names and we interview them about their careers, so people get to understand what entrepreneurship is like from other people's perspective." 

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The 10-week accelerator program is for students who are more interested in working on their own business, Wadhwa said. 

"People who want to go into tech, who want to learn about venture capital [and] private equity and learn about how to grow their businesses to the point where they're solidified before they even get out of college — that 10-week program is for them," he said. "So, we have two different segments, for casual entrepreneurs and then more hardcore entrepreneurs." 

Junior Ushna Khan was planning her own accelerator program when Wadhwa was starting Spider Ventures, so they decided to work together to create the 10-week model. 

"I became more involved with communities on other campuses," Khan said. "For example, UC Berkeley and Stanford, one thing that I noticed was that the reason they have so many start-ups and tech companies coming out of those specific colleges is because they have that support and specific programs and positions.

"When I looked back at [UR], I knew that there were some startups that came across during the summer, but there wasn't really a systematic approach for them to go through their idea stage and really take an idea that they really think was worth it and take it somewhere beyond that." 

The first of the weekly workshops was on Feb. 5, followed by a speaker series on Feb. 6, Khan said. 

"Our first workshop is [about] value proposition, like what it takes to get an idea," she said. "The last one is how to pitch in the first place. So you go through all those stages to take something that's just an idea into something that you can actually take to market." 

Spider Ventures' executive team plans to have the accelerator program every semester. The application process to join this semester's program required filling out a Google form, followed by a 15-minute interview, Khan said. 

"I'm hoping that Spider Ventures is the way I make my footprint, or my impact, at UR," Wadhwa said. "Hopefully when I leave it becomes bigger and better than ever because I truly feel like Spider Ventures is a spark to make the entrepreneurship department and concentration bigger than ever before." 

Newsletter director Eileen Pomeroy contributed to this story.

Contact news writer Meredith Moran at meredith.moran@richmond.edu.

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