About Startup Works
Startup Works is a practical entrepreneurship workshop series designed to provide entrepreneurial skills and nurture leadership in people with conviction histories to interrupt the cycle of poverty and recidivism. The series encourages inclusive team building and developing an idea into a working prototype for a startup business.
Startup Works extends the Tamer Center’s ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) course teaching in prisons and advising work with Justice Through Code. Entrepreneurs not only learn the basics of ideation to launch a startup but also learn to tap into the strength that can be born from inclusivity and collaboration across diversity. The workshop series is open to everyone, whether justice-impacted or not, who is interested in inclusive entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills development.
Emphasized throughout the series are the values of inclusivity and inclusive leadership, diversity, equality, social entrepreneurship, teamwork, and fair chance hiring, this practical workshop series aims to do the following:
- Encourage idea development
- Foster targeted values-based networking for successful team development. Team formation based on shared values, goals, and/or vision, helps entrepreneurs journey further successfully, beyond just launching a startup.
- Host sessions with practical time to develop the startup idea instead of a theoretical lecture series. Teams develop various parts of a business plan and learn how to pitch ideas to potential clients, customers, and/or funders.
- Provide access to resources beyond know-how, such as access to computers and digital tools, and students from various disciplines across Columbia.
Read more about how Startup Works nurtures talent in entrepreneurs with conviction histories.
What Are the Benefits?
Participants develop practical skills necessary to kickstart and test ideas as a (co-)founder and/or part of a startup team, and also meet other participants who may become integral in developing a startup together. Workshops include topics aimed at developing a startup idea, opportunities to receive feedback, and advice on using legal and financial resources to further the startup.
Teams also connect to Columbia’s network of advisors and legal and financial mentors. Advisors and mentors are matched to teams and are drawn from the Tamer Center’s REAP and Social Venture Advisory Network. They have a range of backgrounds and expertise including operating, investing, and functional backgrounds (e.g., marketing, business modeling, design, legal, small business development, engineering, data science, etc.) to domain and sector specialties.
Startup advisors can enable teams to:
- strategize customer discovery to validate and quantify pain points and opportunities;
- design solutions and business models;
- learn how to test their business model hypotheses for viability and product market fit;
- develop and measure intended goals, milestones, and impact;
- evaluate the market opportunity and competitive landscape;
- formulate go-to-market strategy;
- identify funding needs;
- devise a common language to engage with customers, partners, and investors; and
- synthesize preliminary findings into effective pitches to potential customers, funders, and/or investors
- A high school diploma or equivalent (including GED)
- A strong interest in learning about entrepreneurship with an inclusive and diverse team
- Ability to attend workshops in person in NYC (around W130th St) in the evening once a week.
- Rudimentary computer navigation skills at a minimum
- Access to a computer or laptop and reliable Wi-Fi are preferred for participation but not required
- After the second workshop, at least one person in each startup team should be justice-impacted
The next application cycle for Startup Works will open in spring 2024.
Each team is asked to present their venture on “Showcase Day,” usually two to three weeks after the last workshop session. Team presentations are a maximum of ten minutes, with an additional five minutes for Q&A. Detailed presentation guidelines are provided to the teams during the workshop sessions. Attendees include advisors, Columbia alumni, networks of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, current CBS students, and Columbia faculty. Advisors and the audience provide constructive feedback to teams as part of the evaluation process.
Each team is eligible for up to $10K (non-dilutive funding) to be used directly towards development of the startup.
2023 Startup Works Cohort
The inaugural cohort during summer 2023 resulted in six teams presenting on “Showcase Day” at the end of August. Four ventures were selected to receive $10K in funding. The scope of these ventures ranged from nonprofit to for-profit ventures in the fields of education, sustainability, tech development, and workforce development. Learn more about these ventures below:
- What if I do not have an idea for a startup yet and am just interested in learning about entrepreneurship?
Applicants are not required to have ideas for a business or startup nor apply with a team. However, you should be passionate about being part of a founding team and open to co-developing and testing ideas with others. Each participant must join a startup team by the end of the second workshop. Each team should have at least one justice-impacted team member. Teams can work on any for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid startup idea for a project, product, or service.
- I already have a venture and team. Should I apply to StartUp Works?
This series is aimed at participants open to co-creating startups and testing ideas with others. If your venture model is already operating with paying customers, you’ve already raised funding, or you already have your venture team and you are not looking to work with others, you might consider applying to existing incubator/accelerator programs in NYC. You can attend the information session to explore whether this workshop series suits you.
- What is the age requirement for an individual to apply to StartUp Works?
Applicants must be at least 18 years old to apply.
- Do I need to be justice-impacted to apply?
No. We encourage all individuals from all backgrounds to apply for this workshop series. The goal is to provide an opportunity for each individual to be part of an inclusive entrepreneurial team with at least one justice-impacted team member.
- Can individuals who are currently on probation or parole apply to StartUp Works?
Yes! We encourage individuals to apply to this series, regardless of where they are in their reentry process. We are also happy to provide a letter of enrollment to applicants selected to participate in this series so they can make probation/parole aware of their educational responsibilities.
- Am I still eligible for the program if my conviction has been expunged, overturned, sentence suspended, or the case otherwise discarded?
Yes. Legal involvement often includes factors that can disrupt one’s life or career prospects. We understand this and encourage individuals to reach out if they have any questions about eligibility.
- I only returned home recently; I don’t know if I can afford the materials that I will need to participate in the course. Should I still apply?
The Tamer Center will support qualified candidates in obtaining the materials they need to participate in the workshop series. You will have access to a working space, computers, and lab space for your team to use outside of workshop hours. Needs-based support requests for subway costs can be included in your application.
- What technical or other skills do I need to apply?
No specific technical skills or other experience are necessary for this workshop series. We only require participants with rudimentary computer skills and a high school equivalency.
- What other programs are offered for startups and/or justice-impact individuals?
For people in the NYC area, please visit Columbia Business School’s Community page, Columbia University’s Neighbors resources page, Justice Through Code, and Communitas America’s Heyground Harlem (separate application process is required).
StartUp Works is organized by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School, with outreach partners including Columbia University’s Center for Justice, Justice Through Code, Osborne Association, Hour Children, and Fortune Society.