Ian Young, a business administration graduate student with a concentration in finance and management information systems, is working with his team, LiftForce, to improve their motion-capture device for weightlifters after winning Tiger Tank last spring. Due to his team’s first place standing, he is taking business administration classes for free and applying what he learns to get the product on the market. The Henderson, N.Y., native and finance and economics alumnus is also a project manager for H & P Capital and an innovation fellow with the Simone Center.
Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: I did an overnight stay, which no other colleges I was applying to offered. RIT felt good to me because I was definitely a nerd in high school but I also liked how the college was hyper social. There was a ton of clubs and opportunities to take advantage of. I got involved with a business fraternity, I studied abroad in China and was a part of Student Government.
Q: What is the Tiger Tank?
A: Tiger Tank is a competition for anyone from the RIT community where you come up with an early stage business idea. It doesn’t matter how developed it is as long as you have passion for it. You get up on stage and pitch it to a panel of investors and if it’s good enough you get immediate real-time feedback, which is brilliant.
Q: How did you get involved with Tiger Tank?
A: In the summer of 2014, Evan Oslakovich, my LiftForce partner, and I started talking about fitness ideas in the gym. We were talking about how people were constantly hurting themselves and there was no real solid technology for people to learn how to weightlift correctly. Throughout the winter, we worked on writing business plans, getting advice from the Simone Center and trying to form a team. In February, RIT was accepting applications for Tiger Tank and we thought the competition would be a great opportunity. In true entrepreneur fashion, we applied 12 hours before it was due.
Q: What was your team’s proposal?
A: We wanted to make a small attachment that gyms could attach to a squat rack. The attachment would have two cameras and a small computer. The computer would sense your form and give real-time feedback on your lifting on the screen in front of you.
Q: How did your team develop the product?
A: We went out into the RIT community and found the best students possible to help us build it in a very short time. We brought on Anthony Vullo, an engineering student and Jared Simonelli, a game design student, so we could get a product ready. The most important thing for us was not only did we have to pitch at Tiger Tank but we also had to show it at Imagine RIT a few weeks later. Imagine was the first time we showed the product to an audience of thousands of people.
Q: How did you pitch your team’s product to investors?
A: Every week in High Tech Rochester Launchpad, a business accelerator program, we would do presentations. The exercise made us really good at getting up in front of people and pitching. With that background, we had a pitch that was partially developed for Tiger Tank. The program and competition sort of built into each other so we were constantly getting feedback and improving the pitch. I always tell young entrepreneurs you should have 10 slides that describe what your business does and that will serve you extremely well.
Q: What was the biggest take away from Tiger Tank?
A: Tiger Tank is very scary because you are going up against what the Simone Center has identified as the four other best new business products and your pitching to a panel of investors who have already done this several times. To make it through 50 applications and four other insanely good ideas means you have to be on point. We spent 48 hours before the competition practicing our pitch over and over.
Q: What does winning the competition mean to you?
A: Winning the competition makes me feel ultra accountable to the project because I have to take every single thing that I learn from this program and apply it to LiftForce to make it better. They are basically giving you an investment in the form of a scholarship so it’s my responsibility that the team and product benefits directly from it.
Q: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
A: Anyone who is thinking about getting involved with entrepreneurship, I definitely recommend doing it especially at RIT because of all the resources that are available. It doesn’t matter what stage you are in your business idea. You just have to take the smallest initiative to just write it down and show the world.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
A: I’m hoping to finish the MBA program in spring 2016. Once that’s finished, I will have time to commit myself to this project 24/7. We are trying to get the product on the market in the next six months and get it in as many gyms as possible. In the future, we want to expand to smart equipment and smart clothing. We also would like to partner with other people in the fitness industry and share intellectual resources to make something big.
Traci Turner compiles “Student Spotlight” for University News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.