Friday, August 31, 2018

NSF I-Corps Teams Program in Newark, NJ

Over the past 7 weeks I've had the opportunity to be a Mentor on a National Science Foundation I-Corps team.  This is a program that works primarily with university researchers to explore the commercialization potential for innovations and discoveries that result from their research.  I was working with Cornell PhD candidate Sasank Vemulapati on a technology designed to make it so blood samples do not need to be put through a centrifuge at a doctor's office.

We started out listening to the Upstate New York I-Corps teaching team explain the methodology for exploring commercialization viability.  Their approached is based on the Lean LaunchPad curriculum developed by Steve Blank.

At only one point was each team allowed to talk about their own technology.  After that, you were only supposed to talk about your interactions with potential customers, partners, and allies.  Here's Sasank presenting the tech for the one and only one time:

We then went out into the greater New York City area to talk to people in the industry about how they handle blood samples now.  One key thing: We weren't' allowed to tell them about our technology.  The point of the process is to learn about how people in the industry do things now, and just how much of a problem is it to put a blood sample through a centrifuge - without explicitly telling them that we're working on a technology to eliminate the centrifuge.

We found a lot of people who were quite willing and friendly.  The goal of the program is to get 100 customer interviews over a 7 week period.  Ideally, those are in-person interviews.

We had weekly 90 minute video conference sessions with the UNY I-Corpst Teaching Team where Sasank would report out on how the interviews were going, and then we'd participate in a class session on a different topic related to the Business Model Canvas.

When the whole program completed, our team completed 138 interviews!  We learned a lot about the market, and learned what we didn't know.

At the end of the 7 weeks, we returned to Newark to learn how to share our findings with the cohort.  For the closing, each team shared the journey of their Customer Discovery.  All 23 teams did over 100 interviews each.

Here's Sasank presenting his Customer Discovery that started with talking to doctors...

and ended with him finding the greatest interest in veterinarians.  

It was a great learning experience for everyone involved.  

If you have a technology that you think may have commercialization potential, look into the NSF I-Corps program.  They have a wide array of resources to help turn great innovations into great companies.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Unboxing Specdrums

So excited to get my Specdrums the mail! A great company coming out of Cornell University's elab and Rev Ithaca Startup Works.

Cool sticker
The ring! 

Super straightforward instructional booklet
Downloaded the app...
Time to play!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Valuable Resource for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In the past few semesters I have utilized many different books on entrepreneurship, and have realized that few books on this topic are suited for course use. The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups from Their Founding Entrepreneurs by David Kidder has turned out to be an extremely valuable resource for my Fall 2016 Ideas into Action course.

Kidder is a serial entrepreneur who has assembled a collection of 40 interviews with our era's most influential startup players. From PayPal and LinkedIn, to AOL and TED, Kidder breaks down the secrets to startup success in simple and actionable terms. My students benefited from the book’s practical advice and inspirational takeaways in each interview. Kidder hits on common issues like how to persevere through criticism, and how to define and execute a personal vision, which is often times the hardest part for my students (and young entrepreneurs alike). The book’s clear language and approachable structure can be easily navigated for course use. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

List of Ithaca Startups: 2016 Edition

Here is my 2016 list of startups based in/near Ithaca, NY:

Agave BioSystems
The American Knitting Co.
Avital Apiaries
Backwoods Techgear
Ba-Li Cravings
Bio Nexus
Collegetown Cab
Collegiate Sun / The Hardy North
Comet Action Sports
Copper House Coffee
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Emmy's Organics
Firelight Camps
Geri-Safe Grainful
Gene Network Sciences
Hybrid Silica Technologies
illume Projects
International Climbing Machines
Incandescent Software
Ithaca Builds
Ithaca Hummus
Ithaca Voice
Kingsley Quality Woodworking
Kreyol Essence
Miel Beauty Bar
Motion Intelligence
North Sea Resins
Nova Speech
The Piggery
Redneck Gangsta
Red Tail Hawk
ReMarkable Paint
Seraph Robotics
Ship Index
Shrub Bucket
Sound Reading
South Hill Cider
Spider Holster
Standard Hydrogen
STREAM Collaborative
Super Pulse
Sustainable Viticulture Systems
Synergy Marketing Solutions
Tech S2
The Chaat Co.
The Frame Shop
Think Topography
UR Path
Ursa Space Systems
Weaver Wind Energy
Wicked Device
Worthy Jerky

Notable departures from the list: Congratulations to Advion on their acquisition by Bohui Innovation Technology, and congratulations to BinOptics on their acquisition by M/A-Com Technology Solutions!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Being the CEO of your Own Career

I was recently asked to be the guest speaker for the 2016 induction ceremony for Beta Gamma Sigma at Ithaca College. The talk I gave was entitled "Being the CEO of your Own Career". The key point is that you should view your career as if you are the CEO of a corporation, and these are some traits of entrepreneurial CEO's. Here are the key points from that talk:

  1. Entrepreneurs Focus on Results
  2. Reputation is Tough to build, Easy to ruin
  3. Entrepreneurs don’t do the “bare minimum”
  4. Entrepreneurs Ask for things
  5. It’s not all about the money

We are all Startup CEO's

1. Entrepreneurs Focus on Results

A start CEO's title really stands for "Chief Everything Else Officer" because they are the person who has to get it done if noone else has done it. By focusing on results, not actions, you'll see your work from a customer's standpoint: a job that is 90% done is "not done". Your boss and employer is your customer, so they will view the work you do the same way.

2. Reputation is Tough to build, Easy to ruin

In business, your reputation is key. The best opportunities come from people who know your reputation, and opportunities are missed that you never knew about because of your reputation, so protect it. An entrepreneur friend of mine is fond of saying "Treat every decision as the decision that may define you, because it might".

3. Entrepreneurs don’t do the “bare minimum”

I see this a lot from students who want to figure out what the smallest amount they can possibly do to get a grade. Entrepreneurs don't do that. They want to over deliver and delight their customers. They go places and do things that they think will help their business, even when there is not a direct correlation to a business result.

4. Entrepreneurs Ask for things

Don't wait to be given a promotion, a raise, or more responsibility. Ask for it. Entrepreneurs aren't given a sale, the ask for the sale.

5. It’s not all about the money

Figure out what makes you happy, and rarely is it $. Few entrepreneurs I meet are in it for the money. They're in it for the lifestyle, and it's because it's a lifestyle that they define.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Books for the Basics: Building a Strong Entrepreneurial Foundation

Whether you're a first-time entrepreneur or seasoned innovator, these books will help you build a strong foundation of entrepreneurial principles to move your business forward. 

For folks actively working to start companies, I use this book extensively. Inside it you will find out about the Business Model Canvas, which we now use instead of a formal business plan: 

 Business Model Generation: 

by Osterwalder & Pigneur

Get it here.

This is the book that has sparked a new attitude about startups: 

 The Lean Startup: 

by Eric Ries

Get it here.

This is a book the Kauffman foundation recommends for first-time entrepreneurs:

 Who Owns the Ice House? 

Eight Life Lessons From an Unlikely Entrepreneur

by Schoeniger & Taulbert

Get it here.

My friend would runs the 50+ hamburger restaurant chain, Hero Certified Burgers, advises anyone interested in the service industry to read this book: 

Restaurant Man

by Joe Bastianich

Get it here.

A great read for first-time entrepreneurs starting tech companies: 

Get it here.

If you want to mix quant with startup, your math brain will love this book: 

Get it here.

A fun read about a lot of interesting businesses ideas from England: 

Get it here.

Putting data and peer-review research behind the process of starting companies from university research and technology: 

Get it here.