Category: Entrepreneurship

Savvy Entrepreneur Workshop: Intellectual Property (IP) Protection: It’s more than an NDA (non-disclosure agreement)

If you have a business idea that you want to protect but don’t understand all the issues, next Tuesday’s Savvy Entrepreneur session is for you. The series features best practices sharing via 2-Way Interactive Web Conferencing. At this event you’ll learn key Strategic Intellectual Property Management Practices, including how to navigate through the dreaded Non-Disclosure Agreement with customers and partners. Learn why and how to protect one of your business’s most valuable assets affordably from local leading entrepreneurs and specialists. Bring your questions to this program to advance your technology entrepreneurship skill set.

A panel of successful entrepreneurs, investors and subject matter experts will share the best practices and experiences dealing with one of the biggest challenges and biggest critical success factors to launch or grow your company. The forum will include insights from the panelists followed by a moderated question and answer session to address your specific start-up commercialization or growth questions.

The event is sponsored by Michigan Tech’s office of Innovation and Industry Engagement, School of Business and Economics, and the Houghton SmartZone and the Keweenaw Alliance For Economic Development.

This event will take place at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the conference room of Michigan Tech’s Advanced Technology and Development Center at 1402 E. Sharon Avenue, followed with a panel discussion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. For more information on the workshop, contact Mike Morley 487-3485 or mcmorley@mtu.edu


Boots to Briefcases: Veterans as Entrepreneurs

School of Business and Economics researcher hopes to help vets become entrepreneurs.

As one million veterans return to the American workforce, some will venture into entrepreneurial employment, either as leaders or team members. One Michigan Technological University professor wants to find out if there is a difference between their initial interest and overall success compared to the general population; then he wants to give them a hand.

Saurav Pathak, Rick and Jo Berquist assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in the School of Business and Economics, seeks to create a data set that will tell him how many returning veterans are going the entrepreneur route.

He’s aiming high, too.

President Barack Obama sent an encouraging response to his email request for support. No money came with it, but Pathak will continue to try to secure federal funds, especially given the administration’s Joining Forces initiative that seeks to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013.

“I’ll first look at the skill set the veterans bring back with them,” he says. “There is some thought that the Air Force veterans have more technical background, for example, than Army or Navy veterans.”

Part of his research project, which is currently sponsored by the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund (REF), seeks to build more awareness and future connections between the Veteran’s Affairs Office, the University (including ROTC programs) and veterans themselves.

“These [REF] projects are funded as seed grants to help new faculty get their research programs underway,” says Dave Reed, vice president for research. “Typically, they are early stage or preliminary. Saurav’s work is a great example of these projects, and our faculty do a wonderful job of using results from these projects to leverage further funding.”

Pathak’s focus is on what hinders the veterans from beginning or succeeding as entrepreneurs.

“In Michigan alone, there are some 700,000 veterans,” he says. “And on campus there are about 90 veteran students and another 90 faculty and staff, mostly staff. If we can harness just a small percentage of them in a University center for entrepreneurship, we can help them succeed and propel Michigan Tech and the community into prominence at the same time.”

Pathak’s research grant expires in July 2013, so he wants to have the additional funding and a more defined project ready to launch by then.

“ROTC has shown great interest,” he says, “and we will be traveling to the Ishpeming, Marquette and Calumet Armories to talk about my work and see how much interest there really is.”

That’s one important component: actual data on numbers of veterans interested in entrepreneurship in the first place.

“I went to a veterans convention in Detroit, and there were 6,000 veterans there,” says Pathak. “We know that a lack of available resources hinders them, and we also think that there is difference between disabled veterans and those who are not.”

Disabled veterans are more likely to be working alone, he says. And many of the veterans seem to have been unaware of all the resources that are available to them.

“I don’t have the data set to completely verify this, but talking to veterans in Detroit, senior military people seem to be not as averse to taking risks,” Pathak observes. “Where junior officers are so used to taking orders that it might hinder them. Again, I need to do more research to verify these statements.”

Veterans’ well-being could affect their choices between necessity-based and opportunity-based entrepreneurship too, he says.

There has been previous research on entrepreneurship—for example, a Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics at the University of Michigan. But there is no study currently focusing on veterans in terms of entrepreneurship.

With or without help from the White House, Pathak seeks to understand veterans’ unique needs as they attempt to become entrepreneurs. Then, he hopes to help them succeed.

Learn more about Saurav Pathak.

Originally published on Michigan Tech News.


Michigan Tech MBA Students Cap Program with Trip to India’s Silicon Valley

MBA students Mike Vigrass and Holly Lehto at the pharmaceutical company Micro Labs Ltd. during their residency in Bangalore.

The nine students in Michigan Technological University’s MBA program returned from India with a new appreciation for how the rest of the world does business.

“We chose Bangalore because it’s the Silicon Valley of India,” said Jodie Filpus, who directs recruitment and admissions for the MBA program.

The online MBA program includes three residencies, during which the students leave their far-flung homes to meet in person with each other and their professors. Two residencies are held on the Michigan Tech campus. The third and final residency involves a week of international travel. “We do this so the students will be exposed to different cultures, as well as to introduce them to international businesses,” Filpus said.

It would be hard to imagine a city more different from Houghton than Bangalore. “It’s a very interesting place,” she said. “It’s beautiful in many respects, with its temples and palaces, and it’s so rich in history.” However, the population in the city of over 8 million has grown by over 65 percent in the last 10 years and its infrastructure hasn’t kept up, “so it gave me an appreciation for what we have here.”

Led by Assistant Professor Latha Poonamallee of the School of Business and Economics and accompanied by Filpus, the MBA students visited several different organizations, from a pharmaceutical manufacturer to a nonprofit that provides solar-energy-system financing for poor villages.

“It was my privilege to design and lead this international residency, which was a fitting culmination of a well-designed, innovative MBA program that put the School of Business and Economics on the map among top online MBA programs in the country,” Poonamallee said.

Visiting Bangalore: Mysore Palace During their trip to visit several Bangalore companies, MBA students also had a chance to tour the city. Pictured are Mike Vigrass and Holly Lehto at Mysore Palace.

During the spring semester, the students prepared for their trip by researching each of the companies and identifying a disruptive innovation to discuss with officials and offer potential solutions. Disruptive innovations are marketplace game-changers, such as iPods and cell phones, that upend earlier technologies.

Assistant Professor Andre Laplume taught them how. First they studied the companies’ products and strategies. “Then they proposed a new business for them to get into,” he said. “They described a new product, developed a rationale explaining why it should be adopted, and wrote an essay about it for their final exam.

“By the time they got to Bangalore and faced the company executives, they had something to bring to the table,” Laplume said. Not only was it a good opportunity to see how businesses function overseas, it also gave the students—most of them middle managers—a chance to display their skills before top-level executives.

Before traveling to Bangalore, student Holly Lehto had already put Tech’s MBA curriculum to good use. “Throughout the program I’ve been reaping the benefits,” she said. “A lot of concepts in the case studies are applicable to my day to day work.”

Her final exercise was to study the Bangalore-based market research firm Mu Sigma. “We talked about the possibility of going public, and we also discussed the possibility of capturing data from electrical transmission lines and selling it to clients,” said Lehto, a project manager for Allonhill, a Denver-based firm that provides due diligence and risk management services to the mortgage industry. “It was empowering to have the ear of these global executives, who were truly interested in hearing what we had to say.”

And there were revelations, said Mike Vigrass, manager of a natural gas compressor station with DT Energy-Michigan in Detroit. “I have traveled internationally, but not to India, and I was quite surprised at how much business was conducted in English,” he said. “At one of the site visits, we talked about the fact that India’s wages are going up, so that they are losing a competitive edge, and their answer was compelling. They said they think in English, which gives them an advantage over other emerging markets, where they have to translate the conversation.”

Another eye-opener was the visit with the nonprofit SELCO, which works to provide solar systems to the poor.  “I found that very interesting,” Vigrass said. “Among US corporations, it’s all about market share, getting bigger. For SELCO, it’s about meeting their customers’ expectations.”

Resource-stretched Bangalore has had trouble grappling with its own growth, he noted. “The population has exploded, and it’s hard for them to keep up their infrastructure.”

That culture shock did not take away from the trip, however. If anything, it made it even more worthwhile. “It was a very valuable experience, just to see how people in other parts of the world work and how they think,” Vigrass said.

Lehto agreed. “Both from a business and a cultural perspective, it was such an amazing trip,” she said.

Watch the Tech MBA Online India Residency in pictures

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O4earGfxqM[/youtube]

Learn more about the Tech MBA Online.


Student Entrepreneur Seeks Endorsements

Jess Tompkins pitches her idea in the New Venture Competition, a joint business plan competition between Central Michigan and Michigan Technological University held in the spring of 2012.

Jessica Tompkins, a fifth-year student in business management, needs the help of the campus community.

Tompkins is competing for a $250,000 grant for her start-up company, Two Bows LLC, and has only three days to collect 250 votes to be considered for the award.

All you have to do to help is:

  • Go to Mission Small Business
  • Click “Log in and Support” and log in using Facebook.
  • Type “Two Bows” in the search and click “Vote.”

You can also watch this 45-second YouTube video to show you the above steps: How to Vote.

This community outreach is part of CHASE’s program, “Mission: Small Business.” It offers 12 grants in the amount of $250,000 to help small businesses grow. The deadline for weighing in is Saturday, June 30.

Tompkins founded Two Bows, which offers an apparel line with the outdoorsy woman in mind. “For far too long,” she says, “women have worn men’s hunting and fishing apparel because they had nothing else. Now they are able to ‘roll with the boys’ and not have to look like one.”

The endeavor has been fruitful; Two Bows recently received the Student Startup of the Year Award from the MTEC SmartZone.

Tompkins is developing a sewing company in the area, so that garments can be produced not only in America but in Michigan and help create jobs in the area.

Two Bows has raised a small amount of capital on crowdbackers.com and is near completion on a website through ZT Web Development.

Originally published in Tech Today.

More from Jess and Two Bows…

Michigan Tech Students Compete for $60,000

2011 Elevator Pitch Competition

New Entrepreneur Support Center Includes Space for Tech Students