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The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Center for Innovation, has opened an incubator space called Launch, which is dedicated to startups affiliated with local universities.
Launch is designed to support pre-seed and seed-stage venture founders in a wide array of sectors—from health care to the arts—and business models, including social ventures and benefit corporations.
“Beginning new ventures is never simple, and the problems facing our world are increasingly complex,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “But our city is undeniably on the rise—and at Vanderbilt, we believe that by investing in ideas born here, we can advance innovations that will move society continuously forward.”
Launch will house Vanderbilt’s Founder program, which connects local entrepreneurs to investors, provides support from the Wond’ry’s entrepreneurs in residence and Wond’ry Mentors, and offers guidance for applying to the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, as well as for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer funding.
“This event highlights the value of investing in cross-university initiatives and centers such as the Wond’ry,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver said. “Under this team’s leadership, we see the power of mentorship, design thinking and experimentation drive entrepreneurial success and social impact. Through Launch, the power of bold ideas continues to grow.”
Early-stage venture founders who are accepted to Launch have unique access to a diverse community of innovators and entrepreneurs who can provide practical and social support and experiential education. Launch also provides critical resources to local university-affiliated startup ventures to support their launch and development in Nashville.
Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Provost C. Cybele Raver attend the grand opening of the Wond’ry Launch at Loews Vanderbilt Office Plaza, hosted by David Owens. (Photos by John Russell/Vanderbilt University)
Launch is opening with seven Vanderbilt-connected venture teams already in place, including Arms Cyber, a cybersecurity startup that recently won a $750,000 Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the U.S. Air Force; EndoShunt, a medical device startup created by two undergraduates who are also training to make the U.S. Olympics team for speed rock climbing; Radical Shoots, an urban farm selling its microgreens at farmers markets across Nashville; and Zeno Power, a company founded by two alumni to provide a power source for heat or electricity in extreme environments. Other ventures include those founded by VUMC doctors, Peabody College of education and human development alumni and faculty in the colleges of arts and sciences and engineering.
“Launch extends our capability in providing the kind of wraparound support critical to growing early-stage ventures, whether they are working on tech, deep-tech or projects in social innovation,” said David Owens, Evans Family Executive Director of the Wond’ry and professor of the practice of management and innovation. “As the university continues to take bold steps forward to support the community of doers shaping our world for the better, we are thrilled to be a part of that effort.”
The Launch space provides ventures with access to dedicated furnished office space, a shared kitchen, outdoor space, conference rooms, a mailing address, limited storage, storage/locker capacity and Wi-Fi.
“The new office with coworking space filled with other startups and access to mentors is an awesome space to be in,” said Donovan Taylor, BA’21, a machine learning engineer at biotechnology company Finally Skincare. The venture was co-founded by Stacy Sherrod, research assistant professor in chemistry, and Christina Marasco, a former professor of biomedical engineering.
The Founder program is a six-month to yearlong support program for new venture founders, including current students, faculty, staff or alumni in good standing who have graduated from their institution. At least one member of the founding team must be affiliated with a university in Nashville. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until all Launch spaces are filled. (Learn more and apply here.)
“Founder is a rich pool of talented and able leaders with big ideas. We want to harness that collective energy and will do so within Launch,” said Stryker Warren, associate director of venture development at the Wond’ry. “This is the start of a very exciting journey for us and for these teams.”