Marshall University celebrated its new Brad D. Smith Business Incubator today at a ceremony in Huntington. The business incubator space, which is being renovated, is on the first floor of the university’s Visual Arts Center at 927 Third Ave., across from Pullman Plaza.
The incubator is a partnership between the Marshall University Brad D. Smith Schools of Business and the university’s Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), and is expected to begin accepting tenants in August 2019.
Entrepreneurs will be able to apply for a space in the business incubator to help them cultivate new ideas aimed at growing the local and regional economy. The facility will offer mentorship and support to startups, and will give entrepreneurs access to Marshall’s innovation ecosystems, including subject matter experts and student interns. The incubator also will provide tenants with office space, storage and access to conference rooms.
The facility is named for Marshall alumnus and benefactor Brad D. Smith, executive board chairman of Intuit and chairman of Nordstrom, who believes West Virginia and Marshall are breaking new ground with the creation of the incubator.
"My passion for West Virginia and the potential I see in its people has only grown over the years," Smith said. "I want to inspire West Virginia’s entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves and to do so in a space like the business incubator, which will encourage game-changing ideas in what I call the ‘overlooked zip codes’ of my state. West Virginia needs its people to remain committed to its progress, and I believe Marshall’s business incubator will motivate folks to do just that."
Marshall President Jerome A. Gilbert agreed, saying, "We are tremendously excited about the possibilities we see for creating synergies among our region’s entrepreneurs, the extensive resources we have at Marshall University and our Huntington business community. Our students will be some of the principal beneficiaries of the incubator project and will be working closely with the businesses in the incubator."
Gilbert added that free space in the incubator will be provided to the team of Marshall students that won first-place in the recent statewide West Virginia Innovation & Business Model Competition. The second-place team, also from Marshall, will receive free prototyping assistance from RCBI.
Dr. Avinandan Mukherjee, dean of Marshall’s Lewis College of Business, said one of the biggest challenges in the Appalachian region is creating a culture of innovation by promoting entrepreneurial thinking and scalable startups.
Mukherjee added, "The Brad D. Smith Business Incubator addresses this critical need by offering an entrepreneurial ecosystem to foster new ideas and new businesses. The design-thinking approach adopted by the iCenter of the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business at Marshall University, in collaboration with Intuit, will help minimize the uncertainty and risk of innovation through rapid experimentation and iterations—engaging customers and users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine the business idea. The incubator will be a huge driver to economic development in the greater Huntington region."
Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, and Charlotte Weber, director and CEO of RCBI, agree the business incubator will be a great resource for Huntington and throughout Appalachia.
Maher said, "The Brad D. Smith Business Incubator will integrate and accelerate the impact of the innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives of RCBI, the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business and our partners in the Tri-State region. Through this collaboration and leveraging of resources, we will see a dramatic impact on economic development in our region."
Weber said she believes it will serve as a magnet for the creation of startups by leveraging RCBI’s Business Accelerator and state-of-the-art prototyping and advanced manufacturing services.
Applications for incubator space will be available in early June. To learn more about the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator, visit www.marshall.edu/incubator, call 304-696-6273 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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