After taking a deep breath when the West Virginia University Board of Governors approved funding last fall for the Startup Engine business accelerator at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, significant pieces of the facility are coming together.
WVU’s business school has announced the appointment of Dr. Erienne Olesh as the director of the Phase 0 Incubator for the Chambers College Startup Engine, as well as the college’s intent to seek an executive director for the business accelerator. The Startup Engine, which has an anticipated completion of date of August 2019, will house WVU’s first startup accelerator program, and is designed to attract, select and accelerate startup businesses focused on the sectors and industries that represent already-existing strengths in the state. Those strengths and recommendations for building a stronger state economy are identified in the West Virginia Forward report, and include industries such as disruptive technologies in the digital economy, data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, coding and IT, energy, natural gas, advanced manufacturing and tourism.
Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean of the Chambers College and the recently appointed vice president for Startup West Virginia, said the charge of the business accelerator is to help startups hone their ideas, access seed capital, develop mentor relationships and partner with existing businesses. He emphasized that a business accelerator program was recommended in the West Virginia Forward report, prompting WVU to make it a reality. The ultimate objective of the program is to support the diversification of West Virginia’s economy, as well as the push to move the state into the innovation economy. Olesh, he said, will be an integral part in the launch of the facility.
“Dr. Olesh understands the state of development of WVU’s infrastructure, having been one of the architects of it, and now will be helping us grow the commercialization enterprise at the campus level,” said Reyes. “She comes to us from the Health Sciences Innovation Center, where she worked as associate director and helped orchestrate the commercialization process for technologies at WVU’s Health Sciences Center. I have no doubt that her work will be very impactful as the Startup Engine takes off.”
Olesh holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, a B.S. in Exercise Science and is currently in the midst of earning a MBA at the Chambers College. She has experience working in WVU’s Innovation Corporation and the WVU Office of Technology Transfer.
The Chambers College is also seeking an executive director for the Startup Engine, an individual who “cannot only visualize the successful future of the accelerator program, but that can inspire others to believe in the future of West Virginia as a Start-Up State and can see the accelerator program as an integral part of the engine of innovation empowered by WVU,” Reyes said.
“Appointing an executive director is so very important for the Startup Engine, and we’re excited about the hiring process. The Startup Engine completes the continuum of innovation for West Virginia University, and represents the critical step of commercializing ideas,” Reyes said.
WV Forward is a statewide collaboration led by West Virginia University, the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University to help grow the economy by adding jobs, investing in education, and improving health and wellness to create the most prosperous West Virginia possible.The Startup Engine is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Applied (IDEA) Ecosystem, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community. A visual map of the full ecosystem and detailed information about the resources included can be found here.