Virginia Tech students Akhil Raj, Emma Garcia, and Haley Dusenbury were awarded seed funding from the Apex Center's KickStart VT program to launch "LookBook," which is a marketplace for high-quality used clothes on college campuses.

Incorporate 15 new companies in a year.

It’s a lofty goal, but Virginia Tech students can get it done — students who are from all backgrounds and majors in programs led by the Apex Center for Entrepreneurship in the Pamplin College of Business.

A startup itself in 2014, Apex is now on track to engage more than 3,000 students across all colleges on campus. The center takes an interdisciplinary approach, partnering with course options across campus to empower students with knowledge and skills to build and launch companies.

During the quarterly meeting of the Board of Visitors in November 2019, Apex Director Sean Collins shared how the center is building the 21st-century workforce by helping entrepreneurs work in cross-functional teams, navigate ambiguity, assess risk, and build technology fluency.

“We don’t think of entrepreneurship as a mindset. We think of entrepreneurship as a muscle that must be built through repetition,” Collins said. He noted the French etymology of “entrepreneurship,” pointing out that it’s a verb, an action that launches ideas forward. 

At the Board of Visitors meeting, Collins presented alongside Brandy Salmon, the associate vice president for innovation and partnerships. The two discussed the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship and how it can be a powerful force within organizations of all types and sizes. 

“Innovation and entrepreneurship must stay on pace with the ever-evolving technology of our diverse workforce," Salmon said. "Here at Virginia Tech, we build connections and drive change to add value to those global conversations and meet the needs of industry and society. Working together, our teams are supporting key strategic efforts for the university and making important contributions to the regional and state ecosystem. It is such an exciting time to be at Virginia Tech.”

The success of Apex, which once focused solely on Blacksburg students, now elicits strong demand for entrepreneurship programs from faculty who want to see research translated into products and services that can benefit society.

”We have been able to identify more than 400 Virginia Tech alumni who have founded companies over the past 10 years. The mind-blowing stat that goes with that - they’ve created $44 billion in private market transactions,” Collins said.

Once untapped resources, those companies now create strategic connections to help Apex inspire young entrepreneurs to turn their passion, purpose, and ideas into action.

“It wasn’t long ago that students dropped out of Virginia Tech to start companies," Collins said. "Now students stay at Virginia Tech and use Apex to build successful startups.”

This applied practice of entrepreneurship brings depth to the student experience on Virginia Tech’s campus. Students choose how they want to plug into the entrepreneurial experience.

Whether students focus on entrepreneurship education or take on the commitment of launching a new venture, the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs is the nexus that brings that synergy together, giving entrepreneurs a place to collaborate, to initiate, and entreprendre.

The center is named in recognition of a joint commitment of $5 million by four Virginia Tech alumni: Brian Callaghan, Ted Hanson, Win Sheridan, and Jeffrey Veatch.