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Clarkson Students' Start-up Business Looks To Revolutionize University's Entrepreneurship Program
In a Clarkson University residence hall, business students are on the Internet reviewing federal business opportunities, assessing strategies for bidding on jobs, tracking down service and trade equipment suppliers, and getting together for regularly scheduled board of directors meetings.
The students are members and shareholders of Revolution 24 Inc., an innovative corporation actively participating in the field of federal bidding.
Revolution 24 Inc. is the brainchild of 24 sophomore business majors and is part of Venture@MooreHouse, an innovative residential learning experience in which students live together and operate a business in a corporate setting. The students are responsible for everything from establishing the company’s structure and making personnel decisions to securing start-up costs from a panel of investors made up of Clarkson School of Business faculty and administrators and prominent local business owners.
But Revolution 24 is not your typical student start-up business.
“Unlike most student companies that locate business opportunities within the collegiate marketplace, Revolution 24 is stepping out into the highly competitive, national marketplace where they will need to carve out a place for themselves as an important link between suppliers and government contractors,” said Marc Compeau, director of entrepreneurial programs and group advisor. “These students have taken a good concept and turned it into a first-rate business venture. It will be exciting to see how they progress.”
Revolution 24 will focus primarily on securing federal business opportunities by utilizing the Web site www.FedBizOpps.gov. The Web site posts descriptions of goods and services needed by federal agencies so commercial vendors can search, monitor and place bids on these contracts. Revolution 24 Inc. will specialize in aggressively pursuing and acquiring federal contracts dealing with service and trade equipment.
“We will essentially be the ‘middleman’ in the chain from manufacturer and supplier to contractors and buyers,” explained student Kevin Lobdell ’06. “Our job will be to obtain a contract and then locate the most dependable supplier with competitive pricing.”
Federal guidelines stipulate that a certain percentage of their purchasing must be from small businesses. In order to be eligible to participate in federal bidding, a company must first register with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR). This is a long process that Revolution 24 has already completed.
“The government cannot work directly with a number of suppliers because they do not meet the small business criteria or have not registered with CCR,” Lobdell said. “That’s where we come in.”
But Revolution 24 is not merely innovative in how it is positioning itself within a potentially lucrative market; it is also creative in its corporate structure.
“We began as a regular Venture@MooreHouse team, but after a couple of months we have revolutionized the program by becoming an official corporation, abolishing the position of CEO and becoming a goal-oriented company,” explained Lobdell. “Our company is founded on the principles of equality, shared responsibilities, and teamwork.”
That means that each of the 24 student employees is also a shareholder and board member. While there is no president or vice president, there are four departments or “teams” — legal, operations, human resources, and finance. Students will share decision making within their teams and final decisions will be made by a vote of all 24 members. The company has also set up an intricate system for performance feedback and evaluations.
“I have learned over the years never to underestimate what our students are able to accomplish through hard work, high energy, and a willingness to go back again and again until they get it right,” said Marc Compeau. “Successes and missteps along the way are all part of the learning process. In the end, our students will themselves profit from the creative thinking, team work, troubleshooting and risk taking that is intrinsically built into the program.”
But the members of Revolution 24 Inc. are confident they’ve done their homework and have found a way to distinguish themselves in a distinctive marketplace.
“The revolution has begun,” says Lobdell.