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SSC Venture Partners Boosts the BC Entrepreneurial Community Through Mentorship

Starting a business is daunting—especially for new entrepreneurs who don’t know how to bring their ideas to fruition. 

SSC Venture Partners is an organization that helps Boston College student and alum entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business. The program guides participants “from idea through exit,” with a startup accelerator, venture funds, a mentor network, and student training. 

“The goal of the SSC is to bring entrepreneurship at Boston College to the forefront of the local and national startup ecosystem,” its website reads. “SSC Venture Partners is the next stage in the evolution of that mission.”

Noticing a lack of support for entrepreneurs on campus, business-owning BC alumni came together to found SSC Venture Partners in 2014, according to Duncan Walker, general partner at SSC Venture Partners and BC ’13. 

“A lot of alumni were looking at this general scenario of not having a lot going on on campus, but fielding some questions from students saying, ‘Hey, I want to start a business,’” Walker said. “The decision was made by a close group of about five or six companies founded by BC alumni to all put a little bit of money in to create a support program for Boston College students.” 

According to Walker, these companies—including his own business, Jebbit—came together to launch the Summer Accelerator, a program helping startups created by BC students and alumni run their business full time during the summer. 

“Instead of going into an internship in accounting or consulting or any of those things BC does well at, let’s help them experience what it’s like to run a company,” Walker said. “And then let’s bring resources together in the form of office space, mentorship, workshops … and just create this super exciting community and culture to be a part of for the summer.” 

While the Summer Accelerator yielded some success, Walked said that at least 50 percent of the student participants decided not to pursue their business full time. 

“Many of the students who decided not to pursue their business still had a general passion for entrepreneurship, but they just didn’t know exactly how to adapt their business or their ideas if they ran into obstacles and challenges along the way,” Walker said. 

To combat this, Walker said SSC Venture Partners updated the program to focus on personal development as well as business development. This more holistic approach to entrepreneurship is beneficial, Walker said.

“Teaching both that personal development, as well as the professional development, we’ve been able to have a much greater impact and see a lot more companies and entrepreneurs be successful,” Walker said. 

Walker said another exciting aspect of the SSC has been the growth of its mentor network, allowing BC entrepreneurs to connect with experts in a variety of fields to receive advice. 

“One of the coolest things … is the number of folks who weren’t initially affiliated with Boston College, seeing the University investing in entrepreneurship and seeing the students working hard, and just wanting to be a part of that, wanting to support them, wanting to see more awesome businesses built in the Boston area,” Walker said. 

While the mentor network is mostly catered toward participants of the Summer Accelerator, it is also an important year-round resource for all BC entrepreneurs, Walker said. 

“We’ve got companies—students, alumni—reaching out to us at other times of the year, and we don’t know the answer, but we know somebody who does know the answer, or maybe we want to just provide multiple perspectives,” Walker said. 

One of the most recent additions to the organization is the Venture Studio. Founded in 2021, the Venture Studio was an effort spearheaded by BC students that focuses on investing in student-led startups on campus, according to Walker.  

“The goal that we set out collectively to do was to create a group on campus—that is the SSC Venture Studio—that could both provide students with experience on the side of the table that looks at companies and analyzes them … but also to provide knowledge and experience and support to the other side of the table,” Walker said. 

Though the SSC Venture Studio is not directly affiliated with BC, it works to help grow student startups within the BC community, according to Joaquin Penelas, Venture Studio associate and MCAS ’24. 

“Our goal is to develop these startups to a point where they can take on investment … or get them to the point where they can go on through the accelerator,” Penelas said.

Kristin Myer, Venture Studio associate and CSOM ’25, said the Venture Studio tries to approach the needs of BC entrepreneurs from two different angles.

“The first angle is from funding—how can we help them with getting money through the Venture Partners?” she said. “The other angle is more on the operational end—how can we help them with getting their business to the point where they can accept funding?” 

The Venture Studio’s team consists of 26 analysts who work in groups to source new startups, according to Penelas. Many of the startups they work with, however, reach out first, according to Jiqian Zhao, Venture Studios associate and CSOM ’24. 

“It’s two-sided,” Zhao said. “There are also starters who come to us and say, ‘Hey, what do you think of our idea? Do you have feedback?’” 

According to Myer, the Venture Studio accepts new analysts at the beginning of the school year, and analyst positions are open to people of all interests and majors. 

“We’re just looking for people who are generally involved in the entrepreneurial community,” Myer said. “They don’t have to be CSOM or finance focused. It’s really just people who are interested in helping startups around BC, getting funding, helping them with their ideas.”

Myer said that while the Venture Studio currently only accepts startups founded by BC alumni or students, it will aim to work with more startups that have co-founders from the Boston area. 

“A lot of people get trapped in the bubble here,” Penelas said. “They don’t realize that we are blessed to have some of the greatest human capital on the planet in such a small concentration … We do want BC kids going across the pond and reaching out to Harvard and MIT students and working on a startup.” 

The SSC Venture Studio used to decide which startups to invest in based on a Shark Tank–style pitch given by the companies, according to Myer. Now, it has shifted to a more collaborative, less intense approach. 

“I feel it went from investor mode to a peer mode, like we are giving them constructive advice rather than just critiques,” Zhao said.

Walker said the SSC Venture Studio has been vital in keeping the Venture Partners directly connected with the BC entrepreneurial community. 

“We all have our own businesses,” Walker said. “We have a lot going on outside of SSC. We really need that venture studio to stay connected into the grassroots entrepreneurship efforts.” 

The Venture Studio is also pushing for a partnership with the Shea Center, according to Zhao, to make more people aware of the resources it has for startups.

“I hope … to let people know that there are resources like us out there to help later-stage startups,” Zhao said. “Because what we do is different from Shea in that Shea is focused more on the early stage, and we are kind of like the after-Shea Center.” 

Even though Penelas is graduating in the spring, he said he hopes the SSC Venture Studio will continue to adapt to the needs of BC startups.  

“We’re just a group of kids that like to help other kids achieve their goals,” Penelas said. 

November 27, 2023