Article From: BostInnovation.com
April 26th, 2010 by Ali Powell
The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) supports technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for students through many different avenues, including grant programs, student mentoring and workshops. As Jennie White reported in a preview last week, the NCIIA put on a wonderful event Friday night at Microsoft N.E.R.D. in Cambridge. Eight of the 20 student-run companies that entered this two-week long venture development program presented their company missions, reported what they did with the $500 investment over a 13-day time period, and most importantly, explained what they need to move forward with their vision to take their company to the next level.
Venture Connect 2010 was the conclusion of a student-driven initiative called VentureLab workshop. The entrepreneurial spirit of these 20 young companies was put to work over a small amount of time with a small amount of money. The companies ranged from mobile applications to medical innovations.
The event was a celebration of the two-week intensive development program that gave the teams the opportunity take their initial budding idea to the next phase of becoming a viable company, ready for funding and commercialization. This evening was the culmination ofVenture Well East, one of the many entrepreneurship cultivation programs run by NCIIA.
“I think the biggest thing we have taken away is that there are so many resources out there for young businesses to take advantage of,” wrote one participant — Eliot Buchanan, fromUniPlay Mobile — in an Email to BostInno summing up his experience. “While the intellectual, physical, and mental onus still falls on you as an individual, our society is really pushing towards one which embraces young-minded thinking and the notion of entrepreneurship as an unparalleled asset to the way our world works and evolves. I find this incredibly rewarding to see.”
The general format for the presentations at VentureConnect was a short pitch on what the startup’s business overview: the solution to the problem that they are proposing to fix and a conclusion answering the question everyone in the audience wanted to know. Namely, what did you accomplish with the $500 and what do you need to accomplish from here to take your company to the next level? Between the demonstrations, a small group of professional service providers shared insights and projected their willingness to help entrepreneurs in the local community.
I would have liked to see a more streamlined approach to how each team presented. In speaking with some of the startup teams and the NCIIA staff, it was a challenge to convey the things the startup teams wanted to get across in the presentation as well as the things the audience members were looking to hear.
Here’s a quick recap of the eight presenting companies, along with notes on each one:
Global reach, Local results. This company is utilizing mobile games and using geolocation devices to reach consumers and local businesses. They currently have two applications:UniPlay Tag and ShuttleMe. They are using mobile games to connect small businesses to users while remaining hyper-local in their overall business format. The gist of the company is that they are looking to place real-time ads on games and applications in relation to where you are located while playing the game or using the application. UniPlay Tag currently allows users to play a grown-up version of tag while giving the users the opportunity to make real-life connections with new people. Their No. 1 goal is for users to have fun while playing their games but be able to get local store promotions offered to their mobile phone at the same time. I personally loved tag as a kid and grown-up virtual tag sounds even better.
This product is a bottle-top water purification device used on the top of any plastic bottle to respond to the world’s water sanitation problems in an inexpensive and easy-to-use way. OsmoPure is taking the worlds garbage (plastic water bottles) and re-purposing it into a simple way to save the lives of the 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to clean drinking water. 3 ½ million of those people die every year due to water-born illnesses. The company claims OsmoPure is less expensive than the competition and easier to use. Unlike other water sanitation devices, OsmoPure will eliminate all necessary contaminants from the water and it will not clog when used to sanitize muddy or murky water with use in third world countries. Not only is this a smart way to solve humanitarian issues for clean drinking water around the world, it can also be used by everyday Joes when going on a vacation to an area that does not have easy access to clean drinking water. “When clean water is this easy, no one should have to go thirsty,” said the presenter.
A mobile, finger-printing solution that could be used by many different types of companies and even by the government. They currently have an alpha device and are almost 80% through development of a next iteration. The goals that Biodigit set for themselves throughout the two weeks were very similar to other teams. Biodigit was able to complete much-needed market research, market validation of their product, licensing and began to engage in market awareness of their service. They would like to get some funding closed. Ideally, they are looking for around $800,000. They could also use help with market analysis. If you’re looking to join a great team might consider Biodigit. Their production costs and unit cost per structure are very low.
Relay Technology Management
Bridging the gap between academia and research efforts, Relay Technology Management has created a web-based analytics approach to identifying promising drug candidates from academic research institutions and early stage biotech companies. Their method is different from others because they are using key decision support metrics like intellectual property, market potential and scientific trends to identity good opportunities. They are helping to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the in-licensing process. They have already had a tremendous response from the biotech industry but they are looking to identify additional customers and explore potential funding options. They were able to update the website during the last two weeks as well. By redefining the competitive landscape and completing market research as well as product development research, they have taken their company to the next level of marketability. They were able to strategy map, identify grants and potential investors, survey tech transfer offices and initiate pilot programs with a handful of pharmaceutical companies. What do they need from the community? As any company might say, they are looking for the perfect investors and partner-worthy tech transfer offices to work with.
Mobil Information Aggregators really stuck out to me. They started their presentation off strong and the young lady involved was extremely energetic and passionate. This company is working to create solutions for farmers in India who use cell phones to check the weather and anything else that might positively affect the bottom line on their farms. Venture Lab allowed their team to understand the producer companies and coops better; they investigated how their model would apply to the farmers’ daily lives, and, most importantly, they were able to figure out if their solution was feasible. MIA is implementing a study in India this summer to understand the landscape better and also develop more content for their service. What do they need from you? They would like to make more contacts in the mobile space so if you have worked in mobil or have connections, please reach out to them. They would like to positively affect the lives of 1 million Indian farmers in the next 5 years. Their main goal is to build momentum to have significant social impact on the lives of these workers.
This group is helping to connect college admissions and students who are currently in high school. By opening a direct line of communication between the colleges and American students they will hopefully have a direct impact on the 70% of freshman college students who do not continue on to their second year of college. How are they doing this? By offering free test prep software online they will connect students to colleges. Before Venture Connect they had been churning their wheels for about a year. They reported that this program really kicked them into gear. They were able to develop the staples of viability, like their website, business cards, incorporation of the business, working on the board of directors. Look for them to initiate the beta program of the site in May, and they are aiming for a full launch in 2011. They were able to put together a pilot program for universities as well as for the students. Like a lot of the other companies they are looking for strong industry connections. They need advisers in the academic world and leads for companies that are looking to connect students and universities with a lower cost model.
This company’s presentation also hit me with a surprise. I really liked their company idea and model, but they were quiet when presenting and the slides were long and confusing. Other than that, they definitely have what it takes to succeed in the green marketplace, starting with their first product: Solar Ivy. They also used a video in their presentation to display their Solar Ivy panels on buildings and demonstrate how they would communicate their knowledge base to outsiders, clients and potential customers. The bottom line? Companies can go green and create solar power with these cool-looking solar panels in the shape of ivy along a building’s wall. And as a bonus, the panels also display advertisements. Maybe we could do this on the side of Hangout Hub downtown? Staying green while advertise at the same time sounds like an awesome idea. Over the course of the program, they updated their executive summary, found suitable contract manufacturers, created samples of the ivy product, hired a rendering ace, ordered more mesh for their product and did SBIR research for the military. Let’s get some Solar Ivy panels here in Boston. Looks neat, and they are also helping us to live a little bit greener lifestyle in a fashionable way.
Zach Bloom from Life Serve closed out the evening with his presentation on what Life Serve is doing to help the process of tracheotomies. Venture Lab was able to let Life Serve hit their mental reset buttons. The company prototyped the newer models — called Cobra, Fang and Viper — of their surgical airway intervention devices. During the two-week ramp to VentureConnect, they did a CT scan study at Northwestern University, took intellectual property actions, submitted their designs to manufacturers to get pricing, used some of the $500 to manufacture more prototypes to gain credibility, and took regulatory, academic and military actions on the product. They were able to look into investment raising options through grants, hired the Health Revenue International, and incorporated the research and development subsidiary of their company. What were Zach’s reflections on the program? “Have fun. Have a sense of humor throughout it all while starting your company and smile!” What is Zach looking for next? He would like to work more with advisers in the medical world. He hit the sweet spot asking for open feedback from the community. I know that the Bostinnovation community can help with that one.
A lot of the companies at VentureConnect were bridging some type of gap. These 20 young companies figured out viable problems in our world and worked on a two-week solution strategy to incorporate their companies. By taking action and participating in programs like this, these young entrepreneurs are setting their companies up for success.
What are your thoughts on the event? Which company do you think utilized the $500 and two-week time period to the best of their ability?
Link to this Article: BostInnovation.com