Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

$500,000 gift from Weather Underground aids entrepreneurial experience

U-M spinoff Weather Underground has given a $500,000 gift to the Center for Entrepreneurship to endow support for its annual Bay Area entrepreneurial experience. In recognition of this gift, the trip will be named the Weather Underground Startup Trek.

 

Learn more about the Center for Entrepreneaurship.

Every spring, U-M student entrepreneurs travel west for a two-day exploration of the Silicon Valley and San Francisco startup scenes. The trip, which launched in 2008, includes a pitch and feedback session for student ventures, tours of local startups, and networking events that build connections between students, faculty, and alumni. CFE also hosts similar treks to Boston and Chicago.

"This gift enables long-term sustainability of the Bay Area Startup Trek, an important co-curricular activity which exposes our students to innovative, disruptive, scalable companies founded by U-M alumni," says Doug Neal, CFE executive director. "Weather Underground is a great example of just such a Michigan success story."

The popular online weather service traces its roots to the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences. During the late 1980s and early '90s AOSS faculty, researchers, and undergraduate students worked together to develop a system that displayed real-time global weather data. By 1995, the project had evolved into a commercial website. Weather Underground was acquired by The Weather Channel Companies in July 2012, but continues to maintain its own website and brand identity.

"We wouldn't be where we are today if it weren't for the early support of the Michigan community. We're excited to be able to extend the same opportunities we've had to aspiring entrepreneurs," says Weather Underground President Alan Steremberg.

The company was particularly drawn to the Bay Area trek because the trip reflects Weather Underground's own entrepreneurial journey from Ann Arbor to San Francisco. Steremberg, who served as a panelist during an early iteration of the program, says he believes the trek can inspire Michigan students to pursue their own startup ambitions.

"Weather Underground is an example of what's possible for entrepreneurially minded Michigan students. Experiencing the Bay Area startup culture will be key to igniting their passion for venture creation and connecting them to resources that will help them get their ideas off the ground," he says.

This year, an anticipated 100 students will participate in the trek. Fetchnotes, an online note-taking app; Shepherd Intelligent Systems, the precursor to ride-sharing app SideCar; and Allen Kim, a winner of Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur of 2010 award, are examples of U-M student startups and entrepreneurs who have attended the trip in the past.

2012 Bay Area Startup Trek participants discuss the value of the program.