Three fledgling companies founded by Russ College students and alumni were among six entrepreneurial teams who showcased their business plans for the Innovation Engine Accelerator program this month to an audience of investors, business leaders and guests.
The program, a digital media business incubator led by the Ohio University Innovation Center, provides up to $20,000 in seed funding and startup guidance to five teams, plus programming for a sixth runner-up company. Finalists were selected in May and participated in 12 weeks of training targeted at refining their business plans and market-testing their products. The Center took the teams to task at an innovation program showcase on Fri., Aug. 16, asking them to sell their offerings to potential investors.
Companies AccessAble Travel, Atlas Language Innovations and Razor Dynamics include several Russ College students and alumni. Ben Weiner, a 2013 mechanical engineering master’s degree graduate, founded AccessAble Travel with his sister, Frances, and friend Alex Bill. Their company’s product is an interactive Web site that enables disabled individuals to find accessibility information for cities around the country for travel planning or daily life.
Weiner said learning lean startup methods and about the full business cycle will greatly improve his company’s chances for success.
“Since none of the team members had formal business training or pursued previous entrepreneurial endeavors, the program provided the necessary experience for us to learn about sales, marketing, finances, and product development,” said Ben Weiner.
Atlas Language Innovations, founded by junior computer science major Sergio Gonzalez and his business partner and Ohio University linguistics alumni Sam Bockoven, combines the founders’ expertise in gaming technology and language through its interactive learning game, Voyage. Game users engage in an immersive language gaming experience as players stranded on a desert island, where only one language is spoken. Using vocabulary presented in a pattern-based system, users must overcome challenges while acquiring language comprehension skills.
Razor Dynamics co-founders Gary Grant and Christian Sagardia, an electrical engineering master’s student, developed a mobile software application to allow users to track their friends’ geographical locations in real time. Their product integrates two developing technologies: augmented reality, which uses computer graphics to enhance the user’s environment, and sensor fusion, which delivers improved accuracy and an enhanced user interface.
Weiner said his experience in the rigorous engineering program at the Russ College prepared him for the demands of his entrepreneurial endeavors.
“As a recent Russ College graduate, I vividly remember and reminisce working on homework and research during all hours of the day, and all days of the week,” Weiner said. “Entrepreneurs are extremely passionate and engulfed in the work they are doing. There is no such thing as a 9-5 workday or weekends as an entrepreneur. Engineers tend to follow the same patterns.”
Former participants in the inaugural 2012 program from the Russ College include Scott Nykl and Chad Mourning, whose company Affine Technologies went on to earn a finalist spot at the national Collegiate Inventors Competition national Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington, D.C., in November.