DETROIT – The student business accelerator Starting Gate began in 2013 at Western Michigan University (WMU) in an effort to address “how to support the transfer of technology from university labs to the marketplace and help commercialize the aspirations of other would-be entrepreneurs on campus,” Crain’s Detroit Business reported.
Starting Gate “has helped launch 80 companies, held more than 400 events, awarded $50,000 in seed money and seen its companies get $380,000 in grants and file 10 patent applications,” Crain’s reported, adding that it “is located in 1,000 square feet in the Park Trades Center Building in downtown Kalamazoo and is operated by the Haworth College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in partnership with WMU's Office of Community Outreach.”
Cluventure Travel LLC is among the companies helped by Starting Gate and offers travelers unique experiences through solving clues when they reach their destination. Greece is among the countries travelers have visited through Cluventure.
“Cluventure won the first-place prize of $2,000 at Western's sixth annual K.C. O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition and Showcase held on campus March 23,” Crain’s reported, noting that “more than 25 companies made three-minute pitches for a total of $5,000 in prize money,” and “in May, Cluventure was named by Starting Gate as winner of the first annual $5,000 Wendell Christoff Award, an award named for an alumnus of WMU who got his degree in business administration in 1968. He is CEO and president of Litehouse Inc., a Lowell, MI, maker of salad dressings and sauces that Entrepreneur magazine has named as a Top 100 privately held company.”
Desi Taylor is Cluventure’s founder and CEO and though she graduated from the Starting Gate program and is still a senior at WMU, majoring in Spanish, she told Crain’s that the company is doing well.
“After I graduate in April, I will put my heart and soul into this. It's what I'm passionate about,” she said, Crain’s reported. “We recently launched a corporate section on our website. The agenda for 2019 is finalizing our corporate retreat pitch. We've done one corporate retreat so far.”
The combination of “mystery, unplanned adventure, and travel to create an interactive vacation experience,” is Cluventure’s aim, Crain’s reported, adding that “each trip is customized following interviews to determine a customer's likes and dislikes,” while “Cluventure arranges transportation, lodging and activities, nearly all of which is a mystery to vacationers until they get where they are going.”
When travelers arrive, they “must solve a series of clues to find out what activities have been planned,” Crain’s reported, adding that “so far, Taylor has booked 87 trips for individuals, including international trips to Aruba, Greece, and Costa Rica.”
The prices vary depending on the trip and Cluventure’s website displays baseline costs only which can range from $300 per person up to $4,500 for domestic trips and $2,625-7,000 per person for international trips. Luxury options are also available for domestic and international destinations, Crain’s reported.
More information is available online: cluventuretravel.com.