Category

Innovation

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Artistry and Entrepreneurship: Learning from Eric Booth

By Ain CFE Staff

On Friday, January 25, Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership partnered with the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship and the Barbara J. Burger iZone to host Eric Booth for a workshop: Framing Problems Accurately and Solving Them Creatively. Booth – an actor, author, artist, entrepreneur, and educator – completed a residency at the IML on January 26, after leading a number of events on teaching artistry. Drawing upon his own experiences, he helped University of Rochester students learn how such artistry can be incorporated into a multitude of disciplines.

Booth’s background spans years and fields. After working as an actor, he taught at Juilliard, Stanford University, NYU, Tanglewood, Lincoln Center Education, and the Kennedy Center. He is currently a senior advisor to El Sistema-inspired sites around the U.S. and around the world. To address pressing social problems, Booth employs an entrepreneurial approach, specifically that of the Cynefin Framework.

Created in 1999 by Dave Snowden, a Welsh management consultant who is now the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, the Cynefin Framework allows individuals to identify and categorize problems accurately to provide for the most imaginative and efficient means to solve them. Cynefin is named for a Welsh word that loosely translates to unseen forces that influence our lives that we can work with, though understanding them is impossible. In this framework, complexity is critical and encourages creativity.

A chart of the Cynefin Framework. For more information and a breakdown of the framework, check out this article in the Harvard Business Review.

Like the Customer Discovery training we use in the Ain Center, Cynefin also makes use of continual reassessment of the problem. Entrepreneurs need to utilize constant customer feedback to adjust current offerings, pivot their vision, or create something new. During the workshop, Booth made a point to show how ongoing review can ensure that any problems are addressed as they come up – as fundamental to a large arts organization as it is to fledgling venture.

To conclude the workshop, Booth led the group in a “thought experiment.” Each attendee had to select a social problem that they would like to address, then identify what type of problem it was. Though the classification was an essential part of this experience, he also asked everyone to consider how they came to that conclusion. In other words, you need to think of how you think.

In general, the Cynefin Framework allows people to work toward the root of the problem they are trying to solve. The take away from this workshop? Entrepreneurs and artists share the ability to think outside the box, and utilizing a framework (whether it’s Cynefin, Lean Launchpad, etc.) can be helpful to keep on task and guide the thought process.

In fall 2018, the Ain Center hosted a full workshop on Customer Discovery, which you can read about here. Please contact the Ain Center if you would like more information on frameworks to consider and assistance in selecting the best one for your venture – we are here to help!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

ENT Club Spotlight: Meliora LaunchPad

By Ain CFE Staff

A Growing Group of Innovators

Meliora LaunchPad aims to build a community of individuals who strive to initiate innovative ideas, share the experiences of entrepreneurship, and inspire others to do the same. MLP is a group for students who are motivated to explore the prospects of entrepreneurship in their own field. Through networking and educational opportunities, the club raises campus awareness, fosters a network of entrepreneurs, and connects students with valuable resources and opportunities. Below you’ll find an informational slide deck from their January 2019 General Interest Meeting, as well as a video MLP members made in spring 2018.

For more information on Meliora LaunchPad, visit their club page on the Campus Community Connection website. You can also reach out to members of their Executive Board, led by Marc Haddad ’21.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

The Importance of an Entrepreneurial Mindset in Each and Every Industry

By Wallace Gundy

On December 1, I boarded a flight out of Rochester for the Simon School’s annual West Coast Trek. With 30 of my classmates, we planned to see twelve companies, hear keynotes from three alumni, attend two receptions, and meet with one expert recruiter, all orchestrated by the Jay S. and Jeanne Benet Career Management Center. From healthcare to search engines, travel to hardware, software to “uncarriers,” venture capitalists to restaurant owners, we heard and learned from an incredible range of alumni who are working in an even wider range of industries in the heart of Silicon Valley and Seattle.

These ten days on the West Coast opened up this East Coaster’s eyes to the culture, pace, cuisine, energy, and dynamic of what felt like another world. But, it also made clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an entrepreneurial mindset is critical in order to thrive in every single industry, no matter what or where it is, and what your role may be.

It was only a day into the trip when several of us learned that the buzzword of these world-famous companies was “nimble.” Their most successful employees are able to adapt to different situations and circumstances, and the ever-evolving climates of their industries. Being nimble is at the heart of entrepreneurship. I have been fortunate to speak with many entrepreneurs during my time at Simon and prior; one of their first pieces of advice is always that it is critical to be able to adapt. A willingness to roll with the punches, make unexpected changes, thrive in ambiguity, and adjust plans is a key component in starting a successful business.

This nimbleness seems to be part of what makes entrepreneurship and the idea of building and owning something that is yours exhilarating. Each day is a new day, not always knowing what it will bring. This sentiment was exactly echoed on the West Coast. Fierce competition, economic unknowns, and our ever-changing world mean that no company knows exactly what the next day will bring. But, having an entrepreneurial mindset will set you apart from the rest.

I send a sincere thank you to Vicky Kamahele, Varian Medical Systems Inc., HPE (Nimble Storage), Western Digital/SanDisk, Mark Zawacki of 650 Labs, Google, Eric Ball of Impact Venture Capital, Juniper Networks, Intel, Applied Materials, T-Mobile, and Expedia for hosting us and sharing the incredible work you do. Hopefully it won’t be long before you’ll be working alongside more Simon grads!

Wallace Gundy ’20S (MBA) is a first year MBA candidate at the Simon Business School. She is a Forte Fellow and Ain Entrepreneur Scholarship Recipient. Pivoting from 10 years in the non-profit sector, she is pursuing Brand Management and Entrepreneurship. Wallace is involved in the Graduate Business Council and is an avid squash player. She hopes to own her own business one day.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Creative Collisions

By Gregory Scott

One in three bites of all food is pollinated by bees. Yet, winter honey bee colony loss continues to reach unprecedented levels in various regions around the world. How should we protect our bees to ensure humans have adequate food supplies in the future?

The Creative Collision Challenge was held on November 16.

Supplies for beekeeping brought in by mentor Willa Powell.

The Creative Collision Challenge tackled this very problem. Ain Center staff combined students from unique academic backgrounds to analyze this dramatic decline in the bee population, brainstorm a solution, craft and deliver a ten-minute presentation within a four-hour window to a panel of expert judges.  After pitching our slide decks, judges deliberated and awarded three cash prizes to the top-performing teams. And more importantly, teams got the chance to work on a pressing social issue and were challenged to generate and transform actionable ideas into enterprises that would actually create economic or social impact.

Shortly after the formal introductions, we all scampered off to various corners of Rettner Hall and began to ideate. My team consisted of four people from three different countries. Two of my teammates were engineers, one was an MBA student, and three of us had previous start-up/entrepreneurial competition experiences. While we worked, special experts and beekeepers from the Rochester community met with each group to discuss the process of beekeeping and even gave us a taste of real Rochester honey! After discussions with the experts and beekeepers, we began what in retrospect may have not been the most important discussion–our team name. After some rumination, we decided on the name “Bee Aware” and started to work on our slide deck. As we designed our deck, we realized that although the bee population reductions statistics are quite clear, the potential causes and solutions are not.

Team Bee Aware with a variety of mentors and subject matter experts during the one-day challenge.

As we scarfed down our Chipotle burrito bowls, we discovered that monoculture farming, climate change, and wifi are just three of the other purported factors that kill bee colonies. We needed to first agree on the most salient cause so that we could develop a fine-tuned solution. We decided that systemic pesticides were undoubtedly the largest harm to bees. After agreeing on the cause, we raced against the clock to organize our slides and do a dry run, as we would be first team to present.

At 1:44, one minute before the slide deck delivery deadline, Bee Aware submitted its slide deck. We had just enough time to do one rehearsal. Shortly after, all the participants reconvened in Creative Collision room for the presentations. We delivered our presentation and took questions from the panel of expert judges. The judges’ questions were helpful and gave my team a framework for how to deconstruct ambiguous issues in a short time-span and how to better substantiate our proposal.

After about fifteen minutes of deliberation, the judges decided that team BeeHouse’s technology enabled bee hive that incorporates live data transmission about bee health took home 1st prize. Our team’s three-tiered solution to ban systemic pesticides, subsidize beekeepers, and fund national bee research/education took home the 3rd place prize. 2nd place was taken by To Bee or Not to Bee who proposed a pesticide tax and subsidies to beekeepers.

Team Bee Aware: Aman Tugnawat, Lennard Emanuel, Samuel Howard, and Gregory Scott.

Despite not winning the competition, I had an awesome time at the Creative Collision Challenge. Not only did I learn about a complex social issue, but I was able to make new friends with a diverse set of classmates. As a result of the Creative Collision, I have also learned to try to avoid myopic views on a subject by listening to the ideas of my classmates. To build a truly innovative solution to a global issue, it is important that we leverage different academic and geographical perspectives. Lastly, the chance to eat local honey and see how actual beehives work really excited me about one day becoming a beekeeper myself.

Gregory Scott ’20S (MBA) is a first-year MBA student at UR’s Simon Business School. Greg also graduated from the University with a BA in International Relations in 2015. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Welcome Back

Spring 2019 is the time for innovation!

Workshops

Learn from lessons shared by local entrepreneurs.

Training

Hone your skills and add to your resume.

Competitions

Pitch your ventures and gain valuable feedback.

Partnerships

Connect with peers and regional innovators.

Ready to begin your entrepreneurial pursuits or expand your current venture? Send any questions our way to AinCFE@rochester.edu or drop by our office (1-211 Carol Simon Hall) to say hello and set up an appointment. We have so many fantastic opportunities for you this semester – we’ll see you soon!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Through the Lens of Innovation: Global Entrepreneurship Week

By Samuel Howard

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Network, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a week in November where thousands of entrepreneurship competitions happen in 170 countries. Luckily, I was able to reap the reward of the Ain Center’s newest competition: the Creative Collision Challenge.

Before I go into the details, I would like to talk about my experience with Doug Chambers (VP: Global Head of Client Solutions at WeWork, Founder & CEO of Fieldlens, which was bought by WeWork, and a ’98 alum of the University of Rochester). Doug came to give a lecture on his experience and wanted to meet with some students like me. That’s just what I did.

I had three things I wanted to talk about with Doug and he did not disappoint. My first objective was to talk about Flashi, a company I would like to start in outdoor advertising, focusing on using tourists as flash mobbers. He helped me realize that the technology to be able to accomplish this feat was already there and all I had to do was create intuitive processes for the customer. Still not easy, but easier (and cheaper) than finding developers to create and app and website.

My second objective was to chat about a disc golf cart idea I have. He gave me great advice to meet with a material sciences person to discover cheaper ways to produce the same item. Lastly, Doug and I talked about my goal of becoming a product manager. He gave me great advice for preparation and reached out to his product managers right then and there!

Doug was a great resource and for those that have not taken advantage of the Experts-in-Residence (EIR), you need to try it out. I was not sure of the help I would get at first, but it was so beneficial, I know I will be taking advantage more often! Thanks Doug!

Sam Howard and his teammates (listed below) conferring with mentors during the Creative Collision Challenge.

Now, onto the competition. The Creative Collision Challenge was fast-paced and focused on saving honey bees.

Bees are depleting and one-third of all of our food comes from bees, thus our survival largely depends on their survival. Many ideas were thrown around with regulations, government bodies, and consumer products, but the solution that won first place was a solar-powered bee hive. Unfortunately, I was in class when they presented, or I would tell you all about it, but here’s our idea…

Learning about hive setup and upkeep with mentors and beekeepers, Willa Powell (member of the RCSD Board) and Ward Graham (owner of Brighton Honey). 

Our solution was three-tiered:

  1. Get rid of neonicitinoids. A systemic (means it won’t go away for the plant’s life) nicotine-like agent that kills and confuses bees and impairs them from returning to the hive.
  2. Federal stipends for those interested in urban bee-keeping. We felt this was viable due to the lack of insecticides and gives greater biodiversity for the honey bees (as opposed to just one plant), and gives heightened awareness of the docile nature of bees when not disturbed.
  3. Education programs on the nature of bees, their survival, and how to get involved.

Though we were told our presentation was very well presented, we made third place and were beat by two teams. Am I happy with third place? Well, yeah, but I’d be happier with first!

Did I mention I got to meet some great people? On my team was Aman Tugnawat (’18 MS TEAM), Lennard Emanuel (’19 MS TEAM), and Gregory Scott (’20 MBA).

Sam and his team, the third place winners, with the four judges. From left: Jarmila Haseler, Liz Simmons, Samuel Howard, Aman Tugnawat, Lennard Emanuel, Gregory Scott, Michael Daley, and Carmala Garzione.

As with Experts-in-Residence, if you haven’t participated in a competition, you should. The free Chipotle lunch makes if all worth it (that is, if you don’t win). Happy innovating!

Samuel Howard ’19S (MBA) is originally a Michigander, but recently turned New Yorker. He is a past Mathematics teacher, Carpenter for the MET, and recruiter for hospitality assignments. He is currently pursuing an MBA at the Simon School of Business and has a goal of being a serial entrepreneur, selling his company and buying and operating a large theater with his wife Emma. 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Hult Prize @ UR 2018

By Sara Anis
“How would you create 10,000 meaningful jobs for unemployed youth within the next decade?”

This is the prompt posed to thousands of students worldwide vying for a $1,000,000 grand prize in this year’s Hult Prize Competition. The Hult Prize, which began ten years ago, is now the world’s largest student competition for social good.

Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and Founder of Hult Prize, attributes the success of the competition to the shift in the global economy and the millennial generation’s refusal to live in a world with inequality. Akshar adds, “We are giving entrepreneurs from around the world a platform to innovate and revolutionize the way we think about servicing the disadvantaged.”

Fall 2018 marks the third year that a local competition has been held on the University of Rochester River Campus. Thanks to the support of the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, the College Dean’s Office, the Greene Career Center, Barbara J. Burger iZone, and OMSA, the on campus competition was a success.

Throughout the semester, preparatory workshops were held on the topics of team formation, ideation, presentation tips, rounded out by a final pitch clinic before the competition. Teams worked for weeks as the day approached, giving their all trying to get closer to the million dollar grand prize.

On November 3rd, fifteen teams (grad and undergrad students) participated in the on-campus competition at Simon Business School. That day, they presented a wide range of ideas, from providing jobs for ex-convicts to combating child sex slavery. A panel of six judges from around Rochester were faced with a tough decision, but they selected the winner for the UR competition and decided who would continue on to Hult’s regional round. In the end they chose BestBeing, a team that aims to provide “a one-stop-shop for all things wellbeing.”

Winning team, BestBeing, and the judging panel during the 2018 Hult Prize @ UR Competition in November.

As the winning team from the Hult Prize @ UR Event, BestBeing will automatically compete in one of Hult Prize’s Regional Finals, bypassing the general application which can receive over 20,000 applicants from more than 350 colleges and universities in over 150 countries.

These regional competitions will take place in March 2019. Following the regional finals, one winning team from each host city will attend a summer accelerator, where competitors receive mentorship as they create prototypes and continue to launch their new businesses. The final round of competition occurs in September; one team will be named the winner and will be awarded the $1,000,000 grand prize.

Thanks to the support from offices such as the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship students at the University of Rochester can have the opportunity to make their mark on the world and change it for the better.

Sara Anis ’20 is a University of Rochester student majoring in Biomedical Engineering in the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also working toward a minor in Chemical Engineering. This fall, she served as the Campus Director for the Hult Prize Competition @ UR.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

SASE National Conference and SASEtank

By Gazi Mahir Ahmed Naven

After going through a three-round, four-month long process, we finally made it to the finals of the SASEtank business competition (organized by the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, or SASE). In the spring, we finished 2nd in the Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition at UR with the idea for our business. UPTICK was turning into a reality and we were finally ready to present our venture, a data-driven affordable marketplace for student essentials.

My team and I were fortunate to find that the University of Rochester’s SASE Chapter planned to attend the SASE National Conference in Chicago, where our pitch for the finals was going to take place. This was a great opportunity to attend the conference, which attracted over 2500 students (representing 130+ universities) and industry professionals. Not only was it a great opportunity to network with diverse individuals within the Asian community, but also to attend workshops led by professionals working in cutting-edge businesses.

UPTICK co-founders Sidhant Ahluwalia, Babaye Yahouza, and Gazi Naven.

One of my favorite workshops was led by Nyle Miyamoto, Additive Manufacturing Chief Engineer at The Boeing Company. His talk went over the importance of leadership in workplace. What I found most interesting was his formula for climbing up the ladder in a big firm: progression in workplace is a multiplication of how much experience, number of relationships, and the reputation one has. He emphasized that this simple concept can often explain why a lot of Asians –  despite their experience and work ethic – aren’t in managerial positions in big firms. He finds that Asians are not usually striving to build relationships or the reputation of the firm. Hence, he urged Asians to not only work hard at the job, but to also on break the cultural barrier that stops them from taking more initiative to build their reputation and relationships.

Nyle Miyamoto speaking of leadership potential and his formula for success.

Nyle’s words kept me inspired leading up to the SASEtank business competition. We were the last to go among the five finalists. I was prepared for it, but still a little nervous about being able to finish on time, since we only had 3 minutes to present. After our clear and concise presentation came the 7-minute-long session of questioning from the judges. While some were just clarification questions, I appreciated how many of their inquiries became discussions as we answered them. These discussions led to valuable comments and interesting ideas that we may begin to implement. While we did not end up winning, this opened space for advice and networking with the judges. One of my conversations led me to David Pan, who previously worked at P&G and Amazon, and now works as COO for MyIntent Project. From him I learned how you can create a demand in the market, a strategy MyIntent Project used. We talked about how UPTICK could benefit from doing something similar.

University of Rochester SASE Chapter members.

In addition to the delicious food that was served during the conference, I came to meet new people and learn about different perspectives. I was given feedback for my own professional development through resume reviews with Boeing and Leidos, and I was able to practice giving elevator pitches at the career fair. It was a breathtaking experience to take myself and our entrepreneurial venture out from the college bubble and into the real world.

Gazi Mahir Ahmed Naven ’19, originally from Bangladesh, is a senior at the University of Rochester, double majoring in Data Science and Economics. He is the CTO and Co-Founder of UPTICK, a student-only marketplace with advanced analytics. Naven is passionate about developing technology to create convenience and business value.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

NYC Startup Trek

By Akshay Rajput

It was fascinating to see the vast amount of opportunities that a startup is surrounded with at WeWork and the spontaneity that comes along with it. Efficient workspace utilization, supreme community-building environment, constant employee feedback, and flexibility in scaling are all important factors that make WeWork successful.

Additionally, The Company’s aim to base the entire building around a tech-central theme and create proximity to the startup community by dedicating 250,000 square feet of space in midtown Manhattan was inspiring. Tyler Schrodt, CEO and Founder of Electronic Gaming Federation, apprised us about the changes he made in his business plan, improvements made in product quality, customer targeting, and economic models – along with his journey of gaining streaming rights and construction of their revenue policy.

Common area for members in WeWork Corporate Headquarters of Manhattan.

Erica Rosen, Director of Marketing at BioLite, enlightened us with their compelling mission to transform the way we cook, charge, and light our lives off the grid with their line-up of revolutionary products built on sustainable business practices that have the power to change the world. Their unique Parallel Innovation business model made them stand out from the rest of the companies on the trek.

In the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we were captivated to see what New Lab has achieved with the historic former machine shop by creating a breakthrough ecosystem of shared resources where startups, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and city officials can collaborate, iterate and prototype their innovative ideas quickly with the help of CNC and 3-D printing machines on-site.

Erica Rosen, Director of Marketing at BioLite, showing us their CampStove.

The interesting panel discussion with Swarnav Pujari (CEO of Touchlight Innovations) and Joel Cettina (CEO of Food Moves) gave us insight into their entrepreneurial journey, which highlighted the key learnings from their failures and successes.

Ke Cheng, Founder and CEO of Histowiz has staggeringly created the world’s first telepathology network that incorporates machine learning offering rapid turnaround times and unprecedented access to a wide range of pathology subspecialties.

Collaborative space at New Lab, a space in Brooklyn supports entrepreneurs working in advanced technology.

U of R’s Ain Center for Entrepreneurship and Gwen M. Greene Center for Career Exploration and Connections efforts enabled us to see the theoretical concepts taught in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management program being implemented in real life which, in turn, immensely helped in broadening the scope of thinking.

Akshay Rajput ’19 (MS) has been working with multinational companies since his graduation. He holds expertise in field of business development, marketing, and resource management. Akshay’s latest experience stems from being a digital media & business development manager for a branding firm. He is currently a Masters candidate in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management program, with a concentration in Energy & the Environment.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

5 Tips for Customer Discovery

By Ain CFE Staff

“In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want,” argues Paul Graham of Y Combinator. “If you make something users want, you’ll probably be fine, whatever else you do or don’t do. And if you don’t make something users want, then you’re dead, whatever else you do or don’t do.”

The Ain Center’s Foundry Forum series (new for Fall 2018) is designed to supplement existing entrepreneurship classes and programming. These workshops explore the fundamentals of starting your own venture, including how to talk with potential customers to learn about their needs. Our second Forum – The Voice of a Customer: Shut Up and Listen – was held on October 22. Facilitators Matt Spielmann and Max Sims shared their experiences and tips – five of which are below!

Establish Market Need

According to a CB Insights study, 42% of startups fail because there is no market need for their innovation. Learning about your customer and asking questions that get to the heart of their problems can help ensure that there will be a fighting chance for your enterprise.

Ask Yourself: A Product May Be "Cool," But Will It Sell?

Startups face a number of challenges - why add to those by not doing your research? Your venture may be centered on a new high-tech product, but over-engineering can lead to obsolescence. There may be a pain point that your target customer is dealing with but, according to Max Sims, "there's a difference between pain and pain worth solving."

Use Hypothesis-Based Testing

Start with your assumptions: what do you think is the problem? Once you have these starting points, create "I believe _____" statements that can be proven true or false. For example, "I believe [my customer] has a problem [achieving a specific goal]." Use interviews to prove/disprove these statements and continue to refine your hypotheses. Ultimately, the goal is to determine whether or not you have a product-market fit. Asking the right questions, limiting your own bias, and keeping an open mind are key to customer discovery.

Customer Discovery Must Be Ongoing

When is the right time to talk to your customers about what they want? ALWAYS. This cannot be overstated. Entrepreneurs need to remain aware of market needs and consumer desires at every phase of their venture. Whether you have an idea that you want to build upon, or a large company launching a new product line, customer discovery should be constant.

Stick to a Few Basic Techniques

To summarize, our workshop facilitators put together a handy "how-to" guide. While there is extensive literature on performing customer discovery, these few basics will help get you started on the right path.

Chart of basic techniques created by Matt Spielmann and Max Sims for Voice of Customer Workshop in October 2018 (inspired by Talking to Humans, by Giff Constable and Frank Rimalovski).

If you have any questions about customer discovery, please contact the Ain Center at AinCFE@rochester.edu or make an appointment with Matt Spielmann. Interested in attending future Foundry Forums or workshops? Head over to our Events Calendar and register online!