Michiana’s second Pre-Seed Workshop gathered seven potential companies’ “idea champions” with teams of legal, business, financial and other experts for intense focus on how - or whether - to move forward.
The repeat performance by New York-based consultants Judy Albers and Mark Wilson, who also led the workshops with seven companies last year, came with an eye on the future of such hands-on education in the area.
Albers and Wilson were training Karl Perusich, of the Purdue University School of Technology on the Indiana University South Bend campus, and Wendy Angst, of the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, to run the deep-digging workshops that link researchers with community resources.
A $100,000 commitment by state and local officials to provide the Pre-Seed training (www.psw-ny.org) includes a third Albers-Wilson workshop next year.
“What we’re trying to do is bring a Pre-Seed process to regions,” says Wilson, adding that Bloomington, Ind., had its first Pre-Seed this year and he hopes to build hubs that can form a statewide consortium.
“We’re trying to help regions build their entrepreneurial ecosystems.”
The brief, high-intensity Pre-Seed fills a niche for university researchers and similar high-level, high-tech professionals in a burgeoning entrepreneurship-training market where most programs take months.
Locally, agencies such as the Small Business Development Center, Project Future, The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County and others must provide ongoing support for the fledgling businesses, Albers says.
“We’re not an endgame. It’s important to us that when our folks graduate from the Pre-Seed workshop they have a place to go,” she says.
Jan Fye, regional director of the SBDC, recruited the teams of experts to work with the researchers. The “idea champions” are:
-- Ian Sander, Geoffrey Siwo and Victoria Lam, graduate students at Notre Dame, whose company Sayansia aims to accelerate drug discovery through social media.
-- Matthew Brach of Brach Engineering LLC, whose VCRware aims to provide an accident reconstruction program.
-- Holly Goodson, an associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame, and graduate student Julia Philip, who aim to provide a rapid-detection water quality sensor for municipal waste and drinking water systems.
-- Kali Devaraj and Sarv Devaraj of Carex Technologies Inc., who aim to provide Web- and mobile-based software for the health care industry.
-- Richard Taylor, associate dean of the Notre Dame College of Science and a professor in chemistry and biochemistry, and Joseph Arico, a postdoctoral research associate, who aim to develop drugs for treating cancer and Alzheimer’s.
-- Patrick Flynn, a computer science and engineering professor at Notre Dame; Marya Lieberman, an associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry at Notre Dame; and Toni Barstis, an associate professor in chemistry and physics at Saint Mary’s College, who aim to develop counterfeit pharmaceuticals detection devices.
-- Jason Martin, founder of The Perfect Cup of Coffee, who aims to provide high-quality encapsulated coffee.
“There’s a lot of genius on that list,” Albers says, including the intellectual property attorneys, economic development officers, technologists, tech transfer officers, industry experts and business leaders working with each one.
“You bring these people around these teams, it’s powerful.”
The teams met at a dinner at The Landing Catering on Aug. 18, gathering at round tables to start the discussions and hear Wilson sketch the steps from discovery to commercialization.
On one end of a long strip of drawing paper, he depicted a scientist who decides to start a company; on the other, a well-established firm that is thriving as it continues to innovate.
“When they would launch a product, it would last for a while and then it would mature. They would have another generation. It lasts like a galaxy. They keep producing all kinds of things,” he says.
Backing up from that goal, he drew a cash register for “emerging stage commercialization,” when customers actually start buying products; then the “startup stage” that includes feasibility, development and scale-up, pointing out that it typically takes $10 million to launch a high-tech company.
The workshop offers an opportunity to test and refine ideas in preparation for writing a business plan and seeking support from others.
“Right now is the time to change it,” Wilson said. “You can very easily change the direction of your idea, even drastically, very quickly - in five minutes. That doesn’t happen as you keep going. That’s the basic concept of this whole process.”
After a workshop day on Aug. 19 and plenty of homework, the teams met on Aug. 26 at the Pfeil Innovation Center to hammer out their plans, gather more information from Wilson and Albers, and present to an audience.
“They’re not just here to have another meeting,” Albers says. “We bring intense people to the workshop. We tap into their brain power, and we make them work. People really like the intensity and they like working.”
Tribune Business Weekly