Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Stanford grads build peer networking start-up for student start-up founders

By David Schwartz
Published: May 18th, 2022

With its rich history of innovation and storied start-ups spawned from its campus, it makes sense that Stanford University has also now provided the seeding ground for a start-up targeting student start-ups.

Charlie Wehan, who graduated last year, was taking classes at Stanford and tinkering with product ideas when he hit a roadblock in trying to identifying teammates for his class project. When he received access to a Google spreadsheet of students and their ideas for a Management Sciences & Engineering class, he wondered why all student entrepreneurs didn’t have access to a similar network.

That was the spark behind The ORCA Network, an online platform Wehan co-founded with fellow Stanford grad Arda Bulut, which connects early-stage start-up founders to a peer network.

Through ORCA, users can find like-minded students to join their team, ideas to collaborate on, mentors to learn from and investors to partner with. ORCA currently has over one thousand members on Stanford’s campus alone, Bulut reports, and has recently expanded to Brown University, Columbia, UC Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and Rhode Island School of Design.

ORCA “is a social network, but a purpose-driven one,” said Executive Director of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy Brian Bartholomeusz, PhD, who has been a mentor to Wehan and Bulut. “It has a lot of potential for social justice and sustainability; you could really tailor this and create something powerful.” Another of the pair’s mentors, associate professor Chuck Eesley, said ORCA could provide a more level playing field for access to entrepreneurial opportunities among underrepresented communities.

Professors in Stanford’s Graduate School of Business are now using ORCA in their classrooms. Eesley said that prior to ORCA, his students would look for teammates on a Google spreadsheet, which only “barely worked.”

“It became very helpful to say, ‘You can go to ORCA, create an account and post your initial idea on there,’” he said.

The ORCA team plans to continue its expansion to other universities so that students can collaborate across campuses. Wehan and Bulut’s goal is for ORCA to become the go-to platform for students with an idea. “If we can play a part in fostering the growth of even one idea that could change the world… that would be rewarding,” Bulut said.

Source: The Stanford Daily

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