Startup Shell Fosters Student Entrepreneurs - Start-up Week


By Molly Freeman

Eric Rosenberg co-founded Startup Shell in 2012. Photo courtesy of Eric Rosenberg.

Though the cliche holds true that many college students graduate and land jobs in the burgeoning world of start-ups, it’s not quite as commonplace to see many among the young starting their own businesses. Rather, they are the token young, fresh, coffee-fetcher for late-twentysomethings, Xers, or Boomers who actually run the show.

Yet while Eric Rosenberg attended the University of Maryland, he was inspired by his own foray into app development to create a haven for college students looking for a step up in launching their own start-ups. While creating his own company 512 Technology, Rosenberg spent a lot of time seeking advice from lawyers and experienced entrepreneurs. After looking back, though, he knew any young entrepreneur needed more than wise words.

Enter Startup Shell, Rosenberg’s non-profit collective for students–run by students–that helps develop entrepreneurship through collaboration. ‘The Shell,’ as its creator calls it, offers a local space to students where they can share ideas, write code, build hardware, meet with investors or customers as well as host tech talks, Rosenberg explains.

“I built the Shell to have a place where entrepreneurial students can have a place where they can come and work and act on all the advice they had been given,” Rosenberg tells BTR.

The collective also holds events that range from lectures, to hackathons, to retreats in order to strengthen the bonds between members. Startup Shell offers mentorship to its members from alumni, such as Rosenberg, or other entrepreneurs. One event hosted by Startup Shell featured Paul Mandell, founder and CEO of Consero Group LLC, who spoke to students about how to stand out in an overcrowded start-up economy.

Along with the other founders of Startup Shell, Justin Searles and Deonna Hodges, Rosenberg has cultivated a start-up culture on the University of Maryland’s campus similar to the one found at Stanford created by its student’s own start-up accelerator, StartX.

“There were nights where I’d head over to the shell at 2 am to finish up work on a feature for 512 Technology and I’d arrive to find three or four other students at the Shell, too, working all night on their own start-ups,” Rosenberg recalls. “Everyone at the Shell was so smart and many people had very specific areas of expertise that everyone in the Shell could benefit from.”

Prior to founding Startup Shell, Rosenberg also founded and produced the iOS app Route Rider, which provided users on the University of Maryland campus with real time schedules of the shuttle buses as well as when a particular bus would actually arrive at a stop.

Rosenberg hopes that Startup Shell will teach other entrepreneurial students the same lessons he learned while building and earning money from Route Rider, as well as the knowledge he gained while immersed in the business circles of the university.

“Throughout the entire process I had learned more from building my own company than I did in any of my classes,” he explains. “[I] realized that working on a start-up could be hugely beneficial for [a student’s] education.”

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2013, Rosenberg moved to San Francisco and began working for Twitter, of course, one of the biggest names to emerge from the ecosystem of tech start-ups. According to Rosenberg, the culture isn’t much different at the tech heavyweight than it is at the Shell–other than the number of people, of course.

“I think this is due to Twitter trying to hold on to its young start-up culture as it grows,” Rosenberg says. “By this I mean that every employee here is truly passionate about our product and our users and coming to work every day, even after being here for seven months, [it] still feels more like fun than it does work.”

However, although he’s now based in San Francisco, Rosenberg makes a point of staying in touch with members of the Shell. He is always available to the students for help with Android app development issues–his specialty–or any other way he can help in a mentorship role. He also visits at least once a semester to meet new members and keep in touch with old associates.

Despite working for one of the largest start-ups in the country, Rosenberg says he would be willing to strike back out on his own in the start-up world.

He says, “It is still my dream, however, to move on after Twitter and take another stab at building my own company.”