15:52 PM

Ohio State unveils Student Entrepreneurs’ Center

New space provides resources and mentorship for student startups

The doors have opened on a new center to promote student entrepreneurship and innovation at The Ohio State University.

Students, faculty, university leaders and business builders celebrated the grand opening of the new Student Entrepreneurs’ Center on Wednesday in the Gateway District. The center was created by students, for students, with support from Ohio State’s Department of Design, to provide young business developers with a space where innovation can flourish.  The building also serves as the new home for the Tim & Kathleen Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship.

“It will serve as a point of connection between our campus and the Columbus community, between rising Buckeye entrepreneurs and industry veterans, and amongst our students who can share their expertise with each other and combine it to create the next big thing,” said Ohio State President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. “This center will also be a significant resource to these students in terms of space, mentorship, support for all of their ideas and tools to help bring those ideas to life.”

Student entrepreneur Devi Dheekshita Nelakurti is co-president of SmileChildThe entrepreneurs’ center features include modular spaces, conference rooms, adaptable lighting, state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, smart boards and much more.

“The Keenan Center, in concert with traditional classroom education, provides hands-on workshops, competitions, faculty and alumni mentorship, and more to foster and grow the entrepreneurial culture across campus,” said Peter Mohler, executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge. “Through these efforts, we are able to create a community of students passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation.”

One of those students is Devi Dheekshita Nelakurti, a biomedical science major and co-president of SmileChild. The startup is a student-founded nonprofit, designed to reduce infant mortality through a module-based mobile app to educate caregivers on self and infant care. This startup was awarded President Buckeye Accelerator funding in 2023.

“Having a defined space for entrepreneurship means having consolidated resources, mentorship, a safe space to converse with our diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Nelakurti said. “In other words, this is where inspiration and passion meet its purpose and have the potential to transform lives.”

Mike Duffey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, said there is palpable excitement for entrepreneurship and innovation in Ohio, and he looks forward to the center supporting that growth. He was joined at the grand opening by entrepreneur and Ohio State alum Jesse Tyson, who operates a Starbucks franchise at the new student center. Tyson agreed that support for student startups was on the rise and said students realize they can build businesses and do good for the community at the same time.

The building is a cutting-edge space with resources to empower students on their entrepreneurial journey – from initial ideas to thriving startups and beyond. Tim Keenan said the center is a way to support student entrepreneurs to thrive like he did as a student.

“When I was a young man here at Ohio State, I had a professor who wanted to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson. … ‘Do not go where a path may lead. Go instead where there isn’t a path, and leave a trail,’” Keenan said. “So that’s what we’ve done. We left a trail for the students here, and I want you to expand that trail.”

Additional features of the center include:

  • Specialized student programming and educational opportunities tailored to foster entrepreneurial skills and knowledge.
  • Personalized mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs who guide and support students’ entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Access to a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and creators, offering networking and collaboration opportunities.
  • Access to startup studio services, providing facilities and tools needed to bring students’ entrepreneurial ideas to life.

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