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New shoe for the physically disabled - working with a college

Discussion in 'Product Creation, Inventing, Importing, Sourcing' started by Mikkel, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Howdy! :cool: It seems I have been MIA for nearly a year on this site! As a student physical therapist, I have just had my head in the books and there seemed to be no time to look up and forward to new business opportunities...

    UNTIL LAST MONTH

    I received an email from a business and technology school asking if I wanted to participate in what is called an "IdeaLab." Basically, people in the medical community provide problems that need to be fixed and the people at IdeaLab will try and come up with solutions.

    Here is the catch.

    They only give you 24 hours!

    Long story short, my team came up with a concept to redesign a shoe to help certain people with physical disabilities. We got a lot of people talking about the potential of our idea as we were able to create a prototype and showed a working demonstration on the specific problem we were trying to solve.

    By the end of the 24 hour period, I decided I wanted to take this concept to the next level and create a team.

    There was only one problem...

    I'm not a student of their school. So I have been getting stonewalled from trying to join their team. They kept saying, well you have to be an undergrad student(I'm a grad student) to be able to transfer into an extracurricular class. However, I don't care about the credit from school. I just want in on the project.

    I decided to go a bit rogue. I know. I know. Bad a$$, right?

    I contacted one of the team members that has a degree in industrial design and asked her if she wanted to team up and forget about going through the college. She agreed.

    She ended up sending me a email about joining a 2-3 week class that helps validate business concepts. At the end of the class, they offer UP TO $50,000 in grant funds if they find a business that is a good concept. That starts tomorrow... I'm incredibly excited!

    Anyways, here is my problem. The school is now asking me if I want to join their team... not sure if this guy even knows I'm not apart of their college. So I will be having a meeting with him tomorrow, hopefully. The problem is, the majority of the team members won't be providing any incredible value to the team. Their majors don't even line up with the product we want to create. For instance, we could use a mechanical engineer and a shoe designer... not a biomedical engineer and an illustrator.

    I don't want to start working with a bunch of people that are unnecessary as that just slows things down. I ended up emailing the girl who I was going to work with... she now says she doesn't seem to have much time for this project.

    I am torn, having access to the school is incredibly important because I will be able to use their equipment to help build further prototypes and I will have access to some of the teachers or coaches if I wanted.

    A possible outcome is if I work with this team(if they even allow me to join) they probably wouldn't want to continue after they finish up the semester, but I also have no clue what will happen. Also, hypothetically, if I do win any sort of grant money, I have no idea how that money will be divided up. Will it be tied to the business or to me and the business I take on.

    Anyways, I don't know what the outcome will be but I will try and keep this thread updated on my journey. This is new territory for me so I will be doing a lot of learning on the way. If you have any questions or suggestions, just shoot away! If you want to just follow along the journey, welcome aboard!
     
    Rabby, ruzara5, ChrisV and 2 others like this.
  2. jasoncuellar123
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    jasoncuellar123 I’m probably awake. Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Can't you do both?
     
  3. Jeff Noel
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    Jeff Noel Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Just be careful not to get caught doing something you shouldn't be doing. The lab's equipment has restricted access for a reason, and there might be consequences to using this equipment without being a part of the school.

    Could this even be considered as trespassing ?
     
  4. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    I could, that's what I will find out tomorrow when I meet with one of the professors. I am concerned about the problems that may occur when having a college be the center of planning and how things ultimately run. For instance, if myself and others believe that a person shouldn't be on the team, can we kick them off the project, or will the college intervene and tell us this is apart of "their extracurriculars?"

    I realize I may be over complicating things for a product we aren't even 100% sure will be successful. Maybe I should just take on this potential problem if and when it shows up.


    That's definitely a good question. I'm assuming everything is all good since I have been talking with their professors and they allowed me to use their facilities prior. I can bring that up tomorrow when I met with one of the professors.
     
    Jeff Noel likes this.
  5. Bekit
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    Bekit Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    It might be worth asking for some of the names of people who have successfully created products through this program in the past. Talk to those people. Were they allowed to continue with the business after they left the school? Did the school claim all the profit, or did the student get to run it as a business owner? Some of your unanswered questions may be able to be answered this way, and it'll give you light for your decision making process.
     
    AgainstAllOdds, Dramolion and Mikkel like this.
  6. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    This is a great suggestion. I'll see if I can get in contact with any of these people.

    Thank you :smile:
     
  7. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    Lots have been learned this week. Currently, I am on my 2nd day of a 16-day short course. The main point of this class is to take the concept we have and do customer discovery. Does anyone even want our product?

    Through the course, I now have:

    1. The problem I am solving. It will actually be two main problems that are solved.
    2. Our top 5 assumptions that we are making that are important to determine if our product is desirable by other people.
    3. Three solid questions to ask people that we will be interviewing.

    Action Item: By this Wednesday, November 7th, I will have 10 in-depth interviews completed. My goal is to better understand my problems and to test my top 5 assumptions. I won't even talk about my product? Just asking the question and listening.

    My Team: Still in the air with this. It seems that my industrial designer will not have time to work on this project after this 2-week period. That is okay though. I'd rather search for a dedicated person than find someone quick. Luckily for me, as stated in a previous post, the school I am working with has every skill set this product needs.

    Facilities: I have been talking with people at RIT, though not the specific person I want to talk to, he should get an email back from him soon. However, the faculty is fine with me using their "stuff." As of right now, I am technically working with this school due to me being apart of this short course.
     
    Sheens likes this.
  8. Sheens
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    Sheens Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Thanks for keeping us updated!

    Did they provide you with insight or legalities of the relationship after your short course ends?

    Could you then take sole responsibility for this idea/business and ask those providing you insight to be consultants developing into an advisory board?
     
  9. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    The short course is merely a course. They own zero part of the idea or concept. Their benefit is to send myself and others to the national conference and get our projects funded by others. Our funds received, from my understandings are grants, rather than a typical investment. All the products being created is at least partially apart of Access Technology, which this organization wishes to push.

    As for the school, I have talked with our students who have started businesses in similar fashion through the school, the school only supported them. They don't own any portion of their company.
     
    Sheens likes this.
  10. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    Zonked. That's how I'm feeling. Been running around all week trying to schedule interviews and ended up conducting 10 of them in the past 3 days... while going to Grad classes. I'm fortunate enough to have my target customer walk through my school doors each day, as it makes it easy to find interviews.

    The majority of my interviews in the first few days were professionals including OT and PT teachers. In the next few weeks, I'd like to schedule and conduct more interviews with the actual customers, which would be a specific population of PT patients.

    What is nice is, when talking to only 3 "PT patients," I was able to figure out the important descriptive value propositions, for instance, their "loss of dignity." If my product and hypothesis become validated, these value propositions can be used to market my product.

    ACTION:
    • By this Friday, I will be interviewing AT LEAST 7 more customers/professionals as I have them already scheduled.
    • I will keep on pushing to get in contact with a specific healthcare organization(I'll call them ABC Health) that has access to a lot of these patients. Right now, I've been having difficulties trying to get in contact with the facilities director, already visited her office once without luck, but I will just keep repeating until I get to talk with her.
    • Constantly updating my business canvas.
    • Looking for important trends during interviews.
     
    AgainstAllOdds likes this.
  11. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    Last I wrote, my action plan was to get at least the 7 interviews on Friday... well, I got sick for 5 days and had to cancel a BUNCH of interviews. Long story short, I missed the 30 interview minimum. That's okay though! I'm in contact with the teachers of the class, they said if I plan to go to the national program, tell them when I start doing another set of interviews and will have me do 30 interviews in another 16 day period.

    Anyways, I have learned a lot in these past 2 weeks. First, I learned I need a new partner. My current partner is not dedicated to the process. She is doing homework(while at the classes) and not doing interviews with me. She has her mind elsewhere, which is fine, but just not okay for this business. So first thing is first, I want to find another person that meshes better with myself before I start moving to far forward.

    To find a partner, I will be going to this school and speaking with some of their mentors to help get me connected with some of their students. It seems to me that a lot of people are business minded at this college, even if they are a tech school... cool!

    The great thing about this college is they are open to the public(just found this out last night. So I have full access to them which is great!).

    One of the most eye opening things I learned was just how much FREE MONEY there is from the government. :wideyed: The short course I attended is sponsored by the National Science Foundation(NSF). The NSF also funds the National Program for ICorps and SBIR.

    The National Program:
    Must complete 30 interviews in 16 days and take the short course(2 weeks).
    88 teams per year(22 per session of 4 per year) get accepted into the program.
    UP TO $50,000 is award in free money to do more customer discovery, meaning, if your customer is in China... well, you get money to take a plane and hotel to have your in person meeting in China.

    SBIR:
    You must be a business with the majority of the ownership being US citizen. You must also complete the NSF short course(which is free to take). There are 3 phases.
    Phase 0: $25,000 in equity free grants
    Phase 1: $220,000 in equity free grants (spread over 6-12 months) - I believe this is for R&D
    Phase 2: $750,000 in equity free grants(spread over 2 years I believe)

    All this is just through the NSF. That's a TON of equity free money that people would be crazy to give up... if you are a person like myself. That being, a person with no money(college student) who has never been successful starting their own business before.

    There is a lot to learn about this process, but I can see myself going down one or even both of these paths at some point, but I want to set up my team before I move forward.

    It is important to note, in the SBIR course, you don't automatically get into phase 2... the BIG money. Your product has to be proven viable at each phase to move forward. I'm not a fan of the government giving out free money, but if it is available with coaching along with it, then grab it! Take advantage of something like this. Learn to fail fast or even better, validate correctly and quickly.
     
    AgainstAllOdds and Bekit like this.
  12. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    I haven't posted on this thread for a nearly a month and a half. Jeez.

    The truth is, not much has progressed since then. I have been emailing back and forth with my former partner and with the head of entrepreneurship at the school. Lets just say it has been a S process.

    Lu
     
  13. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    UPDATE:

    Well, it seems I have not posted in this thread for nearly 1.5 months.

    The truth is, not much has changed.

    I have been emailing back and forth with my former partner and the head of entrepreneurship(that will be his name from now on) at the school. Unfortunately, it has been a S L O W process.

    Luckily, I am in a position that I am content with. My former partner is just that... former. It was a clean break. No hassle. She didn't want to work on this project and I didn't find her to be a good fit for the team. I spoke with the head of entrepreneurship, he has sent an email to specific professors that have students that work in specific fields that I am looking for:

    - Mechanical Engineer
    - Industrial Design
    - Shoe Design

    Any or all of these people could be beneficial to the team.

    Since it is winter break, I will most likely not hear back with a response until mid to late January, so I have decided that I will look for more places where my customers might hang out.

    I have a specific location that I have connections with and will ask if I can maybe set up shop for a day or two so I can catch my target customer as they walk by. Maybe I can get a 15-20 minute interview with them. My guess is, my target customer has time to spare and may be interested in talking. That is my hope!

    Anyways, that is it for my updates.

    If anyone is even reading this, I hope you have a Merry Christmas
     
    Bekit and AgainstAllOdds like this.
  14. AgainstAllOdds
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    AgainstAllOdds Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I just read through the entire thread.

    Why are you caught up on working with the university? Or another "partner"?

    A big mistake that people make with their first significant venture is giving up equity to someone they don't need, or adding a party just to make them more comfortable with the process. You don't need that.

    If you want the grant money and are building the business around that, then ok, you need the university, but otherwise you don't.

    This is what you said you need:
    • Mechanical Engineer
    • Industrial Design
    • Shoe Design
    How much of that could be done by speaking to a shoe factory and telling them what you need?

    How much would it cost to hire for any of those roles on Upwork - designers in countries like Ukraine?

    My guess: $1,000 to $2,000 and you'll get a lot better quality than a random student.

    The student you're getting is:
    • Someone that saw the professor's email
    • Was interested in your project
    • Had time and enough motivation to reply to you
    That's some pretty trash criteria for hiring on a co-founder/partner.

    My advice: Keep the equity. Stop focusing on the school as the primary option for you to create the product. Learn how to hire out.

    Good luck Mikkel.
     
    Tommo, Mikkel and Bekit like this.
  15. AgainstAllOdds
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    AgainstAllOdds Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Another note...

    You're making this update over winter break, and my guess is that's because you have extra time now.

    When school starts up again, will you have the time, energy, and motivation to make this a real thing?

    If the answer is no, then you should quit. If the answer is yes, then go full blast. But don't lie to yourself.
     
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  16. ChrisV
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    ChrisV Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    sometime you just gotta out yourself in someone else’s shoes.. amiright or amiright??
     
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  17. Mikkel
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    Mikkel Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    My original thought was to build a team that would be able to create the product for me, however, you are correct. Much of what is needed to be accomplished currently, I can do on my own. I can do the interviews. I can refocus the vision of the product and pivot or make minor tweaks to the prototype that has already been created, if need be.

    I tend to work better alone anyways. When I am involved in the whole process, I can better understand all the information that is flowing in.

    One thing I will have to check up on is if I am to go to the national program, they require an "engineering lead." With that being said, the other route that I can go is SBIR, which may be a better route for me anyways. Less interveiwing and traveling and more product development and capital to start the actual business.

    I don't even know if I need to be affiliated with the school to get the grant. I just need to complete the short course and then I will be eligible for both grants.


    I'm not sure how much a shoe factory can do for me right from the beginning. There is going to be some testing of different materials that are necessary which I am not well equipt for, maybe the shoe factory is. I will jump that hurdle when I get there. Worst-case scenario, that is what the grant money would be for, R&D.

    You are 100% correct about the shoe design. I definatly don't need someone to make a design when it should be easy enough to find someone to do the work for much cheaper.

    I have been thinking about this all day. I knew it was a gamble with who I was getting since the head of entrepreneurship was not very receptive to how I would have liked to find a person I would have liked to work with.

    I will say this, it seems that many of the people that I have talked to just want to join these types of groups for their senior projects. This would mean that they would not get any equity. Sort of like an internship. With that being said, I have no clue what this potential persons motivations are and could lead to a massive headache.

    One of my teachers/ mentors explained that a partnership is like having a rope wrapped around each other's waists. If the other begins to fall, they drag you down hard. Of course, a good partner can lift you up. The key question is, am I willing to risk a potentially good product and business for a student that I have no history or knowledge of... the answer is no.

    Luckily for me, my last year of graduate school has already been a joke. 100% of my progress has been made on my off hours of school. This time last year, I most certainly would not have been able to put in the work needed, I believe now to be different. The biggest obstacles in my way is my board certification coming up this summer. That will slow me down, but I don't believe that will put me out of the race to create this product. 2 months of studying and I should be free to work on my project again.


    Just responding to these posts get me thinking about my situation. It helps me sit back a bit and think about the strategy and the potential roadblocks that I will ultimately face. It is better to get out ahead of them, then to be blindsided in the moment. Thank you @AgainstAllOdds, this was a tap on the shoulder that was much needed.
     
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  18. AgainstAllOdds
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    AgainstAllOdds Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Glad to hear that.

    Just push forward on your own if the school is taking too long. Once you have something people can get excited about, it's not hard to offer up equity and get someone on board.
     
    Mikkel likes this.

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