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Melissa Crounse named executive director of The Garage

Startup veteran and entrepreneur will lead new ‘innovation incubator’ for students

  • Crounse excited to work with students to build space she wished she had in college
  • Ex-Googler brings a decade of consumer technologies experience in Silicon Valley
  • ‘Melissa’s energy, entrepreneurial DNA and smarts make her ideal to lead this initiative’

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Entrepreneur and ex-Googler Melissa Crounse has been named the first executive director of The Garage at Northwestern University. She took the reins of the “innovation incubator” Sept. 1, bringing with her a decade of work experience in Silicon Valley.

The Garage is a new entrepreneurship space where ideas, not companies, will be built, with a focus on a unique educational experience -- but where the right idea could eventually lead to a startup. Mentorships, programming and resources will help Northwestern students from across the University develop and accelerate ideas.

“I’m excited to work with students to build the space and programming that I wish I had as a college student,” Crounse said. “Entrepreneurship isn’t only taught in a classroom -- it must also be experienced and lived. I want The Garage to be a space where the alchemy of entrepreneurship comes to life.”

Crounse’s experience helping consumer startups with business strategy, growth marketing, strategic partnerships and business development will be invaluable as she builds a leadership team for The Garage, said Alicia Löffler, executive director of Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO).

Housed in a real garage on the Evanston campus, the cross-disciplinary space opened in June. The signature program for The Garage will be a high-quality accelerator/mentorship program that will leverage local and global entrepreneurs and alumni volunteer mentors.

“We are thrilled to have Melissa Crounse as the founding director for The Garage,” Löffler said. “Melissa’s energy, entrepreneurial DNA and smarts make her ideal to lead this important initiative at Northwestern.”

Crounse is a startup veteran and entrepreneur with a decade of experience at consumer technologies companies in Silicon Valley. She has worked in-house at Google, YouTube, Polyvore (acquired by Yahoo) and Luvocracy (acquired by WalMart Labs).

Most recently, she built her own influencer marketing agency called Storylark and has served as a business consultant at GlobeIn (as interim chief business officer) and Brit + Co (as interim director of business development). 

Crounse received her B.A. in computer science from Dartmouth College in 2003. 

The Garage was made possible by We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, a $3.75 billion fundraising initiative designed to support the University’s strategic ambitions. Northwestern trustees Patrick G. Ryan Jr. and Michael W. Ferro Jr. made foundational gifts to the University in support of The Garage. Key benefactors of The Garage also include:

Howard J. Trienens ’45, ’49 JD, ’95 H
Nan Trienens Kaehler ’79 MA/MS
Valerie Jo Roberts Friedman ’85 and Mark Friedman ’16 P, ’18 P
Peter Barris ’73 and Adrienne Barris ’11 P
T. Bondurant French ’75, ’76 MBA and Hollis French ’07 P
Christopher Galvin ’73, ’77 MBA and Cynthia Galvin ’78, ’11 P
Andrew E. Senyei ’79 MD and Noni Senyei ’06 P, ’08 P
Larry Levy ’66, ’67 MBA and Carol Levy ’64
Gordon I. Segal ’60 and Carole B. Segal ’60, ’93 P
Rishi U. Shah ’08

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