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May 12, 2024 | Tom Ballard

‘Startup Studio’ launches with plans to grow student businesses

The idea for 'Startup Studio' was dreamed up by UT, Knoxivlle faculty, Haseeb (HQ) Qureshi.

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has been helping student founders since 2009. The organization has awarded more than $1 million in pre-seed funding to student start-ups and spun out dozens of first-time founders from the university system.

However, since Haseeb (HQ) Qureshi joined the Haslam College of Business as an adjunct professor for entrepreneurship in 2019, he has been dreaming up a hands-on accelerator program that gives those student founders an added boost.

Haseeb (HQ) Qureshi

In 2014, Qureshi founded his own company, Audiohand, which was all about helping people hear live concerts from the fan perspective. It was really an innovative concept – which relied on fans submitting clips from concerts through their smartphones.

Qureshi secured a patent for the product and saw success through the help of local accelerator programs. He ran the audio company for nearly a decade.

Then, he went on to start his own law firm, Fourthlaw PLLC, which supports small businesses and start-ups. To sum it up, there’s nothing Qureshi hasn’t done.

This year, his long-time dream of running an accelerator program is becoming a reality. Through a partnership with ACEI, Qureshi has launched the Startup Studio, a 10-week summer program aimed at helping UTK students create a minimum viable product (MVP)/ service, and plan for scaling their business.

“For a lot of these students, they may have a product or business idea, but they don’t know what the customer wants,” Qureshi said. “This program will be about creating the product, getting it into the customer’s hands, and adapting to feedback.”

Right now, the inaugural program is accepting applications. It’s exclusively for current UTK students and recent alumni (who graduated within the past 12 months). The accepted founders will work through the summer on growing their businesses and conclude the program with a public Demo Day.

Qureshi also worked alongside Breanna Hale, the Executive Director of ACEI to help participating students receive internship credit for enrolling in the program.

“We made a change through the Anderson Center to allow students who are pursuing a start-up to receive internship credit for working on their own business, instead of going to work for someone else’s,” she said. “That credit also now applies to the start-up studio.”

Qureshi emphasized that starting your own business is often a more “realistic real-world experience” than a student can get from a conventional internship.

The spots in the inaugural program are limited. Qureshi estimated between eight and 12 companies will be selected. He’s specifically looking for founders who have strong soft skills, an innovative business idea, the ability to produce an MVP within the 10-week timeframe, are adaptable to feedback, and have the potential to scale their product/ service.

So far, he’s received a handful of competitive applicants with big business ideas. “I’m really happy with the amount of applications so far,” Qureshi said. “But, I’m on an interdisciplinary campaign to seek out more students from more backgrounds. We want the program to represent as many colleges as possible at UTK.”

The deadline to apply for the summer program is May 15. You can read more about the program on the Anderson Center’s website.

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