New fund supports student entrepreneur innovation
KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 12, 2020) — Student entrepreneurs soon will have more opportunities to innovate and grow their businesses with financial support from technology entrepreneurs Sid and Sophie Mookerji.
A $120,000 gift from the couple will establish the Mookerji Innovation Fund in Kennesaw State’s Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center. Focused on executing technology innovation and ideas, the new fund will provide an investment and early stage guidance for 12 small business and startups founded and run by KSU students and alumni.
“Kennesaw State’s entrepreneurship program extends beyond teaching the ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ so students build foundational skillsets to actually develop, launch and execute new ventures,” said Greg Quinet, executive director of the Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center in the Coles College of Business. “This new fund is an investment in student innovation and will support our students as they focus on entrepreneurial execution – launching and refining their businesses with external funding.”
The gift is the first of its kind for Kennesaw State, acting as a venture fund but without any ownership stake in these student-run companies from the university or the donor.
“Supporting entrepreneurship is core to the mission of the Mookerji Foundation and the young students and alumni of KSU are the exact demographic we would like to support,” Sid Mookerji said. “I am personally excited about the launch of the Mookerji Innovation Fund and its impact on the entrepreneurship support ecosystem in metro Atlanta.”
To be eligible for the funding, students or alumni who have graduated from Kennesaw State in the past five years complete a rigorous application and interview process, similar to the venture capital process. An investment in their innovation, the Mookerji Innovation Fund also will give the top three high-performing companies a $20,000 financial boost.
“These are KSU students who already have an idea or business and are ready for the execution phase,” Quinet said. “This fund will help to support students in how they use technology, like machine learning or artificial intelligence, to solve a problem. While innovation generally includes technology, these entrepreneurial opportunities must also be fundable, scalable and have market potential.”
In addition to financial support, industry leaders, including angel investors, venture capitalists and experts in corporate and technology law, will mentor and advise the new entrepreneurs as they transition to the venture execution stage and meet progressive milestones during the fund’s one-year commitment. Gartner, a research and advisory company, is among those offering expertise to these newly funded companies.
Shore Entrepreneurship Center officials have already seen collaborative groups of students and alumni from KSU’s Coles College of Business and the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology working to create new ventures of innovation.
Much of that innovation is focused on technology, a niche area of expertise for the Mookerjis, who are veteran technology entrepreneurs in the retail and IT technology industry.
Mookerji and his wife, Sophie, founded Software Paradigms International, a provider of information technology and back-office services for large retailers. They built the company from the ground up, helping corporations solve business challenges using technology. After more than 20 years as SPI owners, the entrepreneurial couple sold the company in 2015.
Sid Mookerji is the founder and CEO of Silver Spirit Global, an accelerator program that assists early-stage startups focused on retail, consumer and business technology solutions, and a managing partner with Silicon Road Ventures, a venture capital fund, accelerator program and innovation research group.
– Tiffany Capuano
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.