Opening the Hatch: A Peek into MSU’s Premier Student Incubator
It sits unassumingly perched atop a large insurance office, seemingly watching over the bustling businesses that line Grand River Avenue. It’s Michigan State University’s the Hatch: An enterprising student’s entrepreneurial playground well-known in the community for enabling promising student-led projects to earn their sea legs in a low-risk environment. That, of course, in addition to cultivating a tight-knit, small-business community via a versatile space for these genesis companies to communicate and work with one another. We spoke with Lori Fischer, events and student program manager at Spartan Innovations, to paint a comprehensive picture of where the Hatch came from, what it’s all about and where it is going.
The Hatch, well, “hatched” in the twilight years of the humble noughties. In ’09 the city of East Lansing, MSU faculty and a handful of ambitious students banded together and dreamt up msuEnet, a co-working space for students interested in sharing innovative ideas. Some of the members of the seminal “Gumball Club” have gone on to hold prestigious positions at notable social media-era companies such as Airbnb, Zaarly and Remind.
“In 2012, Spartan Innovations was formed, and we began to manage the Hatch space as well as implement the robust program it operates on today,” said Fischer.
Since then, countless projects have come to fruition, such as VADE, a nutrition/supplement company brought to life by MSU wrestler Joe Johnson with a little help from the Hatch.
Today, the Hatch runs a clean, flexible space. It is accessible 24/7, and offers large versatile working spaces alongside stress releases like a pingpong table and popcorn machine. Whiteboards lining the walls tend to be tattooed with formulas, pie charts, notes and the like.
“Sometime small speaking events or workshops are held in the Hatch. There may be small groups collaborating or individuals working in the corners,” Fischer explained. “There is no typical day for an entrepreneur here at the Hatch, only numerous ideas and opportunities for learning and connecting.”
To incite collaboration, the Hatch promotes its communication portal, Hatch Connect. Hatch Connect allows members to track personal progress as well as reach out to other projects and potential interns. In addition to that network, the Hatch provides marketing services, financial projections, graphic and web design, app development, 3D printing, legal services, photography, videography and around 20 Hatch interns at participating students’ disposal.
“This summer, we are working on remodeling the space with new carpet, paint, furniture and new individual working spaces,” said Fischer. “We are developing and supporting four e-ship student orgs, MSU Entrepreneurship Association, MSU Women in Entrepreneurship, MBA Entrepreneurship Association and OptimizeMSU – a social entrepreneurship org.”
Those upgrades along with many others will help a litany of technologically innovative, ground-floor companies in the coming years. One specific project Fischer mentioned is Seth Killian’s Lingco Language Labs, an AI language-learning platform that has recently received $20,000 of funding from the MSU’s Conquer Accelerator program.