Alumnus Jonathan Melgaard, ’14 BSB, fosters a community for student innovators across the University of Minnesota to collaborate and develop solutions to a variety of challenges. Co-Lab guides entrepreneurs to grapple with early stage ideas and offers resources to help students carry them forward.
“We realized there are a ton of resources at the University for students who have ideas or concepts that are really developed. But in that phase between a rough idea and a real concept, there was a lack of student empowerment to bring those ideas forward,” says Melgaard. “Co-Lab promotes student-led initiatives from the early idea stages.”
Now in its second year, Co-Lab hosts 20 fellows, and facilitates dozens of student innovators to pursue projects around ideas that range from urban design concepts to new apps.
Most recently, the organization hosted the OpEx Challenge, a contest answering University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s call for ideas on how the University can work smarter, reduce costs, and improve service. More than 50 students submitted ideas like reconfiguring bike traffic, rethinking landscaping, and making energy upgrades.
Co-Lab also helps student entrepreneurs improve their fledgling businesses, make connections in the community, and advance their ventures. In the coming months, Co-Lab will continue to host “Launch Pad” events, where students present obstacles their ideas and initiatives are facing, then get advice from entrepreneurs from the Twin Cities.
“It’s kind of like group therapy for entrepreneurs,” says Melgaard.