Carnegie Mellon University

Get Started with Olympus Incubator Program

Students

We welcome all students who are interested in exploring creating a business. Start by reading the Frequently Asked Questions below. Next, complete the Business Concept Template [.doc] and email it to olympus@cmu.edu then schedule a meeting with our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence to go over next steps.

student to startup

Faculty

Faculty members who are interested in working with Project Olympus should consult the Faculty Application Process.

Photo of faculty at project olympus

FAQs for Students

We welcome all current CMU students — undergrad, master's, and Ph.D. — from all schools across campus.

It will make the best use of both of our time. The template covers all the important questions that you’ll be asked during the first meeting, so this helps you to prepare by making you think through the answers.

Since we are only looking for your high level thoughts, your completed template should be no more than two pages. Try to answer all the questions but if you don’t know how to answer some of them, that’s okay. That is what we help you with. The important thing to remember is that all of the key questions have to be addressed for your business to be successful.

Hint: This is not Silicon Valley so generally the ‘we’ll build it and worry about how we’ll make money later’ model doesn't’t work well here. Further, if the revenue is to come from ads, you’ll need to have a fantastic plan (and usually lots of money) for capturing enormous numbers of ‘eyeballs’ before advertisers will pay you enough to make a living. So you should have a ‘Plan B’ for generating alternative sources of revenue.

We wish we could take alumni into our program, but at the moment, we don’t have the resources.  However, we will gladly meet with alumni at least once to offer advice and connect you to resources. Further, some of our programming is open to all and alumni are more than welcome to attend.

Yes. We have a number of teammates from other schools such as Pitt, the Art Institute and even Duke. Teams also have team members that are no longer students at all. The only real requirement is that the key founder or co-founder is a current CMU student.

Your business can be high-tech or low tech or even no tech. While most Project Olympus startups are software and/or web-based, we have also helped students with business ideas that involve robots, back braces, magnets, bicycles, collapsible stools and circular-saw guides.

Complete the Business Concept Template, send it to olympus@cmu.edu, and schedule a time to meet with our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. At our first meeting, we’ll discuss your idea, we’ll agree on a number of next steps, and compose a plan on how to move forward with your idea.

A PiP is the first stage of working with Project Olympus until we are sure both requirements are met. Just like a PrOBE, you’ll get advice, introductions and can work in the Olympus space while other PrOBE team members are present.

In addition to full-time access to the incubator space, PROBEs are listed on our website and given greater opportunities for public exposure such as press and TV interviews, and presenting at Project Olympus Show & Tells. PROBEs also get invited to special meetings and events where attendance is limited. Lastly, only PROBEs are eligible to apply for Spark Grant Funds.

There are two requirements for being accepted as a full PrOBE:

1. Develop a feasible business model. While we often see great technology and innovations, usually a lot more work needs to be done to develop a viable business model.

2. Convince us that you are serious about creating this business. If you are going to use our limited time and resources, we want to make sure that you are really passionate about creating your business. You can convince us by following up on the 'homework,' reaching some milestones and communicating regularly.

Nope. We only ask two things of the students that we help:

1) Whenever possible and where appropriate, give public recognition that Project Olympus helped you with your business. Examples of recognition: putting our logo on your presentations and/or listing us as an advisor. And when talking to others and being interviewed by the press, tell them that we helped you. The reason this is important to us is because when we are trying to raise money to fund our operation, it helps when potential donors hear from people like you that we’ve made a difference.

2) Remember us when you are rich and famous! Truly. We hope (and frankly expect) you to express your appreciation with a generous financial contribution to help keep Project Olympus going so we can help other students in the future.

The only funding that Project Olympus currently provides students are Spark Grant Fund [pdf] micro-grants up to $5,000. To qualify, you must be a PrOBE and the use of the funds must be to help reach a significant milestone.

No, CMU does not own or claim the right to use any intellectual property created by you simply because you participate in the Olympus Incubator Program.

Ownership of and/or rights to intellectual property created by students at CMU is governed by CMU’s published intellectual property policy.

Typically, ownership of student-created intellectual property is owned by CMU, rather than the student, when the student’s work resulting in the creation of the intellectual property was “sponsored” (e.g., a research project sponsored by the Federal government or a corporation).    CMU may also have a right to use student-created intellectual property or other rights if there has been “substantial use of university facilities” (i.e., valued at >~$10,000) in the creation of that intellectual property.  In accordance with CMU’s published intellectual property policy, CMU would not own your intellectual property or have other rights to it if you received a Spark Grant from the Olympus Incubator Program (because the Spark Grant is not “sponsorship” within the meaning of the policy) and/or you or your PROBE used incubator space pursuant to the program (because the value of the use of this space has been determined not to exceed the threshold for “substantial use of university facilities”).

Yes. One of the services we provide is a methodology to eliminate the least probable ideas and narrow your choices down to one to work on or two to research more thoroughly. To get started, write down a few bullet points for each idea, answering the following: I will offer/produce (what) that will (address what problem or improve some condition) for (who would want to buy or use this product service). Send this in an email to olympus@cmu.edu and set up a time to meet with our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence.

That’s okay. One of our goals is to help you learn how to evaluate the potential of a new business. We recognize that sometimes the first idea is not your best one. We help you figure out why not and then encourage you to move on to your next idea. We’ll help you with your next idea as well and in fact, we’ve found often your second idea is the better one. Also, sometimes you can have a great product that the market is too small to be a great business. These may be more suitable for licensing rather than for a stand-alone business, and we’ll help you with that too.