We provide support to get your idea through the first phase.
What is the Brown Venture Fellowship?
The Brown Venture Fellowship (BVF) is a year-long program that accelerates the development of Brown’s top commercial and technical student entrepreneurs through intensive skills training, the collective intelligence of the community, and complementary coursework. We take no equity in our companies.
We operate according to a simple premise: Learn by doing. We want you to experience the process of testing your services and products with customers to see what works. We’ll help you build skills and acquire tools to best approach challenges, but this fellowship is about planning and launching a real venture.
What does it offer?
Community of Brown’s top entrepreneurs in a wide range of industries such as consumer Internet and enterprise software, biotech, cleantech, food and beverage, hardware, and finance
Education through customized programming, industry experts and our entrepreneur-in-residence delivered when founders need iT
Each fellow receives an award of $4,000. The purpose of this award is to allow fellows to work on their ventures full-time over the summer
Who is eligible?
As a partner of various Brown departments and the undergraduate Entrepreneurship Program (BrownEP), we support all Brown student entrepreneurs with a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and approaches to problem solving. Our past fellows have studied computer science, humanities, design, engineering, biology and business. Participation in the fellowship is open to individuals and teams of up to three founders.
We take founders from all industries and departments, including biotech, cleantech, hardware, medical devices, nonprofits, music, finance, IT, etc. We seek dedicated teams that not only want to solve big problems, but also want to learn. We are looking for teams that are ready to engage with a valuable community of entrepreneurs and challenge their own assumptions.Teams may enter the Fellowship at a variety of stages, from pursuing an idea, to preparing to raise a seed round, to having recently developed an initial prototype.
Any Brown undergraduate may apply to the Brown Venture Fellowship, except for those graduating in May 2016. In addition, there is one seat in the program for a team from RISD. We are open to teams with co-founders that do not attend Brown or RISD, but expect each team to have at least one founder from Brown or RISD.
Can I still participate even if I do not meet the requirements?
For Brown/RISD students that do not meet the eligibility requirements, but are eager to participate (such as graduate students and graduating seniors), we will still consider your application. However, our funding restrictions do not allow us to provide the funding to cover full-time work on your venture over the summer. If you are interested in participating in the no-funding option, please apply using the standard application. We hold the same expectations that you will fully participate in the community in the spring, work on your venture full-time during the summer, and continue in the fall as long as you are on-campus.
What are the expectations?
- Commit to approximately 2-3 hours of programming per week in the spring and fall semesters over the course of their year in the Fellowship (will be scheduled in the evening). This programming takes the form of workshops, small group meetings, dinners, and/or speaker events. Fellowship programming is highly interactive and applied, our facilitators are experienced and skilled practitioners, and we always have food at our events
- Spend at least 10 hours per week on exploring and growing their venture during the school year
- Work full-time on their ventures over the course of 10 weeks during the summer
- Attend an off-site weekend retreat at the beginning of the spring 2016 semester
- Serve as mentors for the next cohort of fellows in the spring following the year-long Fellowship
- Enroll in The Entrepreneurial Process: Innovation in Practice (ENGN 1010) or Context Research for Innovation (SOC 1118) to complement the Fellowship and provide university credit. Stay tuned for more details
When does it start?
BVF begins each January. Throughout the spring semester, fellows participate in customer development that helps them develop a business model, a pitch, and a plan for their summer. Fellows then spend the summer working full-time on their venture. In the fall semester, Fellowship programming is focused on skills such as selling, marketing, fundraising, strategic planning, and governance. The following spring semester, fellows are asked to serve as mentors for the following cohort in the Fellowship.
Is it extracurricular?
Yes and No. The Brown Venture Fellowship is an extracurricular program and students do not gain course credit from its direct programming. The teaching method is interactive, experiential and assumes that students are highly motivated to be part of an active learning community. However, enrollment in ENGN 1010 or SOC 1118 is required at some point during a fellow's time at Brown as part of the Fellowship award.
Students interested in applying for the Fellowship are encouraged to meet with Danny Warshay, entrepreneur in residence, or Liz Malone, entrepreneurship coordinator for the Swearer Center, School of Engineering, and BEO, to share their ideas and receive initial feedback.
Brown students should complete the application through Ufunds. If you are a RISD student, please find find a digital a digital copy of the application, here and email it in completed form as a PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please select one member to apply on behalf of the team. There will be fields to collect all applicants’ information. When a section of the application asks for personal statements, be sure to upload all personal statements in one PDF. Please note that all individuals require two recommendation letters. If you are not the individual submitting on behalf of the group, please have your recommender or yourself send the letter directly to email@example.com.
November 11, 2015: Option to submit a draft application
- Submitting a draft proposal is not required, but recommended. If you are interested, you will only be asked to fill out Section 1: Applicant Information and Section 2: Project Proposal of the application by November 11th, 2015.
- Come to one of our application writing workshops (times below) for more information about a draft application.
- As with the final application, Brown students should complete the draft proposal through Ufunds, and RISD students should email a PDF form of the completed draft sections, found here, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 23, 2015: Submitting a final application
- All sections are required for a final application. Please respond thoughtfully to the questions and provide sufficient information, without exceeding the page limit of each section. Brown Venture Fellowship alumni, trusted expert judges and former Brown Venture Lab participants will review submitted applications to determine which teams receive an interview and acceptance into the program.
Find a digital copy of the application, here
- Information session: Sept. 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Petteruti Lounge
- Information session: Oct. 13, 2015at 7:00 p.m. in 123 Dyer Street, RISD Career Center. RSVP.
- Application Workshop: Oct. 26, 2015 at 7 p.m. in J. Walter Wilson 303. RSVP.
- Application Workshop: Nov. 5, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Swearer Center. RSVP.
- Optional draft application deadline: Nov. 11, 2015
- Final application deadline: Dec. 23, 2015
- Applicants notified: January 2015
Our 2015-2016 Cohort
Matt Cooper - Chorus
Concentration/Year: Computer Science ‘18
Hometown: Wayland, MA
About Me: I have been playing and writing music for as long as I can remember. I was the lead singer, guitarist and manager of Pacifists at War, an alternative rock band. We signed to a local record label and released a full-length album, Sleep Now and Forever Hold Your Peace, in 2014. I also have a strong background in entrepreneurship and technology. I started my first small business, customizing lacrosse heads, in fourth grade. In high school, I taught myself OS X development, designed a planner app to make sense of Wayland High's convoluted schedule, and sold it to the school.
Venture Description: Chorus is a groundbreaking social platform that allows musicians to collaborate socially in the creation of new songs. Users can post original songs and contribute their musical or lyrical ideas to others’ songs by simply recording into the app. As a song builds with layers upon layers of contributions, it transforms, taking on the global influence of all those who participated in its creation. Chorus is music, collaboratively.
Minyue Shi - QipaoX
Concentration/Year: Business of Art and Fashion ‘17
Hometown: Beijing, China
About Me: I’m from China and, as an art history concentrator, I have always been interested in East Asian aesthetics and fashion history. My particular interest initiated from one of my performing art projects. In January 2014, I participated in an Artistic Meditation Retreat Program hosted by a NGO named Peace Revolution, in which I developed my first performing art project and became interested in this art form. In May 2014, I traveled to Southern China and visited a Qipao factory. During the trip, I was fascinated by the complicated manufacturing process of the traditional Chinese dress. Given that very few people are wearing Qipao on the street (people generally only wear it on special occasions) in China nowadays, I decided to do a performing art project to wear Qipao for 365 days and keep an online blog to record my project. The project started on May 15th this year. During the project, I have traveled to Mexico City, Dubai, Kathmandu, Tibet and various other cities -- all while wearing Qipao. I even did scuba diving and paragliding in it!
The project brings unexpected attention and opportunities. As the accumulated number of readers of my online blog reaches 50000+, a renewed Chinese publishing house invited me to write a book about Qipao and my adventure. Also, more and more readers of my blog begin to message me to consult where to buy well-designed Qipao in China. After doing careful market research, I find that the Qipao market now in China is highly inefficient, with suppliers providing very similar poorly designed Qipaos and competing with each other with lower and lower prices. Interested in art entrepreneurship for a long time, I realize that an opportunity has come to start a brand to re-design the traditional Qipao and cooperate the dress into contemporary fashion. On the other hand, as I wear Qipao on Brown campus every day, I find that American and other international students are also interested in this traditional form of attire and often ask me where to obtain it. After doing market research on campus, I find that a Qipao brand might even have the potential and scalability to develop into a global business.
Venture Description: I wish to bring changes to the Qipao industry. Qipao, or Cheongsam in Cantonese, is the traditional dress of China. Nowadays, with the rise of the economic and political status of China on the international stage, Chinese (especially young people) are becoming more and more confident in their own cultural heritage and are more willing to embrace traditional clothing. However, very few brands give enough attention to the market segment of youth and the existent Qipao designs are OLD — if you put on the dress, it looks like you're from the 1920s and you look 10 years older. Taking the design from traditional into high-end fashion is not new. However, designing Qipao as "street wear" is a novel concept, which is why I want to create and target this new market segment.
Morgan Brown - Gazella
Concentration/Year: Science and Society ‘16
Hometown: Canton, OH
About Me: The Black hair care industry is huge but most of the products marketed towards Black women are filled with mediocre and even harsh ingredients. Growing up as a Black girl I was expected to use harsh chemical relaxers to straighten my naturally curly hair in order to fit a societal standard of beauty that does not usually come naturally with Black women. When I decided to wear my hair naturally curly and stop using chemical relaxers, I could not find products for my hair type with ingredients that I understood.
I created Gazella to address the fact that there are unique hair textures and that people deserve a product that will work best for their hair. Additionally, people should know more about the ingredients that are being marketed to us and the benefits of using truly natural oils above synthetic ones.
Venture Description: Gazella is a system where the user can select all-natural ingredients to put into their own customized hair and/or skin care products. With Gazella, I strive to make more truly natural products available as well as educate others on the benefits of natural ingredients over the harmful ingredients in products that are on store shelves.
Amory Bennet – Podia
Concentration/Year: Political Science ‘16
Hometown: Brookline, MA
About Me: I'm a Junior at Brown studying political science. I like this idea enough to pursue it in part because I only get to hear from a small subset of the smart, interesting people around me. I think Podia, as a tool for question-sharing, will be an easy and productive way of getting exposure to more voices on campus (especially the less vocal ones).
Venture Description: Hand raising is an inefficient way of facilitating Q&A in courses and speaker events. The students who get airtime in this system are not necessarily the most thoughtful or insightful—often they’re just the bravest or the loudest. Podia is a mobile app for sharing questions and selecting them by vote, instead of bravery. The goal is not to replace hand raising, but to compliment it in a way that will make courses and events more engaging for more people.
Tristan Paine – Electric Propulsion for Aviation
Concentration/Year: Mechanical Engineering ‘15.5
Hometown: Barrington, RI
About Me: My interest in aviation was sparked as a child building, flying, and crashing remote controlled airplanes. I pursued my interest in electric flight through college by studying engineering and working for companies such as Tesla Motors and SpaceX. I'm hoping to leverage these experiences to adapt electric vehicle technology for the aerospace industry. When I'm not trapped in Barus & Holley you can usually find me wandering around outside.
Venture Description: My project focuses on finding sustainable alternatives to jet propulsion. Much like the ongoing shift to electric mobility in the automotive industry, stricter emissions regulations and volatile fuel prices will soon drive aviation away from fossil fuel based propulsion. I'm exploring the feasibility of using electric propulsion for high speed, long-range aircraft.
TANNER LAGUATAN & Jaden Andrea– MADEIN
Concentration/Year: BEO and Comparative Literature ’18 (Tanner) & RISD - Interior Architecture ‘17 (Jaden)
Hometown: Orange County, CA & Orange County, CA
About Me (Tanner) : I graduated from a high school for the arts, where the common dream was to work in your conservatory. For a year I wanted to be a writer, and for even longer, many of my friends wanted to be designers, painters, photographers, future Pixar employees. After high school, they took the entrepreneurial route: enroll in an arts conservatory, try to get their work sold through a gallery or the power of do-it-yourself marketing.For anyone who can't sell to a gallery, sales are limited to friends and family, the reach of Facebook. Immediately, I considered what could get these artists discovered; what technological tools can spotlight the undiscovered? The question soon became, how can a social media site market the user, to make artists visible in their communities? Several months later, MadeIn became the answer.
About Me (Jaden): I'm a California native going to the Rhode Island School of Design for interior architecture and sculpture. MadeIn matters to me because I'm aware of the issues and desires many artists face in the art world, that our project aims to solve.
Venture Description: An invisible artist is a starving artist. MadeIn is a hybrid platform, where social media and a commercial gallery come together to showcase local, unsung talent. In this online space, users interact directly with artists to purchase work. In turn, artists update their communities with new work, musings, collaboration opportunities, and local events. MadeIn connects art to stories and stories to people - bringing anyone to the heart of the local scene.
Ingrid Zippe – Bast
Concentration/year: RISD - Apparel ‘17
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
About Me: I am a student of art and culture who enjoys people, coffee, and fashion. This is all I do. Join me!
Venture Description: Bast is the first artistically acclaimed fashion label to actively seek creative direction from outside its own organization. At Bast, rather than have creative direction dictated downward by a single head designer, we invite young artists and student designers to submit their ideas. We then work with the artist through production and manufacture of the product, exposing them to practices that will be both creatively and economically empowering to them after the experience. The old standard for brands was to play up consumer insecurities related to body image or socioeconomic class, whereas the Millennial spirit expects new brands that can offer them something genuinely experimental and and encourage creative confidence.