The Entrepreneurship Education Consortium is sponsoring “Immersion Week,” an intensive one-week, academic immersion experience for undergraduates from all disciplines to immerse themselves in the skills needed to help them develop new business concepts and apply these skills a team-based business concept competition (www.ImmersionWeek.org). A team of five students from CWRU will join teams from 8 other colleges and universities for this all-expenses paid residential event to be hosted this year on the Case Western Reserve campus, August 5-10, 2012.
To join the CWRU 2012 Team, please complete the application ASAP posted at http://bme.case.edu/entrepreneurship
For more information, please contact Colin Drummond (email@example.com) in the Case School of Engineering.Share on Facebook
For several years I studied jujutsu. One of the things I remember most about my teacher is that he would often say, “Simple things aren’t.” At the time, I was listening to him in the context of jujutsu, where the performance of seemingly simple techniques concealed the layers and layers of subtle complexities. For example, I spent a great deal of time practicing ukemi, which from all appearances looks like falling down and doing summersaults. Little kids can do summersaults. Heck, I am pretty sure my cat does them on an irregular basis. Nonetheless, rolling around on the ground has many subtle nuances such as what parts of your shoulder and hip touch, what, if anything is in your hands and so forth. It takes a lot of practice to fall down the right way. Another example is forming a fist and punching somebody. I imagine humans have been balling their fists up and punching each other since the moment we stood upright. However, to form a fist just right, to line up your wrist with the elbow and shoulder, then to rotate your body, move your feet, and even to breathe just right; throwing punches is serious business. I would tend to think that most martial artists and boxers would likely feel the same way; or else everybody would be awesome at boxing. And, for those who are lovers and not fighters, just think about how simple it is to hit a golf ball. I mean, right, all you have to do is swing the club and hit a stupid little ball.
In business school we learn several frameworks; Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Value Chain, McKinsey Value Chain, McKinsey 7S, Marketing Mix, 4Ps, 5Cs, SWOT, and a multitude of things that can be described as the something-something matrix. These are relatively simple things to learn and to subsequently apply to established companies. Fill in the blanks. At the next level of understanding, it is not necessary to fill out the framework blanks each time, but rather to think about the frameworks while analyzing a business case. Arguably, a final stage of learning the frameworks is to ignore the frameworks. Sometimes they can be constraints limiting the variables and concepts that are considered; think outside the box, if you will. One of my strategy professors called the Porter’s Five Forces the Dreaded Five Forces; a zillion MBA students can do a Five Forces analysis, but it takes a little more work to think beyond it. As I noted, these frameworks are straight-forward and are relatively simple to use when applied to existing companies. You can Google-up what Google is all about, and then fill in the blanks. Most of us “get” what Google is all about.
Here is how that simple framework thing, isn’t: Start a business.
Recently, I began to work with a business accelerator to start my own business. At first I was loathe to use the frameworks (as some of my former classmates would not find surprising), but I concluded that these frameworks were developed for a reason; time to use my MBA education. Then things got difficult. When your business does not actually yet exist, one does not simply walk into Mordor do an internet search to find information. To really articulate your value proposition for each market segment, describe revenue streams, who exactly are your customers, competitors, collaborators, what is the internal rivalry, and how much power do your suppliers and buyers have, and so forth – all for something little more than an idea is a very difficult exercise. Uncertainty and ambiguity make otherwise seemingly simple tasks less simple and more complicated. For instance, just determining what it is you need to know and what questions you should be asking is a challenge.
As students, all too often we may learn something and subsequently become almost blasé users of that knowledge. At times, it is easy to dismiss things as being too simple to be of value. But, how many times have you fouled up a complex mathematical operation all because you forgot to carry the one (or any other elementary level mistake)? Chances are if things may seem to be too simple, then perhaps you have not yet been challenged to really understand the nuances of your knowledge.
Simple things aren’t. Especially for entrepreneurs.Share on Facebook
It is a fundamental law of nature that an object must follow its path of least resistance. Everything dropped falls straight down towards the center of Earth, the singular point of the planet’s gravitational pull, which creates a warped space-time fabric – a tunnel for the ball to roll down to a state of lesser energy. Everything around us is in a gradual decay from a higher to lower energy state following this path of least resistance. But life would never be interesting if this was the case.
The things in life that interest us the most are those that defy this fundamental rule – the objects, reactions, and organisms that do not follow this path but rather seem to forge their own direction over resistance.
The stoat is a small predatory animal, a cousin of the weasel (for a fast visual explanation see here, warning some furry violence: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNbqvqf3-14). For its small size and cute, squirrel-like appearance, one would never imagine that the stoat is a predator. It’s in the stoat’s genetics to be a fierce, persistent, and intelligent hunter. Simply put, the stoat uses brains over brawn. Beginning at birth, the stoat learns how to hunt through practice hunts with its siblings. The stoat constantly hones its agility and skill until the time has come for the games to end and the real hunt to begin.
The stoat is a persistence hunter. It hunts rabbits up to ten times its own size through slowly wearing them down over hours of chasing. At first, the stoat is merely a small bother to the fast and large rabbit; yet over time, the rabbit starts to grow tired and panic. This is when the stoat attacks with all of its training and might, taking down the rabbit.
In a way, the tiny stoat is superior to the large and agile rabbit; it just took an inner hunger, lots of training, and persistence to pull down a meal.
The stoats choose the path less taken, which is to defy the path of least resistance. The first stoat ancestors must have thought it rather impractical that one fellow furry critter had decided to take up seemingly improbable rabbit hunting antics, like one misguided Elmer Fudd who never quite gets Bugs.
But the stoat found the process of value creation. Through necessity to survive and adapt to its environment it used the few talents that it possessed with training and persistence to overcome a resistant path, evolving to make a perfectly designed rabbit-hunting machine, and in the process leaving the other risk-adverse stoat ancestors in a genetic dead-end like the dodo and dinosaurs.
The life of the entrepreneur is the daily escapade against the resistance of the everyday. At base, your job is to change the way everyone lives around you. To fight against the resistance until you’ve created value. You are the first stoat, just learning how to take down the large and complacent rabbits using only a few key attributes.
I started thinking about hunting rabbits when I was working for a startup company in undergrad through a yearlong product development group project based class. When the company fell through due to a faulty product half way through the course, I campaigned the professors in charge of the class to let me develop my own product with the same group – the only problem was that I did not have a product yet. So I partnered with a friend, Zach Bloom, and we started identifying needs in my area of developing expertise in emergency medicine (at the time I was a practicing EMT). We spent about a year and a half inventing, testing, and patenting our two devices for obtaining a safer, faster, and easier emergency airway. We were able to get key clinical support from local physicians and paramedics as well as entrepreneurial support from the Bethlehem and Lehigh Communities. Early supporters at the IPD (Integrated Product Development) and Entrepreneurship Offices at Lehigh gave us the initial push and the rigorous bootcamp for entrepreneurship that made us ready to tackle initial funding through the NCIIA (National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Association).
We had pulled through with some initial success and had developed two devices that we knew had potential to change the way that patients are cared for both on US soil and in the battlefield. But, while attempting to commercialize these products Zach and I still had our degrees to work to as well in our new professional lives as students. So, we were forced to integrate both educational and company goals to develop our products, most notably we performed some studies surrounding the potential cost-benefit of our procedures as well as an anatomical study that elucidates key geometries for performing tracheotomy in the population at large. Zach was also brought in as the “entrepre-nuru” to help direct the development of what has now become the Dexter F. Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation. Zach has had the privilege of developing the institute and becoming an assistant lecturer for entrepreneurship.
One year ago, while Zach was accomplishing these feats in Bethlehem, I was discovering a new fertile environment for Healthcare and Entrepreneurship in my new home in Cleveland. I made the transition from engineer and EMT to a medical student at Case and traveling salesman. So, I put on a tie, polished the presentation, and started pitching to anyone who would listen. The first success was a joint award given by the iDEA Institute and the incubator formerly known as GCA, then LaunchHouse, and now formerly the Shaker LaunchHouse (http://www.launchhouse.com/). This was Case’s first event heralded by Gary, Marc, and the newly forming iDEA Institute at Case that brings together the vast resources and intellectual power at Case to develop and commercialize new technologies. As you may know, Case is undergoing a transformation, much like Lehigh and many other schools across the country, to embrace this spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.
One prime example, is the Case Entrepreneur’s Club at Case of which I have been proud to call myself my member. Within a semester, we were able to bring over 100 graduate students into the same room across disciplines for monthly pitches where a fellow member would call on the group for support and collaboration in their company. We have shown some great early success in the development of several new entrepreneurs.
This Case Pitch day was what put me in touch with the LaunchHouse team who have been able to cultivate a grass-roots movement for Entrepreneurship that allows entrepreneurs like myself and Zach as well as others to grow.
By a random email, I was introduced to what would become an invaluable resource in the area: the LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Award (http://www.launchtown.org/) and the Akron Community. Winning the LaunchTown award put LifeServe in contact with many local leaders and mentors as well as the blossoming Akron Community. The last great resource that I have found in Cleveland has been of tremendous support has been BioEntreprise. We have great mentors there and have recently signed on as a BioEnterprise client company to get the direction that two young and busy entrepreneurs require.
While not traveling door-to-door asking for money, I started developing the research and commercialization relationships here in Cleveland to bring the products to fruition. I was able to put together a medical team of local physicians who share our passion for developing new life-saving technologies. With this team, we have a strong clinical validation plan underway.
Over this journey, Zach and I have traveled the country to bring our dreams to reality (most notably: NCIIA March Madness of the Mind, NCIIA Venture Lab, oral presentation at the National Predoctoral Clinical Research Training Program Meeting, and upcoming at the 9th Annual LifeScience Alley Conference we will have a keynote presentation) and are continuing to take advantage of new opportunities. We are leaving the practice and moving into the real pitches, grants, and trials that are allowing us to take our products to market.
This has been the path that Zach and myself has taken meeting resistance head on to evolve into fine tuned predators. If we’re persistent, agile, and eager to learn – I’m sure there will be rabbit in our future.Share on Facebook
I’m stoked about another school year and more Entrepreneur’s being born at CWRU!
I fly back on Monday – so if I have anything left in me – I am so totally there! I live to find out about wireless gas meters!
If I miss it – make sure to ask Larry about the Lincoln Storage building! Maybe I can sneak a bit of the think[box] iDEAnet!
Is there anything anyone would like me to bring back from Amsterdam for them?Share on Facebook
Case Entrepreneurs Club member Rick Arlow has a article written about his company, LifeServe.
Kudos to all of the hard work Rick and his colleagues has put into their product!Share on Facebook
Weatherhead Professor Scott Shane recently wrote an insightful article entitled, “America Is Losing Its High Tech Entrepreneurial Edge.” The data and insights found within his article provides excellent support of the notion that support for entrepreneurship is very much needed in the current economic climate found today in the United States.
It is of my personal opinion, and I feel confident it is the opinion of many others, that the future, if not current, direction of entrepreneurship will be one that is multi-disciplinary requiring collaboration across various fields. As such one of the foundations we are creating here at Case Entrepreneurs is to increase entrepreneurial cooperation amongst many fields of endeavor: medicine, engineering, design, business, et cetera. This is a significant step in the right direction in developing a support network for local entrepreneurship.
Professor Shane notes that as a percent of GDP the investment of venture capital in the U.S. has fallen behind many other OECD nations. Notably it appears that the OECD leader Finland contributes nearly twice what the U.S. does in terms of venture capital as a percent of GDP. With that being said it may be reasonable to note that Finland’s 2008 GDP was $191bn USD while the GDP of the U.S. was $14, 369bn USD. Regardless of the dollar amount of venture capital investments in the U.S. any percent decline of VC capital or patent applications are items of note that we as interested entrepreneurs should be concerned about. However by utilizing the abilities of the individual members within Case Entrepreneurs I hope to see us develop an united front of sorts that can more efficiently and strategically obtain investments as well as to develop ideas into concepts which can be patented.Share on Facebook
At Case – the world seems to be divided up between which side of Euclid you’re on.
On one side is Severance Hall, the KSL library, the Wetherhead Biz school, the Law School and all sorts of buildings which make up the College. There’s also the two Mandel schools and buildings for Alumni, students, etc.
On the other side of Euclid is geektown. Engineering, geeky college scientific stuff, medical school, UH, the gym and a myriad of engineering places – which go back over 125 years. Then there’s the admin buildings, places to eat and a church.
Well in fact both sides of the street have churches. Thank goodness for that!
But I hope you see what I’m getting at. Case is a divided place. A place of silos – or separate efforts not often connected together.
The CSE (Case Engineering school) is starting an effort called the ‘iDEA Institute‘ to help spawn entrepreneurial efforts.
Similar efforts are under way at the Wetherhead.
Let’s hope that this coming academic year can start to see both sides of teh street working together to create new companies, jobs and great products and services.
Oh yah – and some serious coin along the way!Share on Facebook