Flinn Scholars News

Boat-building billionaire helps young ASU inventors

Compiled from media reports, ASU news release

Summary:

Future entrepreneurs at Arizona State University are getting a big boost from billionaire John Orin Edson in the form of a $5.4 million endowment designed to encourage student innovation. The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative is expected to be up and running by January 2005.

Full Story:

Future entrepreneurs at Arizona State University are getting a big boost from billionaire John Orin Edson in the form of a $5.4 million endowment designed to encourage student innovation. The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative is expected to be up and running by January 2005.

Edson is founder of Bayliner luxury boats, a company he started in his garage and eventually sold for $425 million. Hoping to spark the same sort of homegrown entrepreneurship at ASU, he recently gave the ASU Foundation $5.4 million to fund promising student business projects.

The endowment will fund annual awards to student teams across the university to explore their innovative ideas in partnership with faculty, researchers, and successful entrepreneurs. The awards are for any type of business, ranging from high-tech, for-profit startups to nonprofit, public-sector ventures.

"A great deal of our country's strength comes from the many private businesses that thrive under an individual or limited ownership, providing the ability to invent, innovate, and seek out opportunities," Edson said in a press release.

Endowments like Edson's, which encourage student ventures, are rare among U.S. universities. The endowment, distributed through the ASU Foundation, will give 10 to 15 student teams a total of $200,000 a year for projects that range from $5,000 to $20,000 each. According to the Arizona Republic, the recipient teams will also be provided with mentoring opportunities in the Valley business community and will be eligible for free office space at the ASU Brickyard on Mill Avenue.

Competition for the funds is open to any ASU student, graduate or undergraduate, full-time or part-time, on any of the four ASU campuses. The funding can be used to build prototypes, conduct feasibility studies, hire consultants or service professionals--anything students feel they need to be successful will be considered.

Julia Rosen, director of the Edson Initiative, is banking on the new program to help cultivate a spirit of homegrown entrepreneurship at ASU, as well as aiding a Valley-wide knowledge economy still in its infancy.

"The Edson Initiative will further spur the entrepreneurial climate at ASU," Rosen said.

According to the Republic, students will submit five- to seven-page proposals by Jan. 15, which will be screened by a committee of academics, industry professionals, and entrepreneurs. Finalists will be interviewed in person, and decisions on awards will be made by Jan. 31. Payments will be made directly to the companies that sell products or the professionals who provide services to the student teams.


For more information:

"$5.4 million will spur student innovation," ASU News, 10/27/2004

"Billionaire to help bankroll ASU entrepreneurs," Arizona Republic, 10/20/2004