Entrepreneurial expo showcases Northeastern startups


Kaitlyn Budion

On a rainy Boston evening, the first floor of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex was packed with people excited to talk about innovation in nearly every industry imaginable.

The exposition, put on by IDEA, Northeastern University’s venture accelerator, showcased 27 startups Thursday. The companies at the event were associated with either the Husky Startup Challenge, IDEA or the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which matches students with mentors and teaches them how to commercialize their ideas.

Connor Gross, a third-year entrepreneurship major and events coordinator at IDEA, said the goal of the exposition was to display Northeastern-affiliated startups.

“It’s our annual showcase of our different ventures,” Gross said. “This is our opportunity to showcase those ventures not only to the Northeastern community but the Boston community.”

Jamie Gullbrand, a 2016 Northeastern graduate, used the venue as an opportunity to promote his startup, Buzzloop, an app designed to help people find out what is going on in local communities.

“We are a social mobile application, with the goal of connecting people with their communities,” he said. “So we started this business addressing two problems we saw: people feeling disconnected from those around them and untapped local knowledge.”

Buzzloop has worked with IDEA, and Gullbrand said the partnership has been fruitful.

“We are focused on Northeastern as our first market, so it’s great to get people here interested and on the app,” Gullbrand said. “We need users here, we need content being pumped in.”

Other startups at the expo included scientific advancements like iChip, a small plastic chip, that allows scientists to grow more microorganisms in a laboratory space. Claire Williams, a third-year biochemistry major, said the device will allow scientists to study a larger variety of microorganisms.

“Only 1 percent of bacteria from any given sample are able to grow in a petri dish in a lab, so that means you can only really study in depth that 1 percent,” Williams said. “So our device is an incubation chamber. It takes advantage of the nutrients in the natural environment and allows you to cultivate bacteria from the 1 percent to up to 40 percent. So you can access 40 percent of bacteria instead of 1 percent.”

Northeastern alumna Linda Nguyen, right, and third year biochemistry major Claire Williams present their microorganism incubator startup, iChip./ Photo by Riley Robinson

Williams got involved with iChip through the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which sponsors a class at Northeastern she attends. She said the program teaches science students how to make their ideas marketable.

“They take you from the very basics of business and give you incredible mentors who have years of experience and teach you the methodology to go from just an idea to an actual product,” she said.

Students also displayed projects from the Husky Startup Challenge, including Chris Coletti, a fifth-year architecture major who showcased his BauBau project. Coletti said BauBau hopes to connect people online and allow them to create their own housing in cities.

“I see this as being a perfect transitional stage for a lot of late-stage millennials in the city,” he said. “Where you can afford to have a plot of land big enough to have a sort of a family, and be in an ideal location between the city and suburbs and have the best of both worlds.”

Coletti said the idea for the startup came from his time abroad.

“It’s inspired by my time studying abroad in Berlin,” he said, “where a bunch of people get together and participate in this process, called a bau group. What they do is buy a plot of land in the city and they split the cost of ownership and split the cost together.”

The Husky Startup Challenge helped him figure out how to tackle the business side of his proposal, he said.

“It was super helpful, especially for me as a non-business major,” Coletti said. “It gave me a lot of tools, a lot of coaching, a lot of resources.”

Overall, Gross said, the night went well, with startups and visitors alike chatting about the future, and accomplished the goal of getting the ventures out there.

“It’s a cool way of saying thank you to the ventures, thank you to the people who’ve supported them, and really having an incredible night to celebrate their success,” he said.