IDEA: A Student-Run Venture Accelerator Helping Move Entrepreneurs Forward at Northeastern U

It all began with a distinct focus on “student-led.” 

As part of the entrepreneurial culture at Northeastern, campus organizations are encouraged to be run solely by students. So, when six students approached the dean of the Business School proposing a startup accelerator in 2009, the program was set forth to be led by students to serve the Northeastern community. 

Five years later, the program is now formally named IDEA: Northeastern University’s Venture Accelerator and is working with over 125 active Northeastern affiliated startups. IDEA provides up to 250k (in denominations of 10k) in non-equity Gap Funds to its ventures every year, hosts a management team of 30 students, and has helped launch 33 ventures into the market. 


IDEA works to “educate entrepreneurs and launch successful businesses,” a mission agreed upon by the team and backed up by the three-part stage-gate process: Ready, Set, and Go. The different stages act as internal milestones for each startup, whether it is building a financial plan, applying for a patent, or working out a foolproof launch strategy.

In addition to the stage-gate process, IDEA focuses on supporting ventures through three main channels: “Coach, Connect and Fund.” 

Coaches, who are made up of graduate and undergraduate students, are matched with startups and accompany them through IDEA’s business planning guide. Each venture also has access to a robust mentor network of industry professionals that offer expertise in various areas. 

In terms of “connect,” IDEA works with a wide range of service providers and partners who offer in-kind services, from accounting to legal consulting. IDEA startups have the opportunity to utilize whichever recourse they need the most during their journey from ready to go. 

IDEA also offers two non-equity grants, one is the Gap Fund, in the amount of 10k, that ventures can apply for up to three times, and the other is the Prototype Fund, up to 1k, which is accessible to any startup, inside or outside of the accelerator.   

Along with the internal support that IDEA provides, the accelerator hosts a premier entrepreneurial exposition every semester called NEXPO, an event that is open to both Northeastern affiliates as well as to the greater Boston community. 


The event, planned by IDEA, celebrates and showcases entrepreneurship at Northeastern as a whole. Featured this year at
NEXPO will be IDEA and Husky Startup Challenge ventures, a breakout session by the CoFoundersLab, presentations by both Northeastern University’s Center for Research Innovation and the Health Science Entrepreneurs and much more. 

This semester, the event will be held on November 20th and welcomes the attendance of members of the greater Boston community who would like to connect with entrepreneurs at Northeastern. Attendees will be able to explore IDEA startups and network with the breadth of entrepreneurship organizations at Northeastern. 

Benjamin Bungert is Communications Officer at IDEA and an Account Executive at Fiksu. You can follow him on Twitter @BenBungert as well as IDEA @IDEANU.