I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a brainstorming session at Automation Alley in Troy, MI that was focused on Blackstone Launchpad programs at Wayne State University and Walsh College. The session was facilitated by Dom Holmes from Automation Alley and Pavan Muzumdar from PCS Insight. The brainstorming event included student let startups as well as commercialization coaches and other advisors. Carol Glynn is the Director of the Walsh College LaunchPad Program and Jason Beale is the Project Coordinator for the Wayne State University Blackstone LaunchPad Program. It was impressive to watch each of them coach the student and faculty led startups.
I also continue to be impressed by Automation Alley and the breadth of their reach within the SouthEast Michigan Business Community and also their recent focus on entrepreneurial startups and second stage entrepreneurs with their Seven C’s Program. Tom Kelly, Dom Holmes, Ted Williams and Pavan Muzumdar have really put a lot of thought into the needs of startups and second stage companies. They recently engaged The SearchLite to conduct a Customer Validation Assessment to pinpoint the nature of second stage entrepreneurial needs and how Automation Alley can be accessible and effective in addressing those needs.
Automation Alley has tremendous resources and facilities that have been developed over many years and I am impressed at their willingness to team with other entrepreneurial organizations such as the LaunchPad Programs at Wayne State University and Walsh College, the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and many other organizations. I strongly encourage any startup or second stage entrepreneur who is looking for a place to start with when looking for assistance, to start with Automation Alley.
Last but not least, structure a learning plan. Embrace the Lean Startup tools and methods. Following this structure will cause you to write a learning plan. A foundational question to guide your learning plan in every part of your business model is “What do we need to learn before we invest more time and money?”
I especially like Todd Dunn’s final piece of advice!
“Last but not least, structure a learning plan. Embrace the Lean Startup tools and methods. Following this structure will cause you to write a learning plan. A foundational question to guide your learning plan in every part of your business model is “What do we need to learn before we invest more time and money?”
I-Corps™ Energy and Transportation is a customized curriculum to help teams of participating researchers discover the commercial potential of their technology, build a business model, and garner insights from leaders in the energy and transportation industries. This is the second year in a row that Next Energy has teamed up with the CFE I-Corps Program, a program offered by the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship. CFE I-Corps is a region-wide program designed to foster, grow and nurture an innovation ecosystem. Through partnerships between the National Science Foundation (NSF), Michigan universities, Midwestern universities, Michigan SmartZones, and venture capital and entrepreneurial communities, the program has created an opportunity for teams throughout the state and region to turn technology into commercial opportunities.
Jonathan Fay, Clay Phillips and Dan Radomski led the Trasportation Track of the I-Corps Program. As the primary instructors, they gave constant feedback to the teams regarding their value propositions, target customers and other aspects of their business model hypothesis.
Visha, Scott and the The SearchLite had the privilege of working with Alternative Fuel Containers, LLC (AFC). AFC is developing Natural Gas storage tanks for a range of motor vehicles that will minimize refuelling time and maximize miles driven per tank. The AFC tank design uses MOF (metal organic framework) adsorbent to capture Natural Gas at the molecular level. This means an AFC tank will store an amount of fuel comparable to CNG technology but without the limitations of tank shape, compression costs and safety concerns. Visha and Scott enjoyed working closely with Dillon Fuerth and Joong Lee. Dillon is the Business Unit Manager, is responsible for guiding the company from proof-of-concept to commercialization. Joong is the Development Manager, is creating alternative natural gas tank systems using technologies developed by framergy Inc. and Texas A&M University.