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SMU Launching Business Incubator To Support Big Ideas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Texting and driving? Now, there's an app to discourage that! Southern Methodist University junior Neha Husein is the distracted crash survivor -- and social entrepreneur -- making it happen.

"I feel like I'm constantly that back seat driver... slow down! Brake!" explains Husein, who says her brother challenged her to do something other than worry after she was rear-ended by a distracted driver.

The result was a smart phone app aptly called 'Just Drive.'

"It's an incentive based app," explains Husein, who argues that laws are punitive, and therefore not effective.  Her app looks to reward safe drivers.

"All you have to do is lock your phone and the app will detect when you start moving... and when you get above 5 mph, you start collecting points.  Those points can be redeemed for gift cards and coupons and even insurance discounts."

It's the kind of innovation that won SMU's 'Big Ideas' pitch contest.  The idea also landed Husein at Austin's South by Southwest Interactive Festival earlier this spring.  She was one of six college entrepreneurs selected to participate in the Red Bull Launch Institute.

In addition to seed cash, Husein is also getting valuable support and mentoring -- and now SMU is expanding its effort to encourage innovation by launching its own 'business incubator'.

"Students are working in dorms, faculty are working in labs, staff are working wherever they can work," says Susan Kress, SMU's Executive Director of Engaged Learning. "Up until now we haven't had that real space where the university says 'we value this...this is for you, go create, make something new.'"

Kress says the goal will be to support those in the campus community working to find "new solutions for problems we can't even describe yet", and notes that most of this innovation chasing is happening outside of regular classwork.

The business incubator will be housed at The Foundry Club, an existing space at Mockingbird Station for entrepreneurs that bills itself as an 'ecosystem for catalyzing greatness'.

"Tomorrow's issues can only be solved by today's thinkers," says Kress, "and it's to support today's thinkers, by giving them a space to become today's do-ers."

"I think students don't really know next steps," says Husein.  "I have this idea; but, what am I supposed to do with it?  I think with this incubator space and this platform, we're able to know what our next step should be."

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