Starting Gate celebrates fifth anniversary

Starting Gate participants with President Montgomery and director of operations, Lara Hobson.

Starting Gate, Western Michigan University’s student business accelerator, offers valuable resources to students as they develop their startups. This year the accelerator celebrated its fifth year of operation.

The accelerator is open to all WMU students through a competitive application process where students must demonstrate a promising idea for a product or service, which can be launched within a short period of time. Starting Gate provides a fast-track to business launch. Companies participate in a six-month long program that concludes with Demo Day, a presentation for potential investors.

The impact of the accelerator is illustrated in many different ways.

First, here are the stats.

  • 68 companies launched
  • 10 patents filed
  • 400+ total events for entrepreneurs
  • $380,000 in grants and $45,000 in seed money awarded

Next, here are the words of some Starting Gate alumni who have benefited from the program.

"Starting Gate is a valuable asset for early entrepreneurs. It helped me build my idea into a reality, learn from experienced entrepreneurs and mentors, and evaluate and target the right customers.”

- Aatif Ghouri, founder of Wizleaf

“Starting Gate helped me think outside the box, step out of my comfort zone, and meet influential and inspirational people in the community. While I still have a lot of learning to do, the program was a great start to my entrepreneurial journey. I am confident that I will use the information I learned through Starting Gate for years to come.”

- Josie Marshall, new home consultant for AVB, founder of For the Funds of It

“I live in Los Angeles now and am working on building a commercial film production company. I’m gradually booking more and more meetings. I'm super grateful for Starting Gate and the confidence it gave me to go about starting a business. It shifted my mindset to knowing it’s possible to start a business, and it helped me think like an entrepreneur.”

- Charles Clark, producer and director, Clean Slate Movie, LLC

“Congratulations on five years! This program was the single most valuable thing I did in business school, and I am so proud to have been a part of it. Thank you for all the work you put into this for your students.”

- Matthew Ciejka, founder of Top Cat Collective

“Even though I've graduated from the Starting Gate program, I love the funding and networking opportunities that are continually provided.”

-Desi Taylor, founder of Cluventure Travel

Finally, there is the knowledge that the accelerator is building the entrepreneurial community in Kalamazoo and wherever Starting Gate alumni land after graduation.

“The entrepreneurial community in Kalamazoo has shown tremendous support to our program as the startups continue to grow and expand outside of our region. The skills our students are learning as young entrepreneurs are taken with them into their jobs after graduation as well as when they are fully ready to launch their businesses.”

Lara Hobson, director of operations, Starting Gate

For more information on Starting Gate contact Lara Hobson or visit the website.