Triple Threat

A peek into the Midwest…


When people think of startups, they think about ideas founded at colleges like Stanford, Berkeley, and Harvard. It makes sense, Ivy-league level schools including MIT, Penn, and other big-name universities attract top-tier talent and some of the world’s brightest minds that we know today. These schools yield numerous successful entrepreneurs and many famous companies were started on these campuses.

However, one area I always felt was overlooked was the Greater Midwest. This region’s student entrepreneurship ecosystem is thriving and only accelerating. The 3 largest student-led startup organizations in the Midwest are located at Purdue University, the University of Michigan, and UIUC (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). These clubs are The Anvil, V1, and Founders. I call these the Midwest’s “Triple Threat”.

Anvil | V1 | Founders
Anvil | V1 | Founders

For context, I have worked at a few startups and joined The Anvil my freshman year. As a director, I lead our startup accelerator program. I was curious about other student-run entrepreneurship club events and their various initiatives. As a result, I respectively joined their communities, observed activity, and kept in touch with club officers.

Every year, each organization has grown tremendously with startups getting into top accelerators, various projects receiving funding, and increased student innovation. Below is a list of startups that have been successfully founded by active students, alumni, or dropouts and backed by leading venture capital funds such as Y-Combinator.

Industries: B2B SaaS, Consumer, Healthcare, Fintech, Crypto, Construction, Automotive

Startups: Purdue / The Anvil

Startups: Michigan / V1

Startups: Illinois / Founders

University-focused venture capital funds such as Contrary Capital and Dorm Room Fund have venture/investment partners or scouts that represent their school’s entrepreneurship community and become a valuable resource for student founders seeking advice or fundraising. Identifying young talent early on and sourcing promising student startups have been a trend for strong deal flow. This has attracted more VCs.

Contrary Capital
Contrary Capital

Each student-led organization operates in its unique ways. Leadership is structured differently and each club has its own goals; however, we all share the same mission.

We strive to support all Midwest students with resources who are interested in building something impactful and became the student hub for our schools. Whether that be side-projects or startups, we want to cultivate community for ambitious student builders and unify entrepreneurship on campus. Through increasing student involvement in running entrepreneurial programming, we hope to expose more students to startups and strengthen ties between our universities and alumni.

Below are some great updates worth highlighting from each organization. From famous guest speakers to new initiatives being launched, every community is growing rapidly.

Highlights: The Anvil

  • New co-working space at the entrepreneurship center, revamped online community
  • 8th cohort of The Boiler - flagship startup accelerator, starting collaborative events
  • Fireside chats with Jonathan Chang, Mike Asem, Alexis Ohanian, Mitch Daniels
Purdue - The Anvil Team (2021)
Purdue - The Anvil Team (2021)

Highlights: V1

  • Organized the first Startup Fair, engaging the most active online builder community
  • 2nd cohort of Product Studio - ideation program, developing monthly newsletter
  • Fireside chats with Gaby Goldberg, Shriya Nevatia, Geoff Ralston, Vinay Hiremath
Michigan - V1 Team (2022)
Michigan - V1 Team (2022)

Highlights: Founders

  • New co-working space at the design center, enhance Startup Bootcamp series
  • 3rd year of Forge / 54 - largest student startup conference / hackathon-like event
  • Fireside chats with Lucy Guo, Matt Rastovac, Peter Piekarczyk, Brad Baum
Illinois- Founders Team (2019)
Illinois- Founders Team (2019)

I am excited to see the next wave of high-profile startups that emerge from these student-run organizations. These community-centered clubs have become incubators for students who want to make something people want and share similar experiences. Being surrounded by high-performing, driven individuals creates a powerful culture that pushes students to achieve things out of their comfort zone. Pure infectious energy.

A hot startup does not have to start from a brand-name school or silicon valley, it can be born on campus right in the middle of the country. Given the sheer amount of talent and opportunity, “Triple Threat” is boosting the Midwest entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Don’t sleep on the Midwest.

If you have any comments or thoughts would love to hear from you. Twitter: kch0e

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