They had to learn that starting a new business is a step-by-step process. You don’t want to go through a lot of time and effort and then find out that it doesn’t work, or there’s a patent, or it wasn’t a good idea in the first place.
The risk-takers had to pass the first test by answering a Mission Impossible-like question: If you’re not accepted into this program, what will you do?
“It was simple. We were going to go ahead anyway,” say Andres Ulloa (third-year biomedical engineering, New York City) and Ben Sima (third-year philosophy, Canton, Ohio), who are in a partnership with Kayla Wheeler (third-year biomedical engineering, Clifton Park, N.Y.), in a company called Nebula Biotech, “where stars are born.”
Their team is working on a prototype and patent for a cushioned headband that aims to reduce head injuries in young athletes.
Their product would offer peace-of-mind to soccer moms who are interested in keeping their children protected, but the headband can also be used for any kind of helmet-less sport like rugby, lacrosse or ice skating, they explain.
Summer Start Up was piloted last year in a joint initiative between RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business and the Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“Our program is unique in that it’s not solely in the conceptual stage of business; it’s in the accelerator phase, which helps you turbo-charge your small-business ideas with tools and strategies in marketing, sales, finance and growth,” says Richard DeMartino, Saunders College professor and director of the Simone Center. “It also requires real product development and at the very least, a prototype.”
The business concepts run the gamut: Team Gradesnap offers software for teachers to efficiently grade multiple-choice tests and automatically generate statistics; Team Bumble Bee Technologies is working on “Clean Tag” hand-washing compliance for hospitals and restaurants; Team App Solutions provides accountants with secure accessibility to documents in the cloud; Team Scopur scans the Internet to derive sentimental analysis; Team UrLocker is already in business and produces personalized “skins” for lockers and electronic devices.
And Team Attaché—winners of two awards in the RIT48 contest last March—has designed a mobile Web app that saves résumés, tracks the changes and allows users to manage multiple versions.
“We see this as a huge benefit for job fairs, where applicants can submit different versions of their résumés to target specific companies or career opportunities,” says co-creator Michael Peechatt, from Brighton, N.Y., who is working on the project with Syracuse native Jeremy Pitzeruse, both fifth-year software engineering majors. “We hope to collaborate with sites like LinkedIn, where people can import specific information to their Attaché module.”
Richard Notargiacomo, business development manager for RIT’s Venture Creations, mentors the students with fellow business professor Anthony Testa. Notargiacomo says if starting a business were easy, then everyone would be doing it and we’d all be multimillionaires.
“Eighty percent of what we hear about—a new business—relates to technical development, but there’s much more, starting with the need to know your customers. You have to move fast, have a better offering and, above all, be perceived as the right match for their needs.”