New mentorship program to help UW-Madison computer science students start companies | Technology

A new program will start this fall, aimed at turning more UW-Madison students into entrepreneurs and boosting the state’s tech economy.

The gALPHA+CS program will be a joint effort of the UW-Madison computer sciences department, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the Madison- and Milwaukee-based gener8tor accelerator.

Industry experts from across the UW campus will be matched with interested students to help them build products and start companies. Gener8tor representatives will provide coaching, as well. 

The free program is being funded by a donor whose name is not being disclosed. The donor earned his master’s degree in computer science at the UW-Madison in 2010.

“By joining forces, we can accelerate the growth of tech entrepreneurship in Wisconsin, with the ambitious aim of pushing Wisconsin to the front line of technology startup growth in the country,” said Jignesh Patel, computer sciences professor, chairman of the department’s entrepreneurship committee and a serial entrepreneur.

Gener8tor, which has drawn national recognition, runs 12-week accelerator programs for startups twice a year as well as a seven-week gBETA program for earlier-stage companies. 

The gALPHA program will be a three-week session that will run twice during the 2017-18 academic year. At least 30 students will be able to participate.

“We are targeting 15 students to form five teams for the initial cohort, and hope to expand from there,” said Abby Taubner, gBETA managing director.

She said the goal is for one-third of the participants to go on to form or join a startup. “We envision tech companies with high-impact business models emerging from the program due to the recruiting efforts targeting computer science students and grad students in niche fields,” Taubner said.

She said the current funding covers only the upcoming academic year, but the organizers hope to land more money to continue the program in future years.

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