UpStarts Accelerator

What is the UpStarts Accelerator?

The UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator provides the highest level of support and resources available to UCF student startups. UpStarts supplements our offerings in the Blackstone LaunchPad by providing free office space, advanced mentoring, exclusive access to service and resource providers, and a cohort of startup colleagues to UCF’s most advanced student-led ventures.

Participation is by application only.

Program Testimonials

“UpStarts is symbolic of growth, empowerment, community, and most importantly, the continuous pursuit of the entrepreneurship dream to make a difference. It has provided me with the discipline, awareness, and tools needed as an entrepreneur, and Wawwe with the foundation needed for scalability and success. It has and continues to make all the difference.”

Rafaela Frota, Founder and CEO

Wawwe, Inc

“Receiving mentoring and coaching from an experienced entrepreneur has provided me with a “guidebook” to follow in my own venture’s journey. UpStarts is like a group therapy/counseling session for new entrepreneurs. “

David Nash, CEO

IDem Systems

“UpStarts has helped us grow from a home-based hobby serving one farmer’s market into a brand that has expanded to 10 retail locations in Central Florida and more on the way.”

Ishmam Ahmed (CEO) and Fouad Ahmed (COO)

Boujee Boba

“I have grown my business more during my first year in the UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator Program than I managed in the year I was on my own; applying to the Accelerator has been the best decision I ever made for my business. You don’t need to be a business major to be an entrepreneur, you just need an idea and passion.”

Elliot Weinthal, Founder and CEO


“Dr. Pape conditioned us to be data-driven entrepreneurs, and with this insight we were able to form less risky decisions in our venture. Combined with an array of resources and the backing of UCF, we are proud to be part of the UpStarts Accelerator.”

Abhishek Sastri (Co-Founder) and Dr. Eduardo Castillo (Co-Founder)

Fluix Engineering

“UpStarts hosts many companies from multiple backgrounds to bring knowledge and experience to the table from people who have lived what you’re going through. This has been extremely helpful to our company. “

Derek Saltzman (CEO), Mason Mincey (COO), Matthew Jaeger (Creative Director) Patrick Michel (Marketing and Sales Assistant), and Gerardo Diaz-Silva (Financial Director)

SOAR Aerospace

“UpStarts has helped us define our scope and vision and guide us in making the right moves to grow and launch our current project. The entire ecosystem has been paramount in providing us the support we needed to successfully open our new brewery project!”

Aaron Libera, Gary Holmes, Pieter Hanson, and Rob Shash

Community Brewhouse

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. UpStarts is the right room. Everyone comes to the table with knowledge of their respective field to create a comprehensive understanding of all important elements of a successful startup.”

Eric Lenson and Zachary Gettis (Co-CEOs)


“UpStarts was invaluable to us at S Star, giving us the mentors to de-mystify the challenges in startups and create a collaborative environment with other up-and-coming companies. We honestly couldn’t recommend it enough!”

Shane Singh (CEO), Akash Gajjar (COO), Shivkumar Kaushik Murthy (Lead Test Engineer), ShiHao “Jerry” Zhang (Head Design Engineer), and Andre Childs (Chief Scientific Officer)

S Star Technologies

Program Criteria

UCF Student Involvement: At least one team member must be enrolled at UCF during the Fall semester.

Some Evidence of Product-Market Fit: Marc Andreessen defined the term as follows: “Product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy the market.” Many people interpret product-market fit as creating a so-called minimum viable productthat addresses and solves a problem or a need that exists. We accept ventures from all industries who have some evidence of “product-market fit”.

Focus: We accept ventures whose team demonstrates the ability to focus on academics and building a business concurrently. 

Good Academic Standing: Team members must be in good academic standing with UCF.

Once selected as an UpStarts venture, student entrepreneurs will work with the UpStarts staff to set value-generating milestones and work towards hitting those milestones during their tenure. Successful UpStarts ventures may then qualify to join UCF’s Business Incubator as they continue to grow and thrive.

Participation in UpStarts is open to students from all academic disciplines and degree programs. Students are eligible to receive three (3) credits of Independent Study; please check with your college’s academic policies to determine whether the credits are applicable toward your major.


UpStarts Competency Training: Each week, the UpStarts cohort meets to learn about important business concepts and the foundations from which a successful venture can be built. We seek to build an active-learning environment. Sessions are led by UpStarts staff and Orlando business leader

UpStarts Community of Practice: The UpStart venture cohort will meet and learn from each other by discussing successes, failures, challenges, and “things that keep them up at night.”


Applications are due by April 1 for admission to the upcoming UpStarts venture cohort. Applicants must submit complete application materials to be considerd.

Student Starter Award

The purpose of the Student Starter Award is to provide students who are committed to launching a startup venture with resources to help them address early-stage startup expenses. This $500 annual award has been generously provided by Emeritus faculty member Richard A. Quinn to support student-led startups participating in the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator Program. The recipient of the award will be determined by the Director of the UpStarts program in collaboration with the Chair of the Department of Management. Well-qualified candidates for this award will possess the following characteristics.

  • They will have registered their business.
  • They will have a well-defined product or service and have strong prospects of earning revenue in the current academic year, but have less than $20K in prior revenue.
  • They are committed to addressing a specific business need with the funds provided by this award (e.g., developing a prototype, creating marketing collateral, etc.).
  • They will participate in the UpStarts Accelerator program in the semester following the award so they can benefit from guidance provided by the UpStarts Director.
  • Preference will be given to teams of two or more students, especially those that include interdisciplinary expertise (e.g., engineering and business).

Awards will be presented annually by the UpStarts Director near the end of the Fall semester during a meeting of the UpStarts Accelerator Venture Cohort (an extra $500 award will be provided in February 2019). During this presentation, UpStarts participants will learn about Richard Quinn’s legacy of teaching entrepreneurship, coaching student-led startups, championing technological entrepreneurship, and contributing to the development of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership during his tenure on the UCF faculty.

Interested UpStarts participants must provide a written description and presentation of their business model and current progress to the UpStarts Director during the first eight weeks of the Fall semester, and must confirm that they meet all Student Starter Award eligibility requirements.


Please download the UpStarts Student Venture Program application, fill it out, and email the completed application to Michael Pape at no later than April 1.

Download Application


UpStarts will provide office space, office equipment, advanced coaching resources, and collaboration space. UpStarts ventures will also have extensive access to the StarterSpace, which includes amenities such as 3D printing, CAD, and graphic design programs.


Have additional questions? Contact the UpStarts Director, Michael Pape, at

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply?

Current UCF undergraduates, graduate students, and PhD candidates may apply. UpStarts is for UCF entrepreneurs who have a product or service which is currently earning revenue or pre-revenue. It is not for entrepreneurs who “have an idea” – those entrepreneurs should contact the Blackstone LaunchPad.

How do I apply?

The application form can be found under the “Application” tab above. You and your team should fill it out and email it to Michael Pape at Only one application is required per team.

What is the benefit of working out of the UCF UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator?

You and your team will interact with other like-minded entrepreneurial students. Your similar lifestyles as student entrepreneurs will motivate you to accelerate your venture forward. Receive one-on-one mentoring with experienced entrepreneurs and learn fundamental skills to strengthen your business.

What resources are provided to new ventures that are accepted into the program?

Students will be given office space to call “home” so they can meet with their team and work intensely on their venture. Additionally, students will be rubbing shoulders with elite aspiring entrepreneurs and those with extensive, hands-on startup experience.

How much does the program cost?

There is no fee to participate in UpStarts.

Does the UCF UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator take an equity position in the company?


Does the UCF UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator provide funding?

Currently, we do not provide funding beyond the Student Starter Award. However, UpStarts staff will provide training on how to fundraise from a variety of sources.

What types of ventures are accepted into this program?

All types of product and service ventures are accepted, including those in IT, life sciences, consumer goods, engineering, and manufacturing. We encourage technology-based startups to apply even if they do not envision selling a good or service within eight (8) months. We will mentor technology founders to help them start the company on the right path.

Do applicants have to stay in the program for the entire Fall and Spring semesters?

We strongly encourage all UpStarts ventures to fully engage in the program for the entire academic year.

What if the new venture does not succeed?

Success for each UpStarts venture will need to be defined. Different ventures are at different places in the startup spectrum; the goal is to establish and work towards meeting value-generating milestones.

What protections are provided for my intellectual property?

The UpStarts staff will guide you through your IP options, which include how much to reveal about your technology and how to protect your product within legally mandated timeframes.