The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), a Department of Defense (DoD) program office, appointed Mike Seper as the University Program Director at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU).
Seper’s appointment provides WashU and the greater St. Louis community more opportunities to collaborate and develop innovative solutions to national security challenges. In his role, Seper will build relationships between defense, academia, and venture communities across WashU to engage in NSIN programs such as X-Force, Hacking for Defense (H4D), and Capstone. WashU students can earn credit by participating in these courses and participate in other startup-related activities where they can earn Honors in Innovation and Entrepreneurship upon graduation.
Seper is a familiar face at WashU, having recently served as the Associate Director of the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps (NSF I-Corps) Site Director. During this time, Seper developed two new NSF I-Corps formats- IGNITE and LAUNCH- to support diversity, equity, and inclusion for campus and community entrepreneurs. In addition, he supported the development of new entrepreneurial programs such as the Experts on Call and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Seper also served as an instructor for Navigating the Startup World and the St. Louis Entrepreneurial Fellowship.
“Mike made a significant impact on the Skandalaris Center and WashU startup ecosystem during his time on campus,” said II Luscri, Skandalaris Center Managing Director and Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WashU. “The new programs he created through NSF I-Corps and the relaunching of the IdeaBounce® platform were watershed moments for our community. It is hard to lose a star like Mike – thankfully, we will continue to work directly with him in his new capacity with NSIN.”
Seper has engaged heavily with NSIN in St. Louis, including past participation in the NSIN Defense Innovation Accelerator (now Foundry) program. His team received the Audience Choice Award and he later worked with other dual-use tech startups as a mentor for the NSIN Hacks Polar Vortex hackathon.
“By creating a direct link from the DoD to WashU and the broader region, we can better leverage the talent in this community to help solve critical national defense challenges,” said Jake Laktas, NSIN’s Midwest Regional Director. “We are thrilled Mike will help NSIN build productive connections between the DoD and the university.”
By engaging organizations in the venture ecosystem and partners at WashU, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri, and Harris-Stowe State University, Seper will manage solution development for national security problems such as artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), biomedical sciences, and geospatial technologies.
“Mike has been a great asset, supporting St. Louis startups as an entrepreneur, educator and mentor,” said Stacy Gee Hollins, Ph.D., Dean, Anheuser-Busch School of Business. “We are proud to continue our partnership with Mike in his new role with NSIN and collaborate to strengthen strategic partnerships with NGA and offer innovative programming for our scholars, faculty, and community at Harris-Stowe State University.”
Recently, students in the NSIN Innovating for Defense course at WashU learned skills to build startups and overcome obstacles they face as entrepreneurs by solving real-world problems experienced by the DoD. Moreover, between recent NSIN partnerships at Cortex and T-Rex in St. Louis, Seper will connect entrepreneurs from WashU to expand the defense innovation community of urban innovation hubs and technology commercialization for more than 400 companies.
“My goal is always to advance innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities at WashU by building partnerships, and I am excited to bring my experience working with DoD technologies to help to support inclusive innovation across St. Louis and the region,” said Seper. “I encourage any DoD mission partners in the region to reach out to me with their challenge statements so I can help them source new connections and solutions from talented students and startups in St. Louis.”
In addition to his many accomplishments across academia and defense, Seper is a contributor for Entrepreneur Media and a member of the Entrepreneur Leadership Network. Seper supports startups in St. Louis as a committee member for the Arch Grants competition, Diverse Business Accelerator mentor, and a member of the Anheuser-Busch School of Business Entrepreneurship Advisory Board at Harris-State State University. In addition, he is a founder of a successful zipline adventure business in Missouri, Eco Adventure Ziplines, which received honors from the St. Louis Small Business Monthly Future 50 Awards and as a top attraction worldwide by TripAdvisor and the Traveler’s Choice Award.