New Certificate Program Provides Time and Space for IT Ventures

Posted: April 25, 2014 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: April 28, 2014 at 11:16 am

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By Preston Williams

Massimiliano Albanese

Massimiliano Albanese

Applied Information Technology professors Massimiliano Albanese and Mihai Boicu hear the same story all the time from students: “I have an IT-related business idea, I just don’t have the time to pursue it because of class demands.”

Starting in the fall semester, they will have the time. The Volgenau School of Engineering will offer an undergraduate Certificate in IT Entrepreneurship in which students can pursue their IT business innovations as part of their course work and earn credit toward their degrees.

The certificate program will be affiliated with the Laboratory for IT Entrepreneurship (LITE), a new venue for IT-related innovation. The mission of LITE, which began in Fall 2013, is to promote and support IT entrepreneurship through extracurricular activities that assist students in developing new IT ventures, from idea to launch.

LITE, in a related project, is hosting the first Pitch IT Competition from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, May 2, in the Johnson Center Gold Room. To participate, all that is required is an idea and a proposal for why your product or service would fulfill a need and make money. A full business plan is not required. The event is open to individuals or teams, as long as the team has at least one current George Mason University student on it.

A panel of judges will select three winners who will split $1,000 in prize money. The deadline to apply is midnight Sunday, April 27.

Winning the contest with a five-minute presentation would be the first step toward marketing your idea to potential investors. These are the kinds of ideas that will be fleshed out in the Certificate in IT Entrepreneurship classes in the fall for those enrolled in that program.

LITE will provide information, tools, technical skills, professional counseling and guidance. The affiliated Match IT program offers students, faculty and staff the opportunity to connect with potential business partners and create synergic teams that will combine tech savvy with successful business approaches. Aspiring entrepreneurs often have ideas but lack the technical skills to develop them.

Students involved in the certificate program will have that built-in class framework to turn their ideas into successful businesses.

“Course by course, you will be building pieces of your startup because that’s the assignment for class,” Albanese says. “This will create a path for students who want to be entrepreneurs to actually do it. There are a wide range of ideas that students have. They just need the support. By the end of this, you will have significant pieces of your startup in place.”

So instead of writing a business plan for a fictional company as part of their course work, students will write a business plan for their own company. Instead of working with outside companies in capstone courses, students will work on forming their own businesses.

The undergraduate certificate program includes two core courses, five electives and two capstones.

“We’ll try to make their life easier and show them how they can start putting their ideas into real applications,” Boicu says. “You try to give them the spirit of entrepreneurship so they will be able to combine innovation and implementation.”

Write to Preston Williams at pwilli20@gmu.edu

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