University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Student Start-Ups

Andrew Dazzo presenting in class
Photograph by Tomoki Nomura '20,


Student Start-Ups

INNOVATION | In a city and state known for its innovative spirit, it’s no surprise that student entrepreneurs at UVM are trying to get in on the action. To help these students bring their ideas to market, Andrew Dazzo ’17 developed a new innovation fund, which offers financial support and expertise.

 “We want to be the entity that helps students flesh out their ideas, figure out their market, distill their pitches, and whatever else they need to turn their idea into a successful business," says Dazzo. "We looked at models at other universities that choose to take equity stakes in startup companies and we think our model, which relies on a grant structure and does not to take equity, will be very effective."

Self-starter Dazzo offers a fine example to his fellow undergrads. The economics major/business minor’s thorough networking led to a summer 2016 internship with Wells Fargo, an opportunity to learn about investment banking and prove his merit, eventually leading to a job offer. Dazzo began as a staff analyst at Wells Fargo after graduation.  

Here’s how the innovation fund works: a student brings an idea to the Student Analyst Team, run by Dazzo and other students. If it shows promise, the team would provide support and potentially a $2,000 grant to create a prototype through UVM and local facilities. Students who go through the prototype process may then win a $10,000 grant to further develop, market, and potentially launch a startup. 

Student analysts receive training from faculty including Erik Monsen, the Steven Grossman Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, and alumni. Guidance from a board of advisors, comprising alumni in business and other relevant fields, will also be available to students and analysts to provide expertise and support.

“If we’re going to be providing strategic and operational guidance for startups we want to have some sort of background, so we’re planning a training session led by start-up leaders in the Burlington community and faculty," Dazzo said, as the fund was getting off the ground during spring semester. "At the end of the day we realize we’re just students, so we want to rely on the expertise of local entrepreneurs, faculty, and the alumni connections we’re continuing to build.”

The fund, financed by alumni donations and the Student Government Association, is administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. 

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