The Cube: Fostering Student Innovation

An on-campus business incubator prepares students for commercial success

The Cube logo

Housed in the Portland State Business Accelerator, or PSBA, The Cube is an incubator for student-led businesses. The strategy behind the Cube is to surround student-entrepreneurs with mentorship opportunities, resources and guidance while evaluating their company’s commercial feasibility, with the goal of preparing students for the product market. The staff at the Center for Entrepreneurship, or CE, are looking forward to welcoming a new group of students to The Cube in the Fall of 2021.

For its third cohort, The Cube will host five student-led businesses and will increase the duration of the program from four months to one year. The first three months of the program will be frontloaded with educational content, giving students the rest of the year to prepare to enter the market. The Cube is also expanding its curriculum to support a wider range of startup concepts beyond technology, including non-profits, businesses with a social impact, food tech, consumer packaged goods, apparel, and athletics and the outdoors. A prototype, proof of concept and path to market is required for interested applicants.

“The Cube exists to support students in the journey that is entrepreneurship,” says Juan Barraza, director of Student Innovation at the CE. “We understand that there may be ups and downs, but we have an amazing community at the Center for Entrepreneurship and at PSU that are here to assist students.” 

Among the Cube’s activities are pitch practices, public speaking, and financial planning exercises. Students are taught the lean canvas methodology, a one-page format for brainstorming business models, and how to create a pitch deck, which is a brief (~15 slides), visually rich presentation that serves to provide investors with an overview of a company’s product, business model and monetization strategy. The 2020 program culminated in Demo Day, where student-teams presented their startup companies to community members, faculty and potential investors.

Omar Waked, Cube program participant, co-founder and CEO of Raedem, a company that seeks to revolutionize city parking by using sensors to determine the location of vacant parking spaces, credits The Cube in helping him improve his communication skills through pitch practices and Q&A sessions. 

“Listening and accepting feedback is an integral part of learning and growth,” Omar acknowledges. “Being able to communicate the grand vision behind your company and to create an easy path forward from that is also a valuable skill for entrepreneurs to have.”

Raedem is currently exploring market adoption in two phases, with the first phase being the deployment of a mobile app that allows businesses to upload their parking availability and enables individual users to see available parking spaces at participating businesses. Down the line, phase two will involve installing hardware at parking spots, creating the option to fully automate the process of paying for and enforcing parking.

“Before I joined the Cube I was only focused on building out the initial product Raedam would be offering,” notes Waked. “My work in The Cube taught me how to analyze and take into consideration all of the moving pieces that go into running a startup.”

The Cube is just one of many programs in the Center for Entrepreneurship designed to support student innovation. The CE also offers the PSU Kickstart Weekend, the Cleantech Challenge and InventOR. Programs range from one day to three months to one year in length, allowing students to choose programming that fits their needs. CE programs are co-curricular and open to students of all disciplines and years of study.

“Entrepreneurship is about being innovative, “Barraza emphasizes. “Being innovative allows you to find a solution to a problem that exists in your life, community or the world around you.”

 

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