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Recent efforts like the Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator, the Bucknell Innovation Group and the School of Management's new Markets, Innovation and Design major have made Bucknell a burgeoning hotbed for innovation, but Yifan Ge '14 believes the University shouldn't rest on its laurels.
Ge, a fifth-year computer science and electrical engineering major from Nanjing, China, has been named a University Innovation Fellow by Epicenter: The National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, and hopes to use the opportunity to make Bucknell's campus an even better environment for the fledgling entrepreneur.
As part of his six-week training to join the program — which is supported by Stanford University, the National Science Foundation and the National Collegiate Investors and Innovators Alliance — Ge assessed the entrepreneurial environment at Bucknell. He met with students and key stakeholders at the University and in the surrounding community, delivered talks on campus and shared what he'd learned with Innovation Fellows at institutions around the country. Ge is the second Bucknellian to join the program, following Amanda Ruppert '14, who was named a fellow last year. Professor Joe Tranquillo, biomedical and electrical engineering, also served as a visiting faculty scholar with Epicenter at Stanford last year. Ge said he hopes to build on the progress the University has already made. | Read Ge's assessment.
Ge said the University takes a proactive role in piquing student interest in entrepreneurship through programs like the Residential Colleges and the Bucknell Forum series "tech/no," and supports students who want to explore that interest further through club activities and academic opportunities, such as Arts Entrepreneurship and Markets, Innovation and Design. But Ge also sees opportunities for Bucknell to aid students and recent graduates with the high costs that come with starting and fostering their fledgling companies.
"We need to create more programs to help people realize their endeavors in entrepreneurship," Ge said.
Ge knows about those costs firsthand, having started his own computer hardware company, Unparalleled Systems, with Kevin Thomas '13 in the Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator in downtown Lewisburg. While he applauded the resources the center offers him and other efforts like the Business Pitch Competition — which has a $1,500 grand prize — Ge believes a student entrepreneurship fund providing seed grants or loans to startups would encourage more students to make their business dreams reality. He also wants to help lower the costs of starting a business by offering low-cost software development to aspiring entrepreneurs, an idea he said has generated excitement among his peers.
"A lot of management students have great ideas that they want to implement, but they don't have the technical support to do it," Ge said. "The idea is to make software development really inexpensive. So they bring their idea into the office, and we develop the software for them for a really low cost — maybe even zero cost if we like the idea. The whole idea is to make it easier for people to start their own company."
Between his two majors, start-up company and fellowship work, Ge doesn't find much time for himself these days, but he said he doesn't mind the long hours. He gets back as much as he puts in.
"It comes back to my personality; I like to learn new things," Ge said. "When there's something new I'm interested in — and I'm interested in entrepreneurship — I just like to spend time on it. I can pull all-nighters doing this because I like it. I don't realize the time passes so fast."
"And I do think Bucknell is on the road to improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem," he added. "So I really want to put my effort into this and make it even better."
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