Students in CELect course make impact on local startups

St. Louis is becoming widely recognized as a successful hub for startup businesses, with a wide range of groups and services that provide a support network for budding entrepreneurs.

Washington University in St. Louis students are getting a firsthand look at one of those resources this semester as they help formulate pricing strategies, marketing plans and competitive analysis for businesses working at T-REX, a tech incubator that offers startup companies affordable office space at 611 Olive in downtown St. Louis.

The CELect (Center for Experiential Learning entrepreneur consulting team) course is open to undergraduate and graduate students in the university’s business, engineering and law schools.

Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin Business School, teaches the course at the school’s office/classroom space at T-REX. This is the second year it has been offered through the school’s Center for Experiential Learning, led by Ron King, PhD, the Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting.

“Students retain more knowledge when they have the opportunity to apply the concepts they are learning,” Holekamp said about the course format. “Our driving principle in the CELect course is impact. We want to impact the depth of our students’ learning, while at the same time helping our students make a positive impact on the trajectory of these startup businesses.”

T‐REX provides startup entrepreneurs with low cost and flexible enterprise space, while serving the region with quality programming and an inspiring community. Two years after its inception, T-REX occupies 80,000 square feet and growing. It is now home to more than 80 startups, including iTEN, Capital Innovators, Cultivation Capital, SixThirty and Arch Grants, and is home to many other entrepreneurial activities, including Startup Weekend and StartLouis.

“My experience before business school is somewhat unconventional, so having tangible success stories in the business world is immensely helpful in my career search,” said MBA student David Heller, explaining his decision to take the course. “The general concept of business development can translate into a number of roles, so even though CELect works with startups, the results apply to the broader business world.”

Sean Morris, CEO of Pulse Therapeutics Inc., said his company chose to participate in the course because of a need for good analytics that lead to good data.

“Washington University is full of bright students, and my interactions with them thus far have not disappointed,” Morris said.

“We are a St. Louis-based startup enterprise. My mantra is that it takes an entire village to raise a child. While I need the help and support now, I intend to give it back exponentially as we succeed,” Morris said.

“We need to build a talent pool here, and by interacting with the university and exposing young adults to the exciting world of health-care innovation, we really serve to have a positive impact by building a strong ecosystem that will be sustainable for decades to come.”

The course will conclude with final project presentations in late April.

“The CELect course provides a unique learning experience for students by embedding them in the real-time challenge of a startup, yet under the supervision of a faculty mentor,” King said. “In addition, the impact to the startup firm is substantial and allows new objective insights for the entrepreneur.”