Scholarship + mentorship for young entrepreneurs: A new $10K opportunity

Revel Systems, a developer of a point-of-sale (POS) platform, recently announced a new scholarship and mentorship program for entrepreneurs, including one aimed specifically at women.

Maria Allison pitches as part of her entrepreneurship program at Drexel University.
Image: Five Five Collective

When Revel Systems CEO Lisa Falzone looks back on the early days founding the company with Chris Ciabarra, she can identify one missing ingredient that would have made the experience much better -- someone to talk to.

Mentors can be some of the most valuable relationships for young founders, as they can impart wisdom and insight for the startup journey. To fill that gap for other founders, Revel Systems just announced its own scholarship for entrepreneurs. According to Falzone, it goes along with the mission of their business.

"Our mission is to encourage people to start businesses and grow them," she said.

The program, which officially launched on March 17, is offering two scholarships for $10,000 a piece, along with mentorship and guidance. One scholarship is open to female applicants only, to be mentored by Falzone and the other scholarship is open to male and females applicants, with the winner to be mentored by Ciabarra. The program stems from the company's recent $100 million Series C fundraising round.

The scholarships are open to current high school or college students, age 16 or older, as long as they are registered at a high school or accredited university. The money will go towards the recipients' school tuition. Winners will be able to meet with Falzone and Ciabarra in-person, and contact them by phone or email for guidance. Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents.

Falzone said that they are targeting younger students because sometimes education can dissuade you from being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs, in a way, are misfits, she said. They might not have 4.0 GPA, but they're intelligent and think outside the box. Revel wants to use the scholarship to pick up on that early and foster it in these students.

"A lot of entrepreneurs out there don't really fit into the purely academic success," Falzone said. "So, we want to pick up on those signs early and give them a chance, and give them mentorship early on."

This program by Revel Systems is indicative of a larger trend for startups and tech-focused venture capital firms of offering different type of scholarships to entrepreneurs. As Falzone mentioned, it makes sense for her company to invest in creating more small businesses, as that is their primary audience for their point-of-sale products. However, there are other pros and cons to programs like this.

Rob Rebholz, co-founder and managing director of SpaceWays, said that his company launched a scholarship for entrepreneurs as well. Their program was created to support students who want to pursue entrepreneurship, but it also became a great way to find talent as well.

"It's also a great way to identify promising students before they enter the job market," Rebholz said. "Being an expanding start-up, we're always keen to identify new talent and innovators who we feel could fit into our team (until they head off to start their own ventures, no doubt!)."

Of course, all of this is assuming that the young people have been exposed to entrepreneurship to begin with, and have a support system behind them.

Cristal Glangchai, founder of tech academy VentureLab, sees scholarships as a way to expose young people to the qualities of entrepreneurship.

"We offer scholarships to students who are from low-income or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds who might not be exposed to the opportunity to be an entrepreneur without some help," Glangchai said. "These experiences are life-changing for them - we see tremendous growth in their confidence, public speaking abilities, and intellectual curiosity."

Regardless of their motivations or reasoning, these scholarship programs are an investment in the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

Those interested in the Revel Systems scholarship must apply by 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The application and information can be found here.

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