New center promotes business innovation among students
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Patrick Bosek and Casey Jordan could certainly put together impressive resumes and begin the traditional job search. Jordan will graduate this winter from RIT with a physics degree and Bosek recently graduated from the University at Buffalo in computer science.
But the two high school buddies (Penfield, N.Y., Class of 2003), have caught the entrepreneurial bug. They’d rather work 16-hour days developing a new software product and service. They’d rather do Web consulting for a start-up energy company. They’d rather field phone calls from venture capitalists. They’d rather control their own destiny and build their own business.
“The safe lifestyle of 9-to-5 isn’t going to work for me,” says Jordan. “We are building our business at full speed. Failure is not an option.”
Says Bosek: “The experience we have gained creating our own product and service is invaluable. The further along we get developing our product, the busier we are getting.”
Bosek and Jordan are the creators of Jorsek, where they are developing a Web-based virtual operating system for small to mid-sized companies.
Jorsek is one example of the myriad activities taking place within the Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. More than $3 million has been raised from more than 200 donors for the center, named in honor of RIT’s recently retired eighth president. A portion of the funds will be used to support an endowed professorship in Simone’s name.
Buffalo-based M&T Bank donated $25,000 to fund a scholarship. “Generating more local businesses and creating jobs remains one of our region’s biggest challenges,” says Daniel J. Burns, M&T regional president. “That’s why M&T Bank is encouraged by the mission of the Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Simone had a track record for producing leaders and fostering innovation during his tenure as president of RIT and we believe the Simone Center will also produce positive results for the community and our economy.”
The center connects students with Venture Creations, an RIT subsidiary that works with faculty, staff, alumni and with outside businesses to bring technologies to market. Students have access to business expertise from faculty, graduate students and alumni. There are 10 start-up companies in Venture Creations, located off John Street in Henrietta, just south of the RIT campus.
The Simone Center is designed to promote, nurture and expand innovation and entrepreneurship activities within the RIT community. It is divided by three distinct activities:
-Academic and campus-based programs featuring the Student Business Development Lab.
-Commercial activities featuring Venture Creations.
-Programs that integrate both off-campus and academic initiatives.
“Students will have a chance to see start-up companies up close. They will see all the difficulties and challenges,” says Donald Boyd, RIT vice president for research. “It made sense to put Dr. Simone’s name with this center. He pushed hard to see this combination of students and start-up companies learning from each other. It falls into the Category-of-One concept, that we can do things differently than other business incubators.”
“How are we unique? Our advantage is that we are leveraging both teaching and creativity to create experiential events for our students,” says Richard DeMartino, a professor of management in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business and director of academic and campus-based programs within the center.
“Sure, we would love to see the students create successful businesses. But our larger goal is to give the students a real-life business experience.”
DeMartino says more than 200 students per year provide some form of support to the incubator companies or student business teams, mostly marketing and strategy reports.
One area where DeMartino sees a distinct RIT advantage is building entrepreneurship in digital-related products and services. For example, RIT’s strengths in computing, new media, gaming, animation, graphic arts, photography and industrial design should be leveraged by students to create products and services. And the students will employ digital social networks to ramp up their ideas.
Jorsek fits into this niche. Through strategic partnerships and consulting, Jorsek will be marketing product to businesses seeking a powerful Web presence or company intranet applications. Jorsek is launching several Web 2.0 sites to showcase the software’s abilities. And thanks to having offices in Venture Creations, Bosek and Jordan have done some Web consulting for Cerion Energy, a startup company recently hatched from the incubator.
It is this type of collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit that excites both Boyd and DeMartino. They also see the center as an important asset to the Rochester community. “We need to promote entrepreneurship with the technical strengths of the Rochester community,” says DeMartino.
“The Simone Center should really be a signature program for RIT,” says Boyd.