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Meghan Plate

By | Entrepreneurship

5 Storytelling Tips

On Monday, March 25, the Ain Center hosted the third and final Mark Ain Business Model Workshop of 2019. Building on the fall Foundry Forum workshops, this series is designed to help entrepreneurs prepare for upcoming business plan competitions. This workshop – Startup Storytelling: Become a Master of Pitching – helped students learn about how to pitch a venture and tell a compelling story. We’ve summarized five key points. 

Read all five tips here.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

5 Storytelling Tips

By Ain CFE Staff

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” writes Seth Godin. A fantastic idea can’t sell itself – it needs a powerful narrative to grow and take on a life of its own. Whether trying to attain funding or recruit new team members, a well-structured story can make all the difference.

On March 25, Kathryn Cartini (Partner, Chloe Capital; COO, Upstate Venture Connect; Founder, Peacock Media) spoke to students about building relationship capital and how that factors into storytelling. This was the third and final session in the 2019 Mark Ain Business Model Workshops. Held to help prepare students for our upcoming business plan competitions, the Mark Ain Workshops build on the more soft-skill-focused Foundry Forums held during the fall semester. Below are 5 key points drawn from the event.

Show Up

Make an effort to meet as many people as you can. Attend events and get out in the community - quantity is important, especially before you narrow your focus. As you talk to more people, you can get a sense of what individuals are looking for and how they think. This will help form a foundation for your story.

Identify Your Audience

Who are you talking to? What do they care about? Do extensive research, as this will help tailor the content and tone used in your pitch. Kate also encourages entrepreneurs to keep everything organized via a CRM (or even on Google Sheets!). Imagining a specific person may also help when designing your presentation, so be sure to keep detailed notes of your interactions.

Be Respectful

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and respect. While you want to get your point across and make the most of each conversation, be passionate but not pushy. Pay attention to how much of people's time you are taking up and recognize that not every interaction will be immediately beneficial. According to Kate, "relationships will build your business" - don't mar the bonds you create by bulldozing over the people you want to work with.

Get Creative and Give First

Before talking with someone, consider what you bring to the table. Do you have any skills that they could benefit from? Kate urges entrepreneurs to "give first," a tactic that goes against the traditional ask. By sharing something of yourself, you open the relationship on a positive note and ingratiate yourself to people who may be key contacts in the future.

Find the Common Thread

Once you have started to grow these relationships, you have to assemble all of your pieces. Think about how your individual background melds with your venture - everything should fit together. Why are you the one that has to make this a reality? If things are a bit hazy, try to create a visual map or timeline to help form a narrative. In any case, consult with advisors and peers who may see links that you have missed. Share from a place of experience, speak with confidence, and be humble - listen to your audience and continually adjust your story to reflect your growth.

If you have any questions about pitching or learning more about any of the topics discussed during the workshop, please contact the Ain Center at or meet with one of our Experts-in-Residence.

By | Entrepreneurship

University Tech Transfer and Commercialization: Incentive, Infrastructure, and Impact

Technology transfers and commercialization can be huge components of university innovation. On March 9, Ain Teamer Vatsal Agarwal ’21 attended a conference at SUNY Brockport to learn more.

Read about Vatsal’s experience and his key takeaways here.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

University Tech Transfer and Commercialization: Incentive, Infrastructure, and Impact

By Vatsal Agarwal

On March 9, I had the privilege of representing the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship and attending the University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Workshop at the College at Brockport (SUNY), which is a part of the SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines Workshop series. The series is designed to “contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge on transferring and commercializing university technology to foster innovation and entrepreneurship” in college campuses in the Upstate New York region.

Martin K. Casstevens of University at Buffalo and Vatsal Agarwal during the conference at SUNY Brockport.

For those unfamiliar with the term technology commercialization, the University of California’s Office of the President defines it as “the process of transitioning technologies from the research lab to the marketplace”. This is a highly complex process which ensures that the results of research are made available for public use and benefit. Historically, the University of Rochester has been among the top 10 universities in the US for licensing royalty revenues through the virtue of technology commercialization with patents spanning diverse fields from healthcare and medicine to proprietary software solutions.

Throughout the day, I attended 4 different training and discussion sessions, along with remarkably insightful opening and mid-session keynote addresses. I would like to highlight and share the key takeaways from the day, arranged in chronological order of the different sessions.

Opening Keynote: SUNY Innovation Policies and Initiatives

[Address led by Heidi Macpherson, President of SUNY Brockport and Matthew Mroz, Director of Enterprise Technology Transfer at SUNY-RF]

  • Analyzing the significance of universities and partner companies in the development of the regional, as well as national, economy is key. This can be done through a discussion of university researchers and alumni, focusing on experiences and major breakthroughs.
  • Keep an eye on innovation and entrepreneurship through programs such as The Research Foundation, Industry Engagement Bootcamp, Technology Accelerator Fund, and changes in Patent Invention Policies.

Session 1: Best Practices in University Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

[Discussion led by a panel of 5 professionals working with technology transfer offices/initiatives]

  • Fruits from the partnership of business schools and engineering/STEM schools – in funding and research capacity and intentions – are tied to the analysis of commercial viability of academic research.
  • Ideas to consider:
    • Student Incubators – why every innovative university needs one
    • Principles of ownership of research and inventions contributed by students, industry partners and faculty
    • Roles of university faculty and researchers in student ventures and innovations
    • Management of conflicts-of-interest and risks for different parties involved

Session 2: NSF I-Corps Nodes on University Technology Commercialization

[Address led by I-Corps Nodes representatives from University of Rochester and Cornell University]

  • Why do startups fail? No market need for the product (biggest and arguably, the most important reason), shortage of cash, and/or not involving the right team.
  • Regional NSF I-Corps Nodes and Short Courses (resource for customer discovery)
  • PLUG: Go to or email Matthew Spielmann to learn more about UR’s I-Corps offerings!

Participants of the University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Workshop at SUNY Brockport.

Mid-Session Keynote: Unleashing Technology Transfer with Real Options

[Address led by Dr. Philip Phan, Alonzo and Virginia Decker Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University]

  • The most important question: What is the true price/intrinsic value of a patent?
  • Problems in price analysis include: market value, heavy litigation, re-issuance, subjective estimates, future cash flows, price elasticity, and time heterogeneity of patent value.
  • There is a need for a new continuous price discovery process and pioneering work on the Real Options Patent Management Strategy.

Session 3: Founding Dos and Don’ts

[Discussion led by a panel of 5 successful founders and entrepreneurs]

  • Enable the entrepreneurial mindset and culture.
  • Develop a plan for a venture project.
  • Provide training for starting/growing a startup.
  • Emphasize importance of mentors/coaches, as well as ways to find financial support/funding.
  • Share how-tos for getting a leg up through access to resources (such as an incubator or accelerator).

Session 4: Entrepreneurial Development Activity Workshop

[Activity-based workshop led by Dr. Amir Bahman Radnejad, Associate Professor of Management, SUNY Brockport]

  • Learn how to recognize when human intuition and biases are creating problems for entrepreneurs.
  • Participate in problem-solving activities that include guidance on how to think for successful innovation.

Through the workshop, I had a chance to learn more about various topics related to promotion and commercialization of innovation and entrepreneurship. Even more importantly, I also had a chance to meet and talk to industry professionals and founders – all of whom I found to be dedicated thinkers and ardent researchers with innovative ideas on how to change the world for the better.

I am ever grateful to the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship for the opportunity to attend this workshop, not only through financial support but also helpful guidance.

Vatsal Agarwal ’21 is a Financial Economics and Computer Science major at the University of Rochester. He is currently interning as a Court Efficiency Analyst at the New York State Unified Court System. He is also a part of the Ain Team, helping promote entrepreneurship and the Ain Center on and off the UR campus. Vatsal is highly interested in a career where he can feed his interests in finance and technology simultaneously and has past experience in customer service, educational fundraising and consulting, and writing business plans.