DEN expands offerings to students

by Julian Nathan | 10/4/16 12:30am

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Over the past two years, DEN has expanded to accomodate student interest in different sectors.

by Seamore Zhu / The Dartmouth

The DEN Innovation Center, a modern office building in the town of Hanover, opened in 2014. According to DEN director Jamie Coughlin, it has since grown into a focal point for entrepreneurship at Dartmouth by organizing 135 events, engaging with over 3,000 participants and funding over 60 venture ideas.

Over the past two years, DEN has expanded to accommodate student interest by incorporating technology into entrepreneurial efforts.

To Coughlin, DEN’s purpose is to translate ideas into impact. One of DEN’s current offerings for this term is DEN Student Circle, a series of meetings focused on entrepreneurship and collaboration held every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. During Student Circle meetings, both undergraduate and graduate students gain hands-on experience with startups and receive feedback on venture ideas from established alumni entrepreneurs.

Coughlin emphasized the importance of this type of collaboration, saying that “anybody that has ever built an idea, a venture or a project knows that [doing so] takes a village.”

In the coming weeks, DEN’s programming will focus on expanding entrepreneurship at Dartmouth and Hanover.

As part of its speaker series, DEN will be hosting Langley Steinert Tu’91, co-founder and former chairman of TripAdvisor, as a guest speaker on Oct. 7 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Steinert, who now serves as CEO and founder of CarGurus — a website designed to help consumers shop for automobiles — will speak directly to students about his experiences coordinating the operations of the world’s largest online travel site.

This year, DEN will also offer an intensive, three-week course on building and launching entrepreneurial ventures titled “Introduction to Entrepreneurship.” These hour-long courses will be directly taught by Coughlin, who previously served as CEO of the Alpha Loft, previously known as ABI Innovation Hub, New Hampshire’s oldest business incubator. Previously, Coughlin led several different venture projects in industries including educational technology and online funding.

The center provides stipends to students who intern at existing startups and other ventures, as well as grants to fund market research and product development for student projects. On Nov. 3, DEN will host its termly event called “The Pitch,” during which 20 competitors present their project ideas to a panel of judges. The top four submissions receive up to $3,000 to be used toward the design and development of new projects.

Aidan Folbe ’19 is the co-founder of GiftAMeal, the winning idea from last February’s Pitch competition. GiftAMeal is an app that facilitates donations to food banks by partnering with restaurants. When customers share pictures of their food using the mobile application, a meal is donated to a food bank by a partner restaurant.

Coughlin said this project is one of several that use mobile technology to address a communal problem, adding that “some of the most successful projects are often at [the] intersection of technology and social causes.”

GiftAMeal subsequently received additional funding from Capital Innovators, a venture capital firm with over 70 portfolio companies.

Coughlin said that student interest in DEN has expanded this past year. The number of freshmen applicants to DEN In Residence, the DEN’s Living Learning Community, has doubled to over 50 students.