College Startups: The ‘New Master’s Degree’

Francesco di Meglia:

As a student at University of Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, Derek Pacqué lost his coat at a bar, got angry, and came up with a business plan. He borrowed and saved $500 to purchase racks and hangers to start a coat check business at local hangouts.
CoatChex does not require patrons to keep tickets, which often get lost. Instead, someone at a kiosk photographs clients’ faces and coats with an iPad or smartphone and then uses their phone number and photos for secure pick-up. A paltry original investment eventually had Pacqué negotiating with–and turning down–a $200,000 offer from entrepreneur Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank for a 33 percent stake in the business. In the last two months, CoatChex earned $100,000.
“You go to school to get a job or an education,” says Pacqué, who graduated in 2011. “I went to college because I wanted to create my own career, to create something of value.”
Pacqué is among a new breed of undergraduate business students. Professors and classmates say they hunger to be their own bosses. More undergraduate business students than ever before are launching startups right after graduation–or sometimes while still at school, say administrators. A query to the top 20 undergraduate business schools asking for contacts with promising startups launched by students, or by very recent graduates, resulted in at least 100 responses.