DePaul University’s students, faculty and alumni will get access to mentors and investors who can help implement tech-oriented business ideas under a partnership with Prysm Institute in Lincoln Park.
The joint effort is designed to “knock down walls” that separate academic research from real-world applications and encourage DePaul’s diverse student body to become tech entrepreneurs, said Steve Stoute, the school’s vice president for strategic initiatives.
Prysm, a business incubator that operates virtually and from offices near DePaul’s main campus, will recruit senior executives and financiers to volunteer for the effort during 12-month terms. The institute was founded by real estate firm Sterling Bay, which hopes it will spin off new companies as potential tenants. The developer sees a growing tech market here, especially in life sciences.
For DePaul, the partnership helps it compete with the tech education programs of other schools, such as the University of Illinois’ plans for a tech research center in the South Loop. Stoute said the DePaul program’s applied nature will appeal to students and faculty who want to bring ideas out of the classroom.
He said 34% of DePaul’s enrollment are first-generation college students. Incoming entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds will appreciate a program that offers connections to get them started, he said.
“We’re obviously a global institution, but for us, it starts and ends right here at home,” Stoute said. “So it is about how we can make the biggest impact here in our local community.”
James Gillespie, Prysm’s executive director, said the partnership will encourage growth in Chicago’s tech community, which competes with the East and West coasts for talent and capital.
“The more entrepreneurs we have from DePaul, the University of Illinois, the U of C, Northwestern, etc., that keeps more talent here in Chicago, and that helps everyone,” he said.
Gillespie has been trying to diversify the ranks of tech leaders. His work at Prysm includes a venture to encourage the launch of women-owned companies.
Prysm is based at Sterling Bay’s 120,000-square-foot office building for life sciences at 2430 N. Halsted St.
Its DePaul partnership starts on a pilot basis this fall. The school plans to have classes meeting in-person as usual, depending on developments with the coronavirus, Stoute said.
The pandemic’s disruption has caused enrollment to drop at many schools, but Stoute said DePaul, the area’s largest private university, expects to welcome its largest freshman class in history.