News & Events

MSU Industry Skills Workshop: Are you ready to “grow”?

Graduate and postgraduate students, especially those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), are considered to be a group of intelligent people. They work hard in the labs for years to discover new knowledge or advance science. However, when transitioning to industry, it is very common for these scholars to face a big skills gap.

The SearchLite identified five skills which graduate students should develop to improve the chances of career: Business Communication, Active Listening, Time Management, Creative Problem Solving, and Leadership.

To help graduate students bridge the gap between academic and industry, The SearchLite recently partnered with Michigan State University (MSU) to conduct an Industry Skill Development Workshop.

MSU Distinguished Professor and Entrepreneur, Ramani Narayan, Ph.D. and Omni Tech International Business Development Manager, Lee Walko provided career insights and coached the students during their workshop presentations.. Britany Affolter-Caine, Program Manager at University Research Corridor, joined the workshop as a special guest.

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“Your research is your baby!”

Students who want to transfer from academia to industry often face a gap between their academic experience, current skill sets and career plans. However, students who want to stay in academia should develop their skills also. Alessandra Hunt, postdoctoral research associate raised this question during the workshop. Alessandra’s lab discovered a drug to kill bacteria, so the Tech Transfer Office (TTO) performed commercial assessment,since the TTO has more industry connections. She didn’t understand why the academic lab team should learn market discovery skills for themselves.

Professor Narayan answered her question based upon his own experience: ”You should not feel you don’t have connections. You should ask questions from a business perspective. That’s a part of your learning. ‘Your research is your baby’. You are in the best position to grow it. Other people may help you, because that’s their job. But your research is your own baby, nobody can replace you.”

Developing industry skills to perform market discovery is not only a process to grow your “baby,” but a valuable experience to grow yourself. The exposure to industry during market discovery gives you more sense about your research,cultivates your skills to work in industry and helps you bring back more inspiration to academia.

Hands-on Skills Workshop

The SearchLite brought a real case, Stephan Wood Products, to demonstrate market discovery. Students were divided into 5 teams. Each team had 60 minutes to complete the tasks: design the value proposition, discover alternative market segments, identify a list of subject matter experts (SMEs), create a list of questions for the SMEs, and complete an elevator pitch. After the 60 minutes, each team had 5 minutes to present and 2 minutes to answer questions.

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It was a hard decision for the judges to choose the best team.


Finally, the team Sparty won the first place.

Michigan State University Industry Skills Development Workshop

Two hours might be too short to fully develop any skills, but we hope it’s enough to introduce students to new perspectives about industry career transition and their research. If you want to grow with us, The SearchLite is always here waiting for you to join us!

Online Retreat Review: Can’t Wait for Next Year!

Did you attend the Online Retreat for  The SearchLite Innovator-in-Residence Community?

I am sorry that you missed out on a lot of fun and …maybe gifts and food…but luckily, you will not miss out on the information.

Let’s see what happened…

Our attendees were divided into  three teams: Royal (Real) Black Dolphins, The Super Se7en, and The Nomads. Each team had to come up with individual themes prior to the retreat. Their themes definitely displayed some talent! Here are their posters. Some of our special guests included Evelyn, who is a business transition coach, and Martha who stayed up in her PJs,  just to attend our retreat!

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Guess who won the best poster?

Scott helped everyone review the Innovators-in-Residence Program.

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and MJ explained the rules of the new Reward Points System. You may read the information on our IIR Info page (p/w: TSLIIR).

Then, Scott continued on to announce The SearchLite’s new business model with three new focus areas : Connected Factories, Connected Cars, and Connected Health. The first report of Connected Factories industry will be released on July 27. Keep an eye out for it! For the new business model we will have more traditional titles such as Project Leader and Research Analyst. These will also be paid positions. More details are to come once the system goes into effect.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in or have backgrounds related to the three topics, let us know. This might be another exciting opportunity for you!!

In the Lucky Wheel session, the Super Se7en, who won the best poster, was not so lucky as the  Royal (Real) Black Dolphins and The Nomads caught up.

Games were next on the agenda and the determining factor of the winners came down to  Jeopardy!. The categories included IIR Program, Value Proposition Design, The Searchlite and Other Trivia.The online IIRs and the IIRs in office showed great team effort. Yan Chang and Gautam answered questions for the Royal black Dolphins, Martha and Tao took the lead for The Super Seven team and Jayshree and Peng from The Nomads didn’t back down! Super Se7en bravely chose several of the hardest questions and answered them correctly, which made them the champions of the Online Retreat.

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And the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the Awards portion of the retreat capped off the event. Drum roll please… Marta won the “Christopher Columbus Award” for her excellent performance as an IIR for a year and half all the way in Portugal and she referred two IIRs, Juliana and Telmo.

Yan Dong won the “Jane Goodall Award” for his  splendid work in the field research for the  HALO project.

And Tao Wen won the “Dog The Bounty Hunter Award” for landing the most interviews amongst all IIRs.

Although only a few names were recognized we truly would like to thank you for all of your hard work! We hope you gained a valuable experience from your experience as an IIR. .

Thanks to everyone who joined the Online Retreat. You should have received a Starbucks Gift Card in your inbox.

We would like to thank all of the IIRs who have collaboratively worked in the projects to achieve outstanding works, especially the new members who have brought a great level of enthusiasm and the old heads who provide the ‘wisdom’!

So, all that is left to say is, thanks to everyone who made this another incredible year in The SearchLite history. The Innovators-in-Residence Community is an amazing family. Let’s be thankful that we are all part of it. And be sure to remember we will have another retreat next year. Mark your calendars in advance!


(Edited by Prianca, Hui and Christy)

Win school credit by participating Market Discovery Challenges? It is possible!

(Written by MJ Zhang; Edited by Christy Song; Photos by Hui Yang and MJ Zhang)

Professor Mohammed Islam notified his students at the University of Michigan that they may earn credit for course EECS 499, Directed Study, by participating in The SearchLite’s Market Discovery Challenges.

UM EECS 406 class

Scott Phillips (left) and Professor Mohammed Islam (right) in EECS 406 class at the University of Michigan.

Most graduate Innovators-in-Residence join The SearchLite in their senior years looking for exposure to the industry and business sector, which enhances their resume and benefits their careers.

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The 2nd Annual Midwest Business Case Competition hold successfully

(Written by MJ Zhang, Edited by Christy Song, Photos by Sung Hei Yau)
The Final and Semi-Final rounds of the 2nd Annual Midwest Business Case Competition was held by the Michigan Graduate Consulting Club (MGCC) on March. 18th. As one of the General Sponsors, The SearchLite was invited to this event. Scott Phillips, Founder and CEO of The SearchLite,, , judged the final competition with Ben Kosinski from The Boston Consulting Groups, Diane Bouis from Innovo, Linh Song from the  Ann Arbor Educational Foundation (AAPSEF).

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Four Judges. From left to right: Scott Phillips, Linh Song, Ben Kosinski and Diane Bouis.

After four laborious hours, the first and second place winners of the Semi-Final and Final Competition were, the team ProboKnow (Rhonda Jack, Lianette Rivera, Eric Lin, and Zhijie Wang) and SciNeer(Junjie Chen, Justin Storms, Minyu Xiao, David Burdette). Congratulations on your achievements and outstanding teamwork!

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Thank you MSU for inviting The SearchLite to participate in the Science Connect event!



Scott Phillips and Visha Krishnan had the opportunity to attend an event held by Michigan State University: Science Connect for Graduate Students, Postdocs, and Employers. At the event Scott and Visha were able to share with attendees information about what The SearchLite does and how the Innovator-in-Residence program would be beneficial for those individuals at the event who were interested in transitioning out of academia, wanted to start a startup, or wanted to change career paths into a consulting, marketing research field. Amidst a crowd of interested students, Dhanashree Moghe – one of our current Innovators-in-Residence, shared her personal experience working as an IIR and how the program benefitted her career path and work experience.

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Transitioning From Academia to Startup

“If you can’t get excited about your own work and convey that, no one else will either.”: Transitioning from Academia to Startup.

Insights from two academic researchers who have made the leap



So you want to transition from academia to startup? Don’t think you can handle this or does this sound a little too ambitious for you? We’ve found a couple of these ambitious people to tell you from first hand experience that with hard work, aspiration, and drive it is indeed possible! Qi Zhang, co-founder of Rational Bananas, is one of our own Innovators-in-Residence at The SearchLite. He is a PhD candidate in life science at the University of Michigan and is currently studying how a circadian clock regulates daily feeding patterns by looking into the feeding behavior the genetically modified fruit flies. Daniel Johnson founded Exo Dynamics and received his M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and is currently working on his post-doctorate while teaching engineering design as part of the multidisciplinary design program (MDP) at U of M.

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September, 2015 Newsletter



The SearchLite

The Community Monthly Newsletter

Did you know that September is the only month that has the same number of letters as its positioning within the month cycle – NINE? If that’s not exciting check out the news we have to share with you for the month of September!
– Christy

Interested in who’s already a part of the IIR Community Check out our members!

*Feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone that might be interested! We would also encourage you to share our monthly newsletters on your social media platforms so others may become aware of the IIR Community.*

As always, please feel free to come to me with any questions or concerns you may have (

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Online IIR Retreat Aug ’15



The SearchLite recently held our very first Online Innovators-in-Residence Retreat and we had a blast! The session kicked off with a brief introduction of our TSL team members, followed by an introduction about the IIR Program, a walk-through of a project life cycle, a mini-workshop on the Learning Management System and social media, and ended with a short award ceremony, where we acknowledged some of our IIRs who performed above and beyond our expectations. Everyone who RSVP’d and attended the event were assigned to teams before the the retreat and were given the task of building a team personality profile. The teams came in handy for thrilling games, like Jeopardy, which were spread intermittently throughout the informational session – sparking a little friendly competition. Overall the event was a great way to get to know fellow, potential, and alumni IIRs and was a helpful resource in clearly delineating the core factors of the IIR Program.

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The SearchLite at NBIA – Evidence-based Entrepreneurship


  • The SearchLite Leads with Evidence-based Entrepreneurship at NBIA 2015
  • Automation Alley launches the 7 C’s
  • New Innovators-in-Residence Join The SearchLite Community



The SearchLite Leads with Evidence-based Entrepreneurship at NBIA 2015

There have been many voices in recent years touting the benefits of Evidence-based Entrepreneurship.  Steve Blank has most recently incorporated the principle into his Lean LaunchPad Class.  The class is all about teaching entrepreneurs and inventors the skills to move from a “faith-based” business plan to an evidence-based business model approach, which means “getting out of the building” and recording their learnings and insights through a scientific approach.   Blank recently posted this article about the application of Evidence-based-Entrepreneurship in Life Science Startups.

More than 600 incubation and entrepreneurial support professionals from all over the world gathered in Denver on May 26th for NBIA’s 29th International Conference on Business Incubation. As the premier event in the industry, this conference provided a space for people to connect with others in the field, learn new techniques and explore new trends.  The National Business Incubation Association is the global voice of business incubation, having over 2,200 members in 60 different countries. Incubation has been around since 1959 when it had its roots in Batavia NY where Joe Mancuso repurposed a facility, and one of the initial tenant companies was a chicken company (hence the term incubator).  The Association has been in existence for thirty years.  Membership is comprised of rural and urban innovation centers, sector non-specific, sector focused and technology focused incubation programs, and the membership broadly represents universities, municipalities, economic development organizations, communities, and others as stakeholders invested in job and company creation to revitalize and strengthen their community.

During the conference, Scott Phillips, CEO of The SearchLite was interviewed by Rick Duree, CEO and Founder of XLR8.  XLR8 connects entrepreneurs to the people they need to know throughout their community and the entire XLR8 global community.  Scott explained how the SearchLite works with Business Incubators and their startup clients to help them with Customer Discovery and Market Validation of their Value Proposition and Business Model assumptions.   The SearchLite’s Market Discovery Challenges provide a unique and effective combination of an Industry Expert Panel linked with a Community of Innovator’s in Residence.  Along with Social Media Engagement and Online Polling, The SearchLite is able to generate evidence-based insights which support or refute the key assumptions underlying the startup’s liklihood of market adoption.  Incubator Managers resonated with The SearchLite’s guided approach to assisting and training entrepreneurs at the same time.  A common theme heard was that Incubator Managers are busier than ever and are looking for 3rd Party Service Providers who can work effectively and indepently with startup clients while keeping coaches and mentors informed along the way.

NBIAThere was quite a bit of interest in The SearchLite’s Exhibit Booth.  We were at the show with John Fitch, Ron Carter and Bruce Lerner, our new software platform partners – Decision Driven Solutions.  The Decision Driven® Solutions Platform is based on the belief that DECISIONS are CENTRAL; they are the value-added thinking process that creates and consumes the essential data associated with product development, project management, evidence-based entrepreneurship or business generation.  The software is built around a lean Decision Driven® Information Architecture that enables rich, seamless traceability between many types of knowledge.


CLICK HERE to listen to Mark Long at NBIA 2015 share his views on Evidence-based Entrepreneurship.  Mark teaches entrepreneurship at Indiana University and founded Long Performance Advisors based upon his thirty years of expertise to strategic marketing services, brand marketing, business incubation, and technology management.

Karl LaPanCLICK HERE to listen to Karl LaPan at NBIA 2015 share his views on Evidence-based Entrepreneurship.  Karl LaPan completed his tenure as  Interim NBIA Chief Executive.  Karl is a business professional with over twenty-seven years experience in a variety of consumer, industrial, technology, & financial industries. In October 2000, he was appointed the President/CEO of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Park, a high tech, high touch 55 acre campus dedicated to accelerating the growth of innovative companies.



Automation Alley launches the 7Cs Accelerator Program  

AA_HorizontalFullColor_052314Automation Alley is launching a new accelerator targeting Southeast Michigan’s advanced manufacturing firms.  The 7Cs Program, as it is being called, will assist firms that are beyond the idea stage and can get to commercialization within the next 12 to 24 months. But what is most exciting about the program is that it promises to connect participating firms with their first customer. Already Automation Alley has the chief innovation officers of more than two dozen tier-one suppliers in Michigan signed on to review the participants when they are ready.

“Getting that first customer was critical to the program because my philosophy is that you don’t build a company to raise venture capital funding,” said Tom Kelly, who started developing the accelerator last spring when he was appointed to be AA’s director of entrepreneurship.  “You build a company to get customers. As you get customers, venture capital funding will come to you. Stop trying to get money and valuing yourselves at $5 million; just focus on the blocking and tackling of getting customers.”


New Innovators-in-Residence Join The SearchLite Community

The SearchLite would like to recognize the most recent members who have joined our growing community of Innovators-in-Residence.

sofiane-boukhalfaSofiane Boukhalfa, Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, is a team leader for Prescouter Andrew-Barazia in the Greater Atlanta Area; Andrew Barazia is a Ph.D. Candidate in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Karan Patil is a Graduate Student in Industrial engineering at Wayne State University.  Karan-patil
Ravi-Vedula Ravi Vedula is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University.



Marta-Cerejo (1)Marta Cerejo is a Ph.D. student in MIT-Portgal Bioengineering Systems at Universidad Nova de Lisboa. Melissa-Geyer Melissa Geyer, is a Ph.D. candidate in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Dhanashree Moghe is a Research Associate in Engineering Material and Thin Film Photovolatic Device Architecture at Michigan State University. dhanashreeoluseyi adeniyiOluseyi Adeniyi is a Doctoral Researcher in the Efficacy of Vaccinations at the University of Michigan.


Margarita Sifuentes, is a Graduate Research Assistant in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental, Nanoparticle, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University of Michigan.    Margarita-sifuentes

Michigan Graduate Consulting Club – Case Study Competition

Michigan Graduate Consulting ClubThe Michigan Graduate Consulting Club is holding their first annual Case Competition hosted by MGCC is scheduled for April 3rd 2015 on the Michigan Campus. Graduate, professional students (PhD, MD, JD, MBA) and postdoctoral fellows from the Midwest region were invited to participate.

Participating teams chose from one of two opportunities to compete. 1) The case composition and 2) the case presentation.  This type of event is an excellent opportunity for graduate and postdoctoral fellows who are in transition from academia to industry or consulting.  The event helps individuals and team develop the skills necessary to develop and present solutions to an exciting real-world business problem.

First prize for the written case composition is $1000 and First prize for the normal case composition is $500.

Michigan Graduate Consulting ClubThe Michigan Graduate Consulting Club (MGCC) aims to support University of Michigan graduate students and post docs interested in pursuing the management consulting industry as a career. To this end, we host different events including weekly case practice meetings, company info sessions, and soon our annual case competition. We also provide resources and personal development services that are necessary for success in consulting interviews.

The SearchLite is a sponsor of the event along with Boston Consulting and Roland Burger Consultants.  Scott Phillips, CEO and Founder of The SearchLite will participage on the final judges panel.

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