Calling all Triangle startups: here’s a chance to help future tech entrepreneurs while establishing a strong talent pipeline.
The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) is now accepting applications—with a Jan. 10 deadline—for Triangle startups to participate for its second summer Entrepreneurship Fellowship. The fellowship places a cohort of NCSSM rising seniors into a five-week summer internship with local tech startups.
Created by Joe Colopy—the former CEO and Co-Founder of Bronto, the current CEO of Colopy Ventures and also the founder of GrepBeat itself—the fellowship has long-lasting impact for both students and startups. Students gain the chance to work at a tech startup, becoming familiar with innovation right here in the Triangle, whether they are working in software development, marketing, graphic design or something else. But the startups, too, attain something valuable by joining the program.
“It is a way of giving back to the younger generation and helping build the next generation of tech entrepreneurs and startups in the Triangle,” Colopy said. “If you look at many of today’s successful tech startups in the Triangle, if you dig a little bit, you’ll find that their founders or co-founders or early leadership team graduated from Science and Math. It definitely has influence.”
As a senior at NCSSM, Jud Bowman formed his first startup, Motricity, a platform that delivered ringtones and games to mobile phones. He then went on to create mobile user acquisition network Appia and now Sift Media, a startup using advanced AI and machine learning algorithms to target app-install ads. At Sift last summer, he gave back to the school that helped develop him by bringing in one of the entrepreneurship fellows, Owen Sizemore.
“If it’s done right, it’s a win-win for the people working with the kids because you get some of their energy, and people like to help out,” Bowman said. “It’s fun to be able to mentor, but on the other side of the coin it’s that real-world experience that you can’t get in a classroom that helps these students understand what they want to do with their lives.”
Building a Triangle Tech Talent Pipeline
Bowman said because he came from NCSSM, he has a unique appreciation that the school’s students are what he calls some of the smartest in the state. And as Colopy points out, many of the NCSSM graduates go on to colleges in the Triangle like UNC, Duke or NC State and will later look for jobs in the area, making the Entrepreneurship Fellowship an even greater pipeline for local tech talent.
“These are really sharp students,” Colopy said. “So it’s a way of fairly easily invigorating a startup’s culture with some really sharp young people who are on the cutting edge of what’s the next greatest thing. So as any organization looks at the long term—how do they build the organization?—they have to build their talent pipeline, and it happens in many different ways. Participating in this program is one of the things that helps feed the technology scene in the Triangle.”
Sift Media’s software engineering intern Sizemore continues his internship now, long after summer came to an end.
“We’re treating him as if we had hired him as an engineer,” Bowman said. “So we’re getting the benefit of his work. But I think there’s also an element where our more experienced engineers, they’re really like tech geniuses, but they get a chance to mentor a really bright, energetic kid.”
The coming year’s program dates are June 8-26 and July 6-17, 2020. Students receive a $1,500 stipend from the startup they work for, which helps ensure that applicants from all economic backgrounds can participate.
“I think in order to effect real change, you have to look at long-term levers,” Colopy said. “And if we can inspire and increase the number of future tech founders that come out of Science and Math, it’d be great. If you look at a lot of the startups in the Triangle, they’re born from tech founders that came from Science and Math, and there are many more graduates from Science and Math that go on to create startups in Silicon Valley and New York City and Boston. I would love more of that to happen here.”