By: Maureen Newman, UVC Biomedical Engineering Community Connector
Mirroring my thoughts concerning PreSeed Workshop (PSW) Day One, I am a firm believer in the benefits of PSWs and similar start-up weekends after the close of Day Two. HEMO-BOX and its inventor, Courtney Astemborski, made great progress, and the team believes it is worth another 1,000 hours of her time.
Day Two began with brief lectures by Mike Riedlinger of High Tech Rochester (HTR) and Theresa Mazzullo and Rami Katz of Excell Partners concerning entrepreneurial traits, venture capitalist investments, and Rochester Angel Network. Although these sessions were brief, they concretely explained the importance of thickening ideas before pitching them to venture capitalists, who look for business potential and weigh it against the risk of investing in a new product or company yet to prove its profitability.
After these informative sessions, it was off to the races. Each team broke out into its own room to finish, polish, and practice its final presentation. Going into Day Two, we had already integrated a lot of information into the PSW presentation template by each member conducting his or her own research and sending helpful resources to the rest of the group. We were able to spend Day Two’s time refining the pain addressed by HEMO-BOX, developing a distribution channel, and determining the pricing structure to estimate revenue potential.
Our allotted 1.5-hour time for refinement time passed quickly, but we were ready to present. Courtney Astemborski, our Idea Champion, had brought along the HEMO-BOX prototype to show the judging panel and audience during the presentation, and I volunteered to help demonstrate the prototype. Together, Courtney and I presented to a panel of three experts in patent law and entrepreneurship, as well as half of the other PSW teams. She fielded questions after our 10-minute presentation, and the majority were directed toward the lack of patents and if HEMO-BOX could be protected from duplication.
After all teams gave their presentations, it was time for Mike Riedlinger to wrap up the workshop with parting words and acknowledgements. During this time, Jayne Knowlton, President of Eve N Sol, Inc., and a former Idea Champion of PSW Rochester, awarded one team funds to help continue thickening their idea involving breast cancer diagnostics.
Then, in a blink of an eye, the two-day, one-evening thickery came to a close and PSW Rochester 2014 ended. But for me, the best was yet to come. We had an hour after the event to mingle and connect with everyone involved in PSW. Both Courtney and I met individuals who had ideas for how HEMO-BOX could be funded and gave us contacts for people who might be able to help with intellectual property. I met a surprising number of fellow Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute alumni while walking around, and I was glad we shared a common connection. I traded nearly all the business cards I brought and received just as many in return. Already, I have initiated follow-up conversations to learn more from experts in the line of work I find incredibly interesting.
At times during PSW, I was intimidated by working with successful, experienced entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, and industry professionals, but it was easy to adjust once I realized we were all valuable members of the team and could all help the Idea Champions in some way. While I had no experience in distribution channels and pricing schemes, I was able to contribute to value proposition statements, prior art searches, and market potential, all while learning more about the areas I am unaware. I am sure, though, that despite all the benefits I gained during PSW, the Idea Champions received an exponentially greater benefit from thickening their ideas to the point of presenting in front of potential investors.