StartUp, formerly the Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community (ERLC), is a primarily residential experience. Every fall, for over 10 years, our community has welcomed 64 students, all interested in exploring entrepreneurship on the UW-Madison campus, onto the second floor of Tower A in Sellery Hall. The vast majority of StartUp’s residents are first year students.
But for many in the StartUp community, the experience doesn’t end after May move out. Every year we invite StartUp alum---now sophomores, junior and seniors at UW-Madison--to return to the floor to provide mentorship to current residents. These passionate alums are instrumental in getting first year students to take advantage of the many opportunities, such as grants and seminars, which are only available to community members while in residence.
Senior Nathan Eggenberger, though, has taken his StartUp alumni status to a completely new level. A psychology major, Nathan serves as the StartUp Learning Community’s Program Assistant and Student Entrepreneur-in-Residence, taking responsibility for the planning and execution of many of our community events, Nathan also proves himself invaluable when functioning as an entrepreneurial guide to residents looking to launch new ventures from the 2A floor. From a larger campus perspective, he has been a key driver in organizing the inaugural year of the Innovators Coalition, a consortium of all student entrepreneurship organizations on campus as well as many entrepreneurship organizations off campus. Nathan is the group’s founding president. “The Innovators Coalition is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s this band of change-makers all marching to the beats of their own drums. Perhaps it’s not the most harmonious arrangement, but in our line of work, ‘disruptive’ is a good thing.”
Another stellar residential learning community alum, Yu-Lin Yang, has also become a respected student leader on campus. Since his time in StartUp, Yu-Lin has been selected from a highly competitive pool of undergraduates to tour the state as part of the Wisconsin Experience Bus Trip. This past spring he was elected president of Transcend UW, the student organization that puts on the Transcend Madison Innovation Competition, the country’s largest student-run new venture contest. This summer, the computer science major is working as a data-engineering intern at Discover Financial Services.
However, it is perhaps what Nathan and Yu-Lin are doing together that is most impressive. After meeting serendipitously at a computer science networking dinner in the Spring of 2016, they immediately knew that at some point, they wanted to start a business together. After much ideation and iteration, they settled upon their current venture, HaulTalk – a community platform focused on expanding the way influencers share their wardrobes with the world. While neither student considered himself a “fashionisto” upon launch, they both realized that on-line shopping and sharing was a platform ripe for something new. “We’re now five members strong this summer,” says Yang. “While we all have separate jobs, it’s exhilarating to see how much work everyone is putting in. Because of this team effort, I’m super excited for the fall semester when we’re going to have our prototype released to influencers.”
This past April, HaulTalk won Best Pitch during the Transcend Madison Innovation Competition, proving not only that a startup idea based on the popularity of haul videos has serious legs, but also that these former StartUp residents know how to sell their ideas to an audience. Says Eggenberger, “Throughout this process, and our college careers in general, the StartUp staff has been a source of endless support, encouragement, and wisdom both personally and professionally for Yu-Lin and I. We are truly grateful for the launchpad they built for us.”