There's nothing like it in Utah – or anywhere else.
It's the Lassonde Studios, a $45 million building that will house more than 400 unique student residences and 20,000 square feet of "garage" space on the campus of the University of Utah, where any student can build a prototype, attend an event or launch a company. It will be the place where students "Live. Create. Launch."
The building and related programs – made possible by a $25 million donation from Pierre Lassonde, a University of Utah alumnus and successful mining entrepreneur – could be a game changer for Utah, says Troy D'Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah. "There isn't anything like it anywhere in the world," he adds. "The Lassonde Studios will energize our entrepreneurial community in a way never done before."
Other states and universities have incubators and startup hubs, but nothing on the scale or scope of the Lassonde Studios, where the experiences may lead to successful startups or to successful careers. Indeed, the experiences within the Lassonde Studios are expected to give thousands of student entrepreneurs and innovators rich, life changing experiences while also helping to set Utah apart for entrepreneurship and technology innovation.
The Lassonde Studios building will be an estimated 160,000 square feet, sitting near the heart of campus. Construction began last October and students will move in starting in the fall of 2016. The exterior design of the building is completely unique, inspired by the slopes and angles of the canyons along the Wasatch Front. The design team hopes the building will be iconic and help attract national attention to entrepreneurial learning opportunities at the U.
The building's interior will be just as unique. It will feature a flexible floor plan so rooms and spaces can be reconfigured as needs and trends change. Student residences will come in several forms, including large lofts for groups and small, moveable pods for individuals.
Meanwhile, the ground floor of the building will house the "garage," which will be a gathering space for student entrepreneurs and have the tools they will need – everything from 3-D printers to co-working space, prototyping tools and more.
"The building will be as innovative and entrepreneurial as the activities inside," D'Ambrosio explains. "Students will be able to choose what type of residence they want and what type of creative space they prefer in order to connect, test ideas, build prototypes, launch companies and learn by doing."
The "garage" on the main floor will be open to all students on campus and has been described as a "Student Union for entrepreneurs."
The university launched an ambitious plan in March to recruit the "400 best student entrepreneurs" to live in the one-of-a-kind building. D'Ambrosio says students everywhere are encouraged to apply to live in the Lassonde Studios and receive part of an estimated $3 million in scholarships.
"We want to attract the most talented inventors, entrepreneurs and artists to study here and live together in our incredible new facility," adds University of Utah President David Pershing. "Nothing like this has been done before. These students will get a learning experience not available anywhere else."
To recruit students, the university is conducting an international call for applicants and spreading the word through a broad marketing campaign that includes television ads in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Denver. The ad features students traveling from around the world to live at Lassonde Studios. It can be seen online here.
The University of Utah already has a top-ranked entrepreneurship program and the new Lassonde Studios is expected to provide an even more unique, immersive experience for students. The university is regularly ranked among the best for entrepreneurship education and startup formation, while Salt Lake City and the state are frequently ranked as top locations for entrepreneurship and business.
Pershing describes the building as the materialization of Pierre Lassonde's visionary approach to student innovation and entrepreneurism, and notes that Lassonde's enormous generosity and the unique building will make the University of Utah the best place in the country to be a student entrepreneur.
D'Ambrosio believes the facility will inspire creative thinking, problem-solving, team-building and workforce development. "Smart people exist everywhere, so we are building a community rather than a rivalry," he adds, noting that workshops and networking events at the Lassonde Studios will involve college and university students from across the state.
The Lassonde Studios and its diverse engagement opportunities will be managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a nationally ranked hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation at the university and an interdisciplinary division of the David Eccles School of Business.
The first programs were offered in 2001 and the Institute now provides engagement opportunities for thousands of students to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation. Programs include graduate seminars, business plan competitions, startup support, innovation programs, scholarships, community outreach and more. All programs are open to students from any academic major or background. Learn more atlassonde.utah.edu or by calling 801-587-3836.
D'Ambrosio is one of four University of Utah faculty to win the Utah Governor's Medal for Science and Technology this year. He received the award during a ceremony today. Meanwhile, on April 16, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute will be hosting an exclusive audition for ABC's "Shark Tank," a business-themed reality show, where all University of Utah alumni, faculty, staff and students are invited to pitch their business ideas. The audition runs from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building, 1655 East Campus Center Dr., room 5130.