Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ursuline College - An an Unexpected Hub for Cleveland Startups

If you're only somewhat familiar with Virtual Compass- it's a forgivable misunderstanding- referring to the four of us as that John Carroll University startup. After all, 75% of us are JCU graduates who happened to meet during our time there.

But we've always made it a point to correct the misunderstanding - whether its in local press interviews or when we're being congratulated on our accomplishments. Five miles down the road from our Alma Mater, in Pepper Pike Ohio, is the school that provided us with our early traction. Without Ursuline College, there might not even be a virtual compass.

Pictured above: An illustration of Ursuline's campus

It's an unsuspecting startup hero - a small women's college that focuses around its nationally ranked liberal arts and nursing programs. Not entrepreneurship. But on a warm August afternoon in 2014, my co-founder and I found ourselves presenting in a Mullen Academic Center conference room to a healthy mixture of their marketing professionals and enrollment specialists.

Their introduction was simple but refreshingly sincere - "We're looking for a way to help future students see if Ursuline could going to be a good fit for the next four years"

The lights dimmed, and for the next seven minutes, I passed around some crude mock-ups and did my best to explain our vision as a startup.

As we conclude, I couldn't help but prepare myself for what at that point, seemed like inevitable indifference. After all, just 8 days earlier, our own Alma Mater had listened to the same presentation before making it abundantly clear that they were not willing to take a chance on us or this vision that we had.

But this time it was different. I noticed it first with the managing directors, and then with the recruitment counselors - a sense of genuine excitement at the prospect of a collaborative relationship with a local startup.

Just shy of  year later, we delivered Ursuline with our very first virtual tour- which is now integrated into their digital recruitment efforts with the intentions of providing an open and honest preview of their campus to potential students.

But our story is not an entirely unique occurrence - Ursuline's contribution to Cleveland's startup community is becoming a trend. Another local startup, Bold Guidance, is receiving Ursuline's professional insight for an app that helps potential students organize their college applications and deadlines.

As Cleveland's startup ecosystem continues to grow and welcome additional higher ed ventures, Ursuline's positive reputation as potential partner and advisory resource will continue.

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