Tag: innovation and entrepreneurship

Lawrence student finishes a strong second in third annual Pitch competition

Hamza Ehsan '20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday's The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Hamza Ehsan ’20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday’s The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Eleven teams of college students came to The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay on Thursday with entrepreneurial dreams. Three, including one from Lawrence University, walked away with cash and a pledge of in-kind services to help launch those dreams.

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Lawrence University and St. Norbert College took the winning slots in the third annual “Shark Tank”-type competition. Other schools represented at The Pitch included the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

This marked the third straight year Lawrence had a team finish among the prize winners. In the previous two years, Lawrence students took first place.

Entrepreneurial spirit alive and well at Lawrence. See more here

Innovation & Entrepreneurship as an interdisciplinary concentration at LU: Details here

Hamza Ehsan ’20, a computer science student from Lawrence, took second place, walking away with $7,500 in cash, plus in-kind services. His pitch before a panel of judges and an audience of mostly business executives was for EVSmart, an app that would be a resource for drivers of electric cars, creating a network of shared charging stations.

Ehsan said his electric car initiative is going to happen, hopefully by fall. He and two partners are hoping to raise at least $35,000 by September. The $7,500 from The Pitch will help, as will monies coming from similar competitions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts.

“We’ve been through a couple of these,” Ehsan said. “At MIT, we got to the finals, and we’re currently in the finals at the University of Massachusetts. I think we’ve grown up as a company. We’ve grown up as entrepreneurs.”

Among other things, EVSmart would foster a community of electric car users who would market their charging stations similar to how living spaces are marketed via Airbnb.

“This is definitely happening,” Ehsan said of the planned business launch.

This was the third year of The Pitch, a collaborative effort organized by the participating schools and supported in part through an array of business sponsorships. Each of the schools held their own competitions to determine who would compete in The Pitch. Five of the schools sent two teams, while Moraine Park entered just one.

Besides the panel of judges, the students were pitching in front of a live audience, mostly regional business executives on hand to scout both business ideas and talent. That’s a win for the students and a win for local businesses.

“It’s highlighting innovation, but it’s also highlighting students in the Midwest,” said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and a lecturer of economics. “It says, ‘hey, we’ve got some bright students in our market here, and we’d like to keep them in our market.'”

Katie Kitzinger '20, left, and Emma Liu '19 present Jetsetter's Closet to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Katie Kitzinger ’20, left, and Emma Liu ’19 present Jetsetter’s Closet on Thursday to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Lawrence’s second team at The Pitch featured Emma Liu ’19, studying ethics and public policy, and Katie Kitzinger ’20, studying chemistry. They pitched Jetsetter’s Closet, a company that would rent fashionable, brand name clothing to female travelers. It would begin in Paris and possibly expand to other destination cities.

Liu said the idea stemmed from her frustration with having to lug around so many bags when traveling internationally. With Jetsetter’s Closet, a fashion-conscious client would arrive at her hotel with a week’s worth of stylish clothes already there.

“We wanted to find a very niche market where we could get started,” she said of the decision to focus on women in Paris.

They didn’t win, but the experience of The Pitch was invaluable, Liu and Kitzinger said.

“This is really interesting for me because until this fall I wasn’t even thinking about doing anything entrepreneurial,” Kitzinger said. “And then we got together and started talking about the Jetsetter’s Closet idea and The Pitch. This has been such a great way to get experience, just getting up in front of people and telling them about an idea.”

Daniel Salazar, a sophomore business management student from UW-Oshkosh, took first place and a prize of $10,000 in cash and $15,000 of in-kind services. His pitch was for a product called Pack-It, a small circular package holding plastic bags for disposing of dirty diapers or a dog’s messes. The package is designed to be small enough to be carried in a purse, backpack or coat pocket.

Salazar, who is from Appleton, said he joined a couple of partners who already have a patent and are preparing to launch a business.

“They showed me the idea for Pack-It, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s a huge opportunity,’” Salazar said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to work for you, I want to work with you.’ So, that’s where the relationship started, and I joined the team.”

Third place went to Breena Hansen, a business administration student from St. Norbert. Her pitch was for Clean Comfort Food Delivery, a business that would prepare and deliver healthy meals to clients. She won $5,000, plus in-kind services.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Innovation alive and well at Lawrence as students eye a three-peat in The Pitch

Lawrence students participate in The Pitch in 2018.
A team from Lawrence University won The Pitch in 2018 for the second straight year.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

There is an entrepreneurial spirit at Lawrence University, weaved into the liberal arts education in everything from science programs to music instruction.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lawrence students have come away with the title — and the money — in each of the first two installments of The Pitch, a “Shark Tank”-styled competition involving colleges and universities in east-central Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Lawrence will aim for a three-peat.

Students from six schools will deliver their pitches for innovative product ideas to a panel of judges — and in front of a live audience — at 4 p.m. at Titletown Tech in Green Bay. Joining Lawrence students will be entrants from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

Each school will have two entries. For Lawrence, Hamza Ehsan ’20 will pitch EVSmart while Emma Liu ’19 and Katie Kitzinger ’20 will pitch Jetsetter’s Closet.

EVSmart involves the creation of an app that would identify and facilitate the use of charging stations for electric cars. Jetsetter’s Closet would facilitate the rental of stylish clothing for world travelers.

They emerged as Lawrence finalists following a round of competition on campus. Similar competitions were held at each of the participating schools. The students who advanced will work with a judge in the lead-up to Thursday’s regional competition to better hone their presentations.

Lawrence students have come out on top each of the past two years. First it was a trio of 2017 graduates, Ryan Eardley, Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soederqvist, who successfully pitched their idea for Tracr, a forensic accounting software product. Then last year, Ayomide Akinyosoye, Alejandra Alarcon, Nikki Payne and Alfiza Urmanova took top honors with their idea for WellBell, an innovative wristband device with an S.O.S. button that can be used to send notifications for help, be it an assault or other point of danger or a medical crisis.

The WellBell students, all LU seniors now, are actively developing their product and working with mentors, while the Tracr project is on hold but could be reactivated in the future, said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and a lecturer of economics. The finalists behind Tracr have graduated and now have jobs in finance around the globe — Eardley was hired as director of innovation at Nicolet Bank, a primary sponsor of The Pitch, while Henriksson is working as an analyst with the international markets arm of a bank and Soederqvist is in management consulting.

This year’s contestants will be competing for more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind services — with first place receiving $10,000 cash and $15,000 worth of in-kind services, second place getting $7,500 cash plus in-kind services and third place earning $5,000 cash plus in-kind services.

The panel of judges come from the business community across the region.

Lawrence’s deep and successful dive into The Pitch competition comes in large part because of the investment the university has made in its Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. While Lawrence doesn’t have a business school, it does provide an I&E concentration, which spans all disciplines and can be an important piece of any student’s transcript. In addition to a myriad of class offerings, Lawrence has a student club — LUCIE (Lawrence University Club of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) — that fosters the innovation mentality. And students across multiple disciplines get hands-on entrepreneurial experience with such community projects as Startup Theater, the Rabbit Gallery, Entrepreneurial Musician and KidsGive.

“About half of the students studying I&E are from economics, but the other half are from all over,” said Claudena Skran, the Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government. “They’re from art, they’re from music, they’re from government.”

She and other faculty members across the disciplines work closely with Vaughan to facilitate that entrepreneurial mindset as students make their way toward graduation and the job market.

More details on Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program here

While the I&E program has shown its mettle on a daily basis in recent years, the school’s early success in The Pitch has put an exclamation point on that, Vaughan said.  

“We pitch against MBA students, and we’ve done really, really well,” he said.

Developing skills in The Pitch isn’t just about launching a new product idea. It’s also about learning how to present yourself when you jump into the job market for the first time after graduation.

“That is its own pitch,” Vaughan said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Faculty Approves Curriculum Changes for Neuroscience, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Driven by faculty interest, Lawrence University students soon will have options for a new major, a new minor and a new interdisciplinary area of study.

At its recent February meeting, the faculty approved proposals to create a major and a minor in neuroscience, while also formally creating an interdisciplinary area in innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E). The changes will be effective beginning with the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

“These curricular changes, originated by the faculty, will significantly enhance interdisciplinary options for our students,” said President Mark Burstein. “Neuroscience is increasingly emerging as one of the most dynamic research areas and important fields of study of our time. In today’s global marketplace, where graduates are likely to change careers multiple times during the course of their professional life, an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset and approach can serve as powerful catalysts when combined with any course of study.”

Neuroscience_newsblog-2The Century of the Brain

Neuroscience, the study of the brain and the nervous system, was first added to the Lawrence curriculum as an interdisciplinary area in 1980. Since then, neuroscience as a field of study has experienced tremendous growth and recognition. In the past 10 years, the field has seen significant breakthroughs in non-invasive brain imaging, computational modeling and experimental visualization techniques that have contributed greatly to the understanding of how brains function.

Inherently interdisciplinary, neuroscience integrates psychology, biology and chemistry in the study of brain development, learning and memory, sensation and perception, neurological and psychological disorders as well as the molecules, cells and genes responsible for nervous system functioning.

There are currently 16 students who have declared a concentration in the neuroscience interdisciplinary area, which is taught by Bruce Hetzler, professor psychology, Nancy Wall, associate professor of biology, Lori Hilt and Judith Humphries, assistant professors of psychology and biology, respectively.

“This is going to be the century of the brain,” said Wall. “Earlier this year, President Obama announced the creation of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, which certainly speaks to the growing prominence of neuroscience today.

“After two years of discussions on developing it as a major, we’re all very excited to be moving forward with it,” Wall added. “This change will be especially beneficial for students who want to pursue graduate studies in the field.”

Promoting Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Lawrence faculty from a variety of disciplines and divisions first introduced innovation and entrepreneurship courses six years ago as a way to enable students to further pursue their passion through innovative and entrepreneurial ventures both in coursework and co-curricular activities.

Rabbit-Gallery-logo_werblogAmong the latter were the development of The Rabbit Gallery, a temporary art gallery that showcased an empty storefront in downtown Appleton, the Greyfell Theater Company,  which launched last December in Door County with the performance of four, original 10-minute plays written by students, and Flickey, a kiosk-based movie distribution system that allows consumers to download movies to a flash drive for playback on a computer or television, among others.

Multidisciplinary by nature, the I&E curriculum has been developed by the faculty of six departments — the conservatory of music, economics, government, physics, studio art and theatre arts — with several courses involving instructors from multiple departments.

Much of the curriculum was developed by a core of nine faculty members: John Brandenberger, physics; Marty Finkler, economics; Adam Galambos, economics; Rob Neilson, studio art; Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory; Ben Rinehart, art history; Claudena Skran, government; Tim Troy, theatre arts; and Gary Vaughan, economics.

“The new interdisciplinary area in I&E will present a coherent collection of courses to students interested in adding an I&E component to their liberal education,” said Adam Galambos, associate professor of economics. “It also will promote interdisciplinary collaboration among students and faculty and enable students to show on their transcripts that they have completed a coherent I&E curriculum.”

One unique aspect of the program is an advisory committee of a dozen committed alumni who have helped faculty develop a program that fits with Lawrence’s mission and culture.

“I&E means different things to different people, but at Lawrence, we think of it in broadly conceived terms that mesh well with the liberal arts,” Galambos added. “Our graduates who embrace innovative and entrepreneurial attitudes will be better equipped to create fulfilling lives for themselves, lives that extend their liberal arts experience.”

During the 2013-14 academic year, more than 10 percent of the student body — 160 students — have enrolled in an I&E course.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence University Innovators Participating in Third Annual “Schumptoberfest”

Lawrence University student and faculty representatives will be among the participants at “Schumptoberfest 2012,” a conference dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship in the liberal arts curriculum. Grinnell College hosts the third annual event Oct. 13-14.

Sid Dayal, a 2011 Lawrence graduate and senior Dan O’Connor, two of the founding members of Flickey,™ discuss their experience, achievements and challenges in launching a business enterprise designed to enable consumers to download movie rentals from dedicated kiosks onto USB drives. The venture grew out of Lawrence’s “In Pursuit of Innovation” course taught by Assistant Professor of Economics Adam Galambos, Professor Emeritus of Physics John Brandenberger and lecturer in economics Gary Vaughan. The Flickey™ team also includes junior Nate Fearing and senior George Levy.

Junior Babajide Ademola and senior Patrick Pylvainen will present on their research on the role of entrepreneurship in economic development in Sierra Leone. Ademola and Pylvainen were part of a team led by Professor of Government Claudena Skran that traveled to Sierra Leone this summer to study small ventures that have successfully brought economic development to some communities in the face of overwhelming odds. Pylvainen is basing his Senior Experience on this research with support from the Mellon Senior Experience Fund.

Galamabos and Associate Professor of Economics David Gerard will join the students at the conference.

Schumptorberfest is the brainchild of Gerard, who founded the event in 2010 at Bjorklunden.  It is named in honor of 20th-century Austrian-American economist Joseph A. Schumpeter who advocated for change-oriented, and innovation-based economics.

Lawrence hosted Schumptoberfest 2011, attracting participants from a dozen campuses in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and beyond.

The annual conference is sponsored by the ACM through a Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) Project grant.

The “Pursuit of Innovation” course helped launch Lawrence’s own program in innovation and entrepreneurship in the fall of 2008. The program has since expanded to include other courses and course modules in economics, government, physics, studio art, the conservatory of music and theatre, directly benefiting more than 250 students from a wide range of majors.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Entrepreneur Larry Robertson Discusses Importance of “Thought to Action” in Lawrence Convocation

Award-winning author and recognized expert in entrepreneurship and creative thought Larry Robertson approaches Lawrence University’s 2012-13 convocation series theme “From Thought to Action” from an intriguing and unusual vantage point with his presentation “Butch, Sundance and Australia: Making the Leap From Thought to Action.”

The address, Thursday, Oct. 11 at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, is free and open to the public.

Larry Robertson, founder and president, Lighthouse Consulting

For more than two decades, Robertson has resided in the world of entrepreneurs, serving as advisor, investor and roles in between. Drawing upon a background that includes positions with J.P. Morgan, the venture firm and investment bank Robertson, Stephens & Company and the Walt Disney Company, Robertson has establishing himself as a leading authority on entrepreneurship in public, private and academic forums.

In 1992, he founded Lighthouse Consulting, a firm that provides management guidance to new and innovative entrepreneurs as well as some of the best-known names in business and the nonprofit sector.

He earned multiple awards for his 2009 book “A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress” in which he argues the importance of being a watchful observer and attentive listener before taking action. From composer Igor Stravinsky to Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, he cites numerous examples of agents of change who took time to think seriously about what they wanted to accomplish before deciding how to do so.

“We must not only change the way we do things,” writes Robertson, “we must learn how to change in better ways — to think as changemakers do, entrepreneurially, even if we let others lead.”

A resident of Arlington, Va., Robertson earned bachelor and master’s degrees at Stanford University and  Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, respectively. He serves as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

Oklahoma State University’s School of Entrepreneurship honored Robertson with its 2011 Igniting the Flame Award, which recognizes the person who best moves the entrepreneurial community forward.

Lawrence began its own program in innovation and entrepreneurship in the fall of 2008 with the course “Pursuit of Innovation.” The program has since expanded to include other courses and course modules in economics, government, physics, studio art, the conservatory of music and theatre. The I & E program has directly benefited more than 250 students from a wide range of majors since it was launched.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.