Sparks — Creative space offers entrepreneurs “time, space, and permission”

>November 10, 2014

Sparks — Creative space offers entrepreneurs "time, space, and permission"

Sparks — Creative space offers entrepreneurs "time, space, and permission"Sparks — Creative space offers entrepreneurs "time, space, and permission"

The grass wasn't growing in late January when Ryan Farley (mechanical engineering '12) and Steve Corcoran, a former finance major, moved their fledgling business into NuSpark, a new creative space in downtown Blacksburg that allows entrepreneurs to commercialize their ideas.
The co-founders of LawnStarter, an online platform connecting customers with lawncare providers, wanted to unveil their concept as soon as the grass started turning greener.

NuSpark became the perfect fertilizer. Launched in mid-April, LawnStarter now operates in Northern Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Yorktown, Virginia; and Austin, Texas. Farley and Corcoran spent the summer in Austin in the highly selective TechStars startup accelerator program, learning how to disrupt the trend of poor customer service in a $71 billion industry.
"We're expecting to be in multiple major cities with deep penetration next year, with hopefully hundreds of providers on our platform," Farley said.
What they found at NuSpark wasn't just the "bright lights to keep you up late at night," said Farley, noting that the team was sleeping in three-hour stretches, sometimes at NuSpark, ahead of the launch. They found mentors, collaborators, training, and more.
"Farm team"

The idea for NuSpark came from conversations among a handful of key players in the region's ecosystem of innovation, and the space was cobbled together in a collaborative fashion that neatly previewed the cooperative environment NuSpark affords entrepreneurs. The venture is supported through the Virginia Tech Foundation; the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council; the Roanoke Blacksburg Innovation Network; Tech's Corporate Research Center (CRC); VT KnowledgeWorks; Tech's Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT); and the National Science Foundation's regional I-Corps program.

Nestled in a ground-floor, 4,200-square-foot area in Collegiate Square at the corner of Prices Fork Road and North Main Street, NuSpark offers rent-free space for faculty, staff, students, and members of the public—anyone over the age of 18—to turn early-stage ideas into new ventures.
"NuSpark is more than just space—it is programming and community," said John "Jack" Lesko, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering and the university's liaison to I-Corps, a partnership in the mid-Atlantic to find entrepreneurial faculty and students and help them bring their discoveries to market. "NuSpark is a safe place to fail, and it builds a community of entrepreneurs-in-training that learn from each other through formal and informal programming and interaction."

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