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Meghan Plate

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Patent Law: Protecting Your Ideas & Inventions

By Alec Tapia

On November 9, 2019, Mock Trial and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers co-hosted an event called Patent Law: Protecting your ideas and inventions, which was co-sponsored by the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship. 

The purpose of this event was to educate students on the patenting process and the journey to become a patent attorney. The event included a 30-minute networking session between students and the guest speakers, 45 minutes of discussion led by a student host, 15 minutes of open Q&A from the audience and concluded with an hour of one-on-one conversation.

The main discussion covered several topics such as each speaker’s experience in law school, tips for applying and going through law school, how they knew if law was the route they wanted to take, what a patent is, the immediate and long term effects of filing for a patent, the different types of patents, how to file for a patent, whether or not one should hire an attorney, the average price range for hiring an attorney, and need to know terms such as strict novelty, non-publication, duty of disclosure, and the one year bar.

Following the main discussion, the audience was allowed to pose questions to the panelists in an open Q&A session and also in a post networking session where hors d’oeuvres were served. This allowed for students to maximize their opportunity to learn about patent law and find opportunities in the field.

Promotional poster for Patent Law event
Panelists during the patent law event

Overall, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Mock Trial believe that the event was a great success and will consider hosting this event in the upcoming years with the newly founded Pre-Law Society.

Organizers predicted that fifty people would attend the event and approximately this number of people did end up attending. The range of majors in the audience was the biggest success. Undergraduates in engineering, social science, and humanities along with a handful MBA students, Warner students, and Professor Shanahan attended the event.

Nearly a dozen students waited outside the Hawkins-Carlson room about fifteen minutes before the event began, showing the anticipation for the event. Many students expressed gratitude for hosting the event since this was one of their only chances to learn about and network within the legal world. The legal professionals who spoke were also greatly impressed with the University and the attending students. All three expressed interest in participating again in the future.

Organizers and panelists for the 2019 patent law event

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Mock Trial express our gratitude to the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship for their support in both financing and marketing the event. The sponsored catering provided a great supplement to the networking sessions before and after the main discourse. They also provided a lunch for the speakers as a professional courtesy. In addition, the Ain Center’s reach within its own followers and the Simon School of Business helped attract many business students and entrepreneurs to the event. Both organizations hope to continue working with the Ain Center in the future.

Alec Tapia ’21 is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering and Business. He is predominantly the Business Manager for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the VP of Finance for Beta Theta Pi, and a captain and mentor for Mock Trial. He is proud to have hosted the Patent Law event and bring the disciplines of science/engineering, law, and business/entrepreneurship together to educate attendees, build the University’s interdisciplinary culture, and promote the spirit of Meliora. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Africa Oil & Power Conference

By Frederico Hama

The week of October 6th, I got an opportunity to attend the Africa Oil and Power Conference in Cape town, South Africa. Africa Oil & Power is Africa’s premier platform for energy investment and policy. During their conference and other events, AOP brings together high-level individuals from private sector companies with interests including engineering, construction, services, consulting, power generation, and finance.

During AOP, I had the privilege to meet different leaders across the African continent and pitch about my business, KBH Consultancy. KBH Consultancy aims to provide access to higher education to prospective students within the African continent.

Frederico Hama during the 2019 Africa Oil & Power conference
Frederico Hama being interviewed during the 2019 AOP Conference

In this conference I was able to make several partnerships to support my organization in various ways. One which includes, the Executive Chairman of African Energy Chamber, NJ Ayuk. He says, “If you are able to find young woman who are willing to study Engineering or sciences, I will give or help your company raise more than $120,000.”

It’s amazing how our dreams can turn into reality once we find individuals that seriously believe in what we do. Keep chasing after your dreams and keep pursuing that idea.

I want to say a big thank you to the University of Rochester for supporting me throughout the trip, not only financially but also allowing me to take a week off classes to go pursue my idea. I also want to extend my gratitude to all KBH Consultancy members for helping me prepare for this trip. Lastly, I want to say thank you to all my friends who have always supported and believed that this idea is worth fighting for.

Federico Hama ’20 is a fourth-year student at the University of Rochester, studying Mechanical Engineering. Originally from Luanda, Angola, he is an alumnus of African Leadership Academy and a 2018 Xerox Research Scholar. Frederico was part of the men’s track and field at the University of Rochester in his first two years of college.

He aspires to greatly impact the lives of people through emerging technologies, by being part of a workforce that creates affordable, clean and reliable energy. At the same time, he is an ardent supporter of education. Upon completing his first year of college, together with two other students, they founded a company called KBH Consultancy with the aim of providing African students with access to higher education.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Entrepreneurial Beginnings

By Michael Giardino

I turn off my computer and step away. That moment, push notifications start flooding my iPhone screen. 300 monthly subscriptions within the first hour. 800 in the first week.

Let’s rewind to me in 10th grade. Those stories in your Facebook News Feed about limited edition shoes selling out so fast that you have to pay five times retail on eBay? That was probably me — or, rather, bots that I taught myself to program, fetching some of the world’s most exclusive sneakers before human hands could click “buy.” I was turning thousands of dollars of profit selling sneakers on the secondary market every month, money that would get rolled into purchasing more sneakers.

One night, I purchased 100 out of 120 available pairs of limited edition sneakers from an Italian online boutique, at an average margin of $150 per pair above retail. The retailer caught on to my bots and cancelled all of my transactions, losing me $15,000 in potential profits overnight.

After that incident, my obsession with competitively optimizing my bots for the KPI of “exclusive sneaker purchasing share” began to become joyless. I was a faceless mercenary, coding increasingly sophisticated algorithms and bots to detect and crack websites so I could turn one dollar into two. While I was scrolling through the usual underground sneaker community sites, though, I noticed another trend emerging: Funko Pops. Funko Pops are small, licensed plastic figurines that are oftentimes limited edition collectibles. Their collectors also aren’t as hardened as sneaker collectors, and many of them expressed their disappointment at missing out on limited releases on Instagram.

Michael Giardino's Funko Dojo stickers

“I had it in my cart, but it sold out while I was checking out! I hate these flippers [slang term for resellers]. I wish I had a bot or a way to get it on my own,” one comment read.

And then it struck me: What if I used my botting prowess to help build up a community of devoted fans, instead of turning it into another vehicle for simple profit?

So I spent the summer of my junior year building Funko Dojo, a subscription-based community aimed at collectors looking to discuss and acquire the most coveted Funko Pops on the market. Instead of a KPI or traditional growth metrics, I became obsessed with creating the perfect brand presence and online community for Funko Pop fans. I crafted messaging to customers to avoid attracting resellers and to cater it strictly toward the collector community. I planned philanthropic campaigns for my users, including a partnership with Pops! For Patients, a charity dedicated to delivering Funko Pops to a nationwide network of children’s hospitals.

One problem: I had no users. The service hadn’t yet been pushed live. This thing I had spent my entire summer working on and hyping up never felt “ready” to be released to the public. At every step there seemed another forked path of potential optimizations.

Funko Dojo promo image
Preview of Funko Dojo mobile application

As another cold New Jersey winter brewed, doubt set in, the light from my laptop screaming at me in a dark room. What if “my baby” was rejected by people? What if no one wanted to pay $20 per month for access to purchase plastic figurines at retail price? And my greatest fear: Would all my hard work go to waste?

Then disaster struck — a competing service launched, co-opting my idea. The wind out of my sails, I talked to Juan Bizoso, a friend I met in my sneaker-flipping days and a Program Manager at Microsoft. He set me straight. “This is the kind of thing that’s always a work-in-progress,” he said. “You shouldn’t be sitting here losing money when you have a great product, and you’re just being too hard on yourself.”

So on September 15th, 2018, I activate the Shopify account for Funko Dojo and post the announcement on Twitter. Funko Dojo was officially live. I turn off my computer and step away.

Michael Giardino ’23 is currently pursuing a Computer Science degree at the University of Rochester. Michael comes from New Jersey where he founded his current venture, Funko Dojo. He aspires to use his entrepreneurial mindset and leadership skills to spearhead the solutions to the problems faced by his generation.