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DifferenceMaker Central Gives Students Space to Innovate

Young Entrepreneurs Bring Businesses to Life in Lydon

DifferenceMaker Central
Students are using the new DifferenceMaker Central space to meet, collaborate and work on projects.

By Jill Gambon

Student entrepreneurs now have dedicated space where they can congregate, collaborate and cultivate their ideas in the new DifferenceMaker Central office in the ground floor of Lydon Library.

The space, which opened this summer, offers desks, chairs, Wi-Fi access, white boards and other office equipment and supplies for students who are working on DifferenceMaker projects. Students can hold meetings, conduct research and bounce around ideas about everything from marketing strategies to fixing a software problem.
“Being able to use the DifferenceMaker Central space is so helpful. To have the white boards, TV screens and a place to work and meet is amazing,” says Aldo Beqiraj, CEO of Grab a Bite, a startup that won seed funding in April through the DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge. The fledgling company, which has created an online marketing platform for restaurants, is expected to officially launch this month, says Beqiraj, an electrical engineering major who is finishing his bachelor’s degree.
Throughout the summer, Berqiraj and his team members have spent long days in the DifferenceMaker Central office, writing code, meeting with board members and refining their business plans. The space is includes a kitchenette area, flat-panel LCD screens and office supplies. Desks and chairs are on wheels for easy reconfiguration.
“We purposely left the space very open,” says Gianni Falzone, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Manning School of Business in May and is working with the DifferenceMaker program.  “It’s designed for maximum creativity.”

“Unlike a typical office where you have strict roles and there’s a hierarchy, this particular space is like research and development space, where students, faculty and other groups can come together,” says Rupinder Sembhi, project manager in the Office of Facilities who oversaw the renovations. “It is designed to foster a team approach to innovation.”
The space previously housed the Lydon Library’s Media Center, which has moved upstairs to the Learning Commons on the second floor.

Launched last year, the DifferenceMaker program encourages students to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. In April, 10 winning teams shared $25,000 in seed funding through the program’s first Idea Challenge, which was similar to a business pitch contest. The teams, representing every college at the University, developed proposals that addressed everything from childhood obesity to the need for affordable prosthetics in developing countries.