This fall, FastForward U celebrates both the opening of a new 10,000 square foot facility and the energy of new leadership. Kerrie Carden has joined the university as Director of Student Ventures to help channel surging interest in entrepreneurship from across campus.
“So much of entrepreneurship is about mindset,” Carden said. “Some people complain about a problem and then let it go, and some people complain but then start to work on solutions – and those are the entrepreneurs. The difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else is that when there’s a problem, they do something about it.”
Entrepreneurship, Carden said, includes a wide variety of activities that can range from starting a political movement to opening a gardening store to working on a startup – and everything in between.
“We want to continue expanding the definition of entrepreneurs, because there are so many people who fall into that category,” Carden said. “It’s important to recognize entrepreneurs across the spectrum so that other people can see that in themselves.”
FastForward U is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary environment open to all students of Johns Hopkins University. It provides programming and resources to empower emerging student entrepreneurs to develop ideas and disruptive technologies into successful startups. It operates dedicated facilities on the East Baltimore and Homewood campuses, engaging hundreds of students each month in seminars, pitch nights, and one-on-one mentorship. The spaces are open 24 hours a day, seven day a week and provide co-working space, meeting rooms and event space.
FastForward U also offers grant funding opportunities of up to $30,000 to help students test ideas and build ventures and educational and social events aimed at building community and skills for success. It also provides mentoring and one-on-one guidance from staff and a network of experts and experienced entrepreneurs.
While new as a leader at the university, Carden is familiar with its impact. Carden previously volunteered as a mentor for JHTV’s Social Innovation Lab (SIL) at the Johns Hopkins University, which supports innovative nonprofits, mission-driven companies and disruptive technologies poised to create change and opportunity in Baltimore and beyond. She said that experience combined with a love for entrepreneurship attracted her to her new role.
“It’s all of the things I love doing in my spare time melded with the business expertise I developed in the various professional roles,” Carden said.
Carden, who started in early August, is a Maryland native and Stanford University graduate who previously held leadership roles at a Boston-based software company and at Yahoo! Most recently she worked at Baltimore-based Maryland Energy Advisors, a small, fast-paced company aimed at providing renters with information about choices for lowering their home energy costs and options for more environmentally-friendly energy sources.
Brian Stansky, senior director, FastForward, cited Carden’s experience, vision and commitment to building community as key traits that will help her succeed in leading FastForward U.
“Kerrie’s experience and drive to bring people together helped her stand out and will help meet our aim of getting every student interested in entrepreneurship – from the curious to the committed – involved,” Stansky said.
Carden looks forward to introducing students to the new, 10,000 square foot FastForward U Homewood facility where students can use tools and 3-D printers in a 2,000-square-foot onsite makerspace alongside the large, open and flexible meeting and workspaces.
Carden said significant entrepreneurial activity already exists through the campus and that the new space was designed in response to needs identified by students and with the goal of helping ideas grow even faster and bigger. The new space provides more room for programming, collaboration and to simply bring more people together.
“I thought the reaction to the space would be positive, but the enthusiasm has been far greater than I ever expected,” Carden said.
Carden says new space’s success will be measured not only by increased use by students but also by whether it leads to more interaction between with the community and with entrepreneurs from across Baltimore.
“It’s definitely a space that lends itself to bringing all the parts of the entrepreneurial community together,” Carden said.