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Lehigh Student Convinces SpaceX Investor To Auction Off Private Tour

Tech venture giant Steve Jurvetson is best known as the man who invested in Hotmail, Tesla Motors and SpaceX. But right now the Internet is talking about just one of his endeavors—the world’s largest private collection of artifacts from the Apollo space program, including a piece of the lunar module.

Why now? Jurvetson is auctioning off a private tour of the collection to the highest bid he receives by 11:59 p.m. on July 24. It’s a brilliant way for an entrepreneur to give back—and the whole idea came from a team of students including Lehigh student Brian Friedman. The proceeds will fund a wilderness survival mission for Friedman and future scholarships for students at Draper University.

Friedman is a rising senior and Lehigh engineer spending his summer attending Draper, the entrepreneur boarding school founded by Tim Draper. (Draper is one of the world’s first viral marketers, founder of the global venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and developed, among many applications, Skype). Draper’s 6-week program is so intensive, attendees are required to team build in the wilderness (at an undisclosed location) and create their own fund-raising campaign to foot the bill for the trip.

Most student groups came up with ideas good enough to raise the necessary funds. But Friedman’s team had some experience in thinking big. Since his freshman year, Friedman was interested in start-up businesses. As a first-year, he connected with engineering professor John Ochs, Director of Lehigh's Integrated Product Development program, to learn more about the process behind finding mentors, securing start-up funding and budgeting your time between school and business.

Those interactions led him to start the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club at Lehigh, or Lehigh Create, for short. The club “seeks to inspire and push future entrepreneurs and technical enthusiasts towards creating and developing new ideas.”  The club’s first meeting attracted over 250 students, the most ever for a fledgling campus group. Students work on projects and take ideas from paper into physical concepts by using 3-D printing and rapid prototyping techniques. Professor of Practice Mark DeVink is their advisor.

Fast forward to Draper University. Friedman and his team brainstormed ways to not just make enough money for the survival trip, but to make enough money to assist Draper University in its mission—find the next great space entrepreneur. Doing so requires awarding a number of scholarships to promising young students. The more money, the more scholarships.

Jurvetson was a speaker at Draper University during the summer. Friedman’s team was inspired by his story and his ideas on the future. When the time came to raise funds for the adventure, they approached him and found him responsive, energetic, and very creative. Originally the team asked Jurvetson to fly a rocket with the winner, since he is an engineering and launch enthusiast. That idea didn’t fly.

After brainstorming with Steve he offered to give a private tour of his space artifact collection, which made perfect sense and was, even by rocket-launching standards, a very rare opportunity.  The website offering the chance to bid for the tour is up at tourwithsteve.com. Now, as the world waits for the winning bid, Friedman and company will learn to work together, somewhere in the wilderness out west.

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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