BLOOMINGTON – Ivy Tech student Jack Dreesen was accepted into the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) B-Start program, which aims to coach early-stage startup businesses in Bloomington. B-Start accepted 11 Bloomington startups and the 22-week program began on Wednesday, October 18. The program matches each participant with a mentor and provides guidance in developing their business, culminating in a final business pitch competition for cash prizes in March 2018.
Dreesen’s business idea is “Elephants on Mars,” a venue for people to experience immersive virtual reality (VR) and also allow developers a space to create new technology. He explained that the name is designed to evoke curiosity.
“VR technology is projected to grow 10 times in the next five years in the industry as a whole,” said Dreesen. “If that’s where the growth potential is, why can’t it happen in a place like Bloomington? I’m not exactly reinventing the wheel with this new thing, but I just need to figure out a way to bring it to Bloomington.”
Dreesen said he first experienced VR at an event at the Monroe County Public Library.
“The first time I went, I tried a carnival game and time just slowed down,” he said. “VR is like being in a dream and watching somebody in that dream. I was also surprised at the level of interest among all ages. People have limited time slots so they can only be in for 10 minutes, but they come out wide-eyed and want to do more.”
The experience made Dreesen want to share it with everyone and he began thinking of ways to turn his idea into a business.
Spring Semester 2017, Dreesen presented his idea in Ivy Tech’s Duke It Out business pitch competition, sponsored by Duke Energy.
“I wouldn’t have known about B-Start if it wasn’t for Duke It Out,” he said. “The Duke It Out competition was how I got into entrepreneurship. It’s a contest but they help you grow. That’s how I met people from the SBDC and Ivy Tech’s Cook Center for Entrepreneurship who told me, ‘If you really want to do this, you should sign up for the entrepreneurship program.’”
Dreesen is now pursuing his technical certificate in entrepreneurship and is looking forward to the B-Start program to supplement his studies.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for with B-Start is how to get seed capital, and also learning about commercial real estate,” said Dreesen. “One of my classes next semester will be about commercial real estate. I’m also trying to find partnerships and looking for help with my business plan.”
Dreesen did not always know what he wanted to study, but Ivy Tech gave him enough opportunities to find out.
“After high school I went to Ball State because I wanted to be a filmmaker and studied telecommunications,” he said, “I moved back to Bloomington, then bartended in Austin, Texas for five years, then moved back to Bloomington again due to a family illness. During that time, I began to figure out who I was and Ivy Tech was part of that exploration.”
Dreesen soon became an editor of Ivy Tech’s student literary magazine, took informatics classes, and was actively involved in student life.
“Ivy Tech has all these amazing opportunities and the only thing you have to do is try,” he said. “I really make an effort to get involved and think of myself as worthy of whatever good thing can come. I’ve embraced being a student again.”
Dreesen’s B-Start pitch video can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/JZZ8MfIKV5c.
Ivy Tech Bloomington’s entrepreneurship program continues to grow in enrollment, with 56 students currently enrolled, a 10 percent increase from last year. Statewide, 218 students are enrolled, a 5 percent increase from last year.
Ivy Tech Bloomington’s campus hosts the Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides practical tools to help entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. More information can be found online at ivytech.edu/entrepreneurship.