The UCF 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, with applications due late spring for membership the following academic year. UpStarts ventures will typically meet four criteria:

1. UCF Student Involvement:  One of your team members will need to be an enrolled as a UCF undergraduate or graduate student during the Fall semester.

2. 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 that market.” Many people interpret product/market fit as creating a so called minimum viable product that addresses and solves a problem or need that exists. We accept ventures who have some evidence of “product-market fit”.

3. Focus:  we accept ventures whose team demonstrates the ability to focus on academics and business building.  You have embraced the concept that you are a “student-entrepreneur” just like there are “student-athletes”.

4. Good Academic Standing: we accept ventures whose team is 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 towards your major.


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

    UpStarts Community of Practice: The UpStart Venture Cohort will meet together 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 admittance to the upcoming UpStarts Ventures Fall and Spring semester Cohort. Applicants are selected by the UpStarts staff based on submitted application materials (see below).
      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.

      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 other amenities such as 3D printing, CAD, and graphic design programs.
      Michael Pape » «
      Mike is Professor of Practice in the Department of Management within the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida where he teaches and mentors students in entrepreneurship. Mike serves as Director of the UpStarts Student Venture Accelerator within the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership which guides the most ambitious entrepreneurial students at UCF through the startup process. Mike is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded several life science companies including Esperion Therapeutics, Orchard Venture Partners (a life science venture capital firm), Akebia Therapeutics, and Nymirum. Mike is a veteran of both large pharmaceutical and startup life science companies having entered the industry in 1989. At Upjohn and Parke-Davis/Warner-Lambert (now Pfizer) he was instrumental in the success of numerous cardiovascular drug discovery and development programs including Lipitor. In 1998, Mike co-founded Esperion Therapeutics and held a variety of executive positions being involved in nearly all aspects of building Esperion from its startup to its acquisition by Pfizer for $1.3 billion in 2004. In 2007, he co-founded Akebia Therapeutics which had a successful IPO in 2014. In 2009, Mike co-founded Nymirum serving as CEO until 2015 and currently as a member of the Board. Mike’s entrepreneurial efforts have led to his inclusion in the book How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America and receiving Distinguished Alumni Awards from both the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the College of Agriculture at Purdue University. Mike received his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Michigan, Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Purdue University, and MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

      Cameron Ford » «
      Cameron earned his Ph.D. in Business Administration from Penn State University before joining UCF. Cameron’s scholarly interests focus on creativity and entrepreneurship by describing how novel ideas evolve, gain legitimacy, and attract resources during the new venture emergence process. His research has appeared in over 60 academic papers including publications in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, and IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management.


      1. Who can apply?
        Any current UCF student may apply. Upstarts is for UCF entrepreneurs who have a product or service which is currently selling or almost sale ready. It is not for UCF entrepreneurs who “have an idea”. Those entrepreneurs should contact the Blackstone LaunchPad.
      2. How do I apply?
        The application form link is below. You and your team should fill it out and send to Mike Pape at We recommend you take adequate time and thoughtfulness with this application as it will reflect your desire to seriously accelerate your venture.
      3. What is the benefit of working out of the UCF Upstarts Student Venture Accelerator?
        You and your team will interact with other like-minded and like-actioned entrepreneurial students. Your similar lifestyles as student entrepreneurs will motivate you to accelerate your venture forward. Other programs within Upstarts will give you 1-on-1 mentoring with experienced entrepreneurs and exposure to fundamental business practices to power your venture forward.
      4. What resources are provided to new ventures that are accepted into the program?
        Regarding facilities, you will be given office space to call “home” so you can meet with your team and work intensely on your venture. Regarding expertise, you will be rubbing shoulders with elite aspiring entrepreneurs and those with extensive hands-on startup experience.
      5. How much does the program cost?
        There is no cost to apply and no cost if you are selected to be an Upstarts Venture. The “cost” is your commitment to accelerate your venture!
      6. Does the UCF Upstart Student Venture Accelerator take an equity position in the new company?
      7. Does the UCF Upstart Student Venture Accelerator provide funding?
        Currently we do not provide funding. However, Upstarts staff will provide extensive training in how to fundraise from a variety of sources.
      8. What types of ventures are accepted into the program?
        All types of product and service ventures are accepted including those in IT, life science, consumer, engineering, and manufacturing. We encourage technology-based startups to apply even if they do not envision selling a good or service within 8 months. We will strongly consider mentoring technology founders to help them start the company on the right trajectory.
      9. Do the 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 both semesters.
      10. 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 value-generating milestones and work toward meeting those milestones. That will be the Upstarts definition of success.
      11. What protections are provided for my intellectual property?
        The Upstarts staff will guide you through your IP options which includes how much to publically reveal and how to protect your product or process within legally mandated timeframes.
      If you have further questions, contact Michael Pape at

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