International Student Entrepreneurship Begins at Utah’s Lassonde Institute

University of Utah
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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 8, 2023

If you want to be an entrepreneur, the Lassonde Institute at the University of Utah offers grants, hands-on learning, and career development programs to launch your successful career.

University of Utah

Two male college students sit across from a female college student sitting on a long table in front of a camera and a laptop at the University of Utah Lassonde Center

At the University of Utah, there is one place you are guaranteed to find innovators, pioneers, and entrepreneurs: the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. It makes sense, given that the university itself has been ranked among the top 10 universities for entrepreneurship by Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. News & World Report, and The Princeton Review.

Since it opened in August 2016, the Lassonde Institute has lived its mission to “provide students transformative experiences through entrepreneurship.” All students, including international students, are encouraged to use the space. 

“The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is our nationally ranked program that provides students with life-changing experiences,” says Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business. “You won’t find anything like it anywhere else.”

Here is a look at how the Lassonde Institute is providing a unique and competitive edge for entrepreneurial international students.

University of Utah Student Innovation Center

As the hub for all things innovation, the Lassonde Institute provides a holistic experience: you can live here, you can create here, and you can launch your business here.

All students can apply to live at Lassonde Studios. The 400 residents get additional access to tools and programs. All students can use the main floor’s Neeleman Hanger, a 20,000-square-foot innovation space located below the residences. This is where students connect with other creators, build prototypes, and test ideas.

For ideas that require you to build a prototype, you can sign up for the Make Program, which teaches you how to use the equipment and tools in the studios. Once you are trained, you can have access to everything, from hand tools to CNC lasers.

You can also find specific groups like Food Entrepreneur and Arts Entrepreneur that allow you to explore connections between entrepreneurship, your skills, and the larger professional field. By connecting with peers from a range of disciplines, you may find your skills are needed on a project or you may find inspiration for bringing your own idea to life.

Regularly held meetups give you additional opportunities for finding collaborators and building your team. 

Student Entrepreneurs at the Lassonde Institute

In addition to exploring your ideas at the institute, you can get the expert guidance you need to make your concept a reality. 

Every Wednesday, there are workshops designed to help you build a particular skill, whether that is coding, public speaking, understanding intellectual property, or another key topic for entrepreneurs. The Institute also welcomes lawyers, designers, accountants, manufacturing experts, and other professionals for group discussions as well as one-on-one sessions that allow you to get expert advice on your idea. 

Need money to get started in the first place? For teams open to applying and pitching their ideas, the Get Seeded monthly grant program offers up to $2,500. 

If your idea is a bit further along, you can compete for up to $100,000 in cash and prizes during the annual Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. Teams from universities across the state compete for the $40,000 grand prize. Additional industry-specific events, like Bench to Bedside, allow teams in the medical space to compete for cash prizes.  

The Company Launch program offers businesses office space and connects you with mentors and resources, such as legal advice, accounting help, and more.

University of Utah Student Entrepreneurs Launch Businesses 

International students from across majors have successfully launched their business idea with support from the Lassonde Institute. From health and technology to apps, food, and community, here are just a few ways international students have successfully explored new ideas, developed products, and launched businesses.

Tarek Morrouche, Founder, Heimdall Health

As a master’s student studying biomedical engineering, Tarek learned that after the common cold, middle ear infections are one of the most common conditions in children. With the help of fellow students, he created the Mapping Otoscope, which provides a more accurate diagnosis of these infections.

He enrolled in the Master of Business Creation program at the Institute to take his company further. “It is the perfect combination between academic- and application-focused learning, and it acts as an accelerator for new startups,” he says.

Ashkan Tabatabaie, PhD Candidate in Music Composition

“In order to be able to play other music accurately, you have to go through training of being able to find those small intervals that are slightly different than what we hear in classical music,” says Ashkan. By creating a real-time tuning system that connects to a phone application, he is helping musicians find these small intervals.

Siyu Chen, PhD Candidate in Biology

Alongside fellow biology PhD candidate Ky-Phuong, MBA student Michelle King, and law student Esabelle Khaosanga, Siyu helped develop and launch a new online training platform and company, Enhanced Motivational Interviewing. The company aims to make training in motivational interviewing more accessible — and already has clients.

No matter your industry or level of study (undergraduate, graduate, PhD), the University of Utah’s Lassonde Institute can connect you with other student entrepreneurs. Paired with the Career Accelerator program, an exclusive service for students attending Shorelight partner universities, you have a clear path for taking your idea from dream to reality.

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