Student entrepreneurs have been a part of the fabric of Colby since the College opened its doors.
Now, with the opening of the Halloran Lab for Entrepreneurship, those students will have an on-campus resource to help them as they explore how far they, and their good ideas, can go.
“We at the Halloran Lab are here to support you. If you’re curious, eager to find the camaraderie of being on a team and working with your fellow students to solve a problem, we’re here to support you,” Jeremy Barron ’00, the lab’s director and an entrepreneur who cofounded a technology company that became an industry leader, said Friday during its kickoff event on Miller lawn. “Our goal here is to make innovation and entrepreneurship accessible to all students at Colby, no matter your background, experience, or career ambitions.”
The lab, made possible through the funding of Trustee Emeritus Todd Halloran ’84, will provide entrepreneurship education and training programs and award grants to students to help fund their ideas. It also will help students start commercial and social enterprises, pursue mentorships, and participate in innovation and maker spaces on campus and in downtown Waterville.
An important facet of the Halloran Lab’s work will be to develop an entrepreneurship ecosystem of alumni, faculty, staff, and community members, along with companies, organizations, and institutions.
Many entrepreneurial Colby alumni were present at the kickoff, along with curious students, other Maine-based entrepreneurs, and the people who worked for a decade to make the dream of the lab a reality.
Those included Halloran, who after graduating from Harvard Business School spent the majority of his career investing in and working with business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“As a young kid, I had a bunch of different little business ideas and pursued a lot of those things early on. So there was something inside of me that lit that fire,” said Halloran, now a senior advisory partner at a private equity firm. “When I came to Colby, I had a great education. I had access to lots of great things and got a great job, but I went through a more conventional path initially. There wasn’t an entrepreneurial club. There wasn’t anything like this.”
He said that the lab’s primary mission is to augment the “very valuable” education that a liberal arts curriculum brings to students by helping them build real-world skills. Those include collaborating with a team, effective public speaking, using social media as an advocacy tool, risk assessment and management, solving complex problems, and using curiosity and creativity to find a new approach to difficult issues.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship really do embody the skills that are used in startups, that are used in commercial enterprises, that are used in social enterprises, government services, and all sorts of endeavors,” Halloran said.
That thinking rings true for alumni like Jen Millard ’90, a founder and entrepreneur who has successfully worked in the finance and commerce technology sectors, and who is thrilled that the Halloran Lab is up and running.
“It makes my heart warm to see it come to life,” she said.
Millard, who is passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship, believes that young entrepreneurs can focus too much on finding the right idea and not on the essential work that comes after that. The Halloran Lab will help Colby students “springboard up and support them as a company, not just an idea,” she said.
Computer science major Najam Tariq ’26 would love to be among those students. He came to the kickoff event with a good idea already in process, to make the text produced by artificial intelligence language models sound more natural and “humanized.” He even has a prototype website with about 5,000 users. But Tariq could use some help getting his idea to the next level, and the mentorship and grants available through the Halloran Lab sound very promising to him.
“Definitely, it could be a great resource,” he said.
President David A. Greene said he can’t wait to see what will happen as the lab continues to grow and support both the College and the surrounding community.
“I think this is going to be a centerpiece of a Colby education. It’s going to be a major part of the reason why people come here,” he said. “It’s going to help lift up Waterville in creating an ecosystem for innovation that’s going to be powerful and important. It’s going to attract entrepreneurs and mentors from all over the world, and it’s going to create opportunities for our students like we’ve never seen in the past.”
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