Mason Summer Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 12:00 PM to 12:05 PM

Mason Summer Entrepreneurship Accelerator


The Mason Summer Entrepreneurship Accelerator (MSEA) is a program for Mason students that will allow them to explore the commercialization potential for their product or service ideas. Working in teams of 2-5 members over 8 weeks during the summer of 2018, participants will conduct intense customer discovery around their business idea, assisted in their efforts by experienced entrepreneurial instructors and mentors. To be considered for the program, candidates must apply as a team and each team member must commit to making a full-time effort during the 8-week program. MSEA is a not-for-credit program, and is offered to participants at no cost. Participants will each receive a $3,000 stipend (maximum of $9,000 per team) and a certificate of completion.


The goals of the MSEA are (1) to give Mason undergraduate and graduate students a structured opportunity to determine the commercial potential of their team’s product or service idea, (2) to help participants improve their entrepreneurial, problem-solving and collaboration skills, and (3) to encourage and facilitate the formation and success of Mason-affiliated startup companies and social entrepreneurship ventures.


MSEA will take place on Mason’s Fairfax campus starting on Monday, June 4, 2018 and concluding with the Summer Celebration on Friday, August 3, 2018. Participants are expected to work intensively with their teammates Monday-Friday, and will commit to being on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays for specific programming events such as guest speakers, team update presentations and mentoring/coaching sessions.


To apply, submit an application via email to MSEA@gmu.edu as soon as possible but no later than March 7, 2018. Applications will be reviewed as they are received. Teams should be prepared to defend their application in an in-person meeting with the MSEA application review panel. Accepted teams will be notified as quickly as possible following application submission, but no later than March 30.


The application should be no longer than four (4) pages, and should include the following:
Team/company name
Team point of contact (include name, phone and email)
Team members: For each team member, list name, G#, school & department, expected degree and graduation date, home address, and relevant skills, experiences & interests.
Name of faculty mentor (optional)
Executive Summary, to include:
 150 word summary of your venture. Briefly describe the general nature of the proposed product or service that your team will work on commercializing during the Mason Summer Entrepreneurship Accelerator.
 How does your venture, project or organization create value? What problem is solved or benefit is created?
 Who is value created for? Who are the customers that want this problem solved or additional benefit? Please be specific with examples.
 What is your solution to the problem? What is the value proposition for your customer (e.g., cheaper, more convenient, better quality, more dependable, better value, intellectual property, etc.?)
 How important is this problem? How do you know this? Can you validate that this is a real problem? (For example, do you already have customers or have you created a prototype and shared it with potential customers? Surveys? Crowdfunding? Prototypes? Other?)
 How big is your addressable market? How many people will pay for your solution? How many can you reach?
 Does your venture make a social impact? If social benefits are a core part of your model please describe. How do you measure social impact?
 Who are your competitors, and why is your solution better than theirs?
 How will you make money (i.e. what is your business model)? What are your revenue stream(s)?
 Explain your marketing, sales and distribution strategies. What are your major startup costs? Recurring costs?
 Who is your management team? What backgrounds and experiences do they bring? What capabilities does your team currently lack?
 Will your venture require any outside funding? If so, how much funding do think you’ll need over the next 2 years?
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: When is the application due?
A: Application are being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis, but should be submitted no later than Wednesday March 7, 2018. In-person team interviews will take place during March, and accepted teams will be notified no later than March 30, 2018.
Q: When and where will the program take place?
A: The 8-week program is scheduled to start on Monday June 4, and will run through Friday August 3. It will take place in the MIX@Fenwick on Mason’s Fairfax campus.
Q: Is there a fee to participate?
A: No. GMU and philanthropic donors are underwriting the costs of this program.
Q: Will participants receive a stipend?
A: Yes. Each participant will receive a $3,000 stipend, but stipends will be limited to $9,000 per team (teams with 4 or 5 members will need to divide the $9,000 between the members). Stipends will be paid to participants in three payments of $1,000 each. Payments will be sent directly to participants on June 15, July 13, and August 3, provided that they remain actively engaged in the program and that their team is progressing toward the required 100+ customer interviews.
Q: I am scheduled the graduate in May 2018. Can I participate in the MSEA?
A: Yes. To receive the stipend, participants must be registered in Banner as “active students,” which means that seniors scheduled to graduate in May 2018 will need to defer their graduation until the August 2018 graduation. This involves submitting paperwork to the registrar’s office, but is not complicated and you can do it after being accepted into the MSEA program.
Q: I will be a rising sophomore this summer. Can I participate in the MSEA?
A: Yes! The MSEA is open to any Mason student, whether undergraduate or graduate.
Q: Do we apply as a team?
A: Yes. To be considered for the program, your team will need to have at least two members, but not more than five members. Preference will be given to teams of no more than three members, with multidisciplinary skills (e.g. technical expertise, business/marketing, etc.). Team members can be added later, provided that additional team members are approved by the organizers and that no team can have more than five (5) members when the program begins on June 4.
Q: Does my team need to know its product or service idea at the time we submit our application?
A: No. We will consider teams that have product or service ideas, but we will also consider teams that have simply identified a customer problem that they want to solve.
Q: Does my team’s product or service idea need to have a technological underpinning?
A: No. Technology-based ideas are welcome, but we are open to accepting teams that make a strong case for non-tech ideas, including ideas that have a social entrepreneurship focus.
Q: What is the expectation around time commitment during the 8-week program?
A: Participants should plan to work intensively with their teammates for at least eight hours per day, Monday through Friday, for each week of the program (the week of July 4 is off – no seminars or sessions that week). A key component of this Lean Startup-based program is customer discovery, meaning that participants will need to “get out of the building” to interview at least 100 potential customers during the 8-week program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we will have structured events at our Mason HQ such as classroom sessions, guest speakers, team updates and individualized meetings with instructors and mentors. Given the time commitment, participating students are not permitted to take more than one summer session course, and may not have a job that requires more than 10 hours per week. Participants will be asked to leave the MSEA program if they (a) take more than one summer session course, (b) have three or more unexcused absences, or (c) miss more than ten customer interviews.
Q: I’m planning to take a 1-week vacation at the end of June. Can I still participate?
A: Yes. We expect team members to be fully engaged throughout the program, but short absences are acceptable provided that you (a) get an excused absence from the lead instructor, and (b) coordinate with the rest of your team to ensure that at least 50% of your team members are present for each Tuesday and Thursday sessions each week. Participation in the first two weeks of the program (June 4-15) is mandatory for all team members.
Q: Will there be prizes?
A: Yes. We are not planning to award monetary prizes, but teams that make the most progress during the program will be recognized.
Q: Will I earn academic credits?
A: No.
Q: I’d like to participate, but I don’t have any teammates. What are my options?
A: Contact Sean Mallon (smallon@gmu.edu) to discuss options. We have several interested students and teams that are looking for teammates, and we’d be happy to facilitate introductions to them.
Q: Will my team’s faculty mentor receive a stipend?
A: Yes. Faculty mentors will be eligible to receive a $500 stipend for each team that they work with during the program. Faculty mentors agree to be available to support their teams for at least eight (8) hours during the 8-week program.
Q: Who will act as team mentors?
A: During the first week of the program, we will work to match each participating team with a mentor. Mentors will consist primarily of successful entrepreneurs and startup executives drawn from the DC region. Mentors will be selected based on their experience and on their willingness to make themselves available to teams on a daily basis throughout the summer program. Faculty mentors, if applicable, will assist their team(s) on an as-needed basis.
Q: We applied to the Deans’ Business Competition. Can we use the same application for this program?
A: The MSEA and Deans’ Business Competition applications are very similar, but please make sure to specifically answer the MSEA application questions. This will improve your team’s chances of being accepted into the MSEA.
Q: Sounds interesting, but I still have questions. Who can I talk to?
A: Contact Sean Mallon (AVP Entrepreneurship & Innovation) at smallon@gmu.edu. We will also have information sessions for interested students/teams on the following dates:
Friday, February 16, 2018 – 10:00-11:00 am – MIX@Fenwick, Suite A228
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 – 4:00-6:00 pm – MIX@Fenwick, Suite A228
Monday, February 26, 2018 – 5:00-6:00 pm – MIX@Fenwick, Suite A228
Thursday, March 1, 2018 – 5:00-6:00 pm – MIX@Fenwick, Suite A228
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 – 4:00-6:00 pm – MIX@Fenwick, Suite A228
Updated: February 14, 2018
Note: A PDF version of this document can be found online at http://bit.ly/2ncgPYQ