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Lehigh Students Display Their Innovations at the Technical Entrepreneurship Venture Fair

By Colin McEvoy on June 30, 2017

Innovative, technique-based swim equipment. Recycling discarded shoes into comfortable footware. A tech product that connects users with their yoga mats for active alignment feedback during practices.

These were just a few examples of the products, concepts, and prospective startup companies that were on display at Lehigh University this week at the Technical Entrepreneurship Venture Fair.

Held June 29 at the Wilbur Powerhouse, the fair was the culmination of Lehigh’s one-year Technical Entrepreneurship (TE) master’s program, which helps student entrepreneurs create, refine, and commercialize intellectual property through the licensing or launching of a new business.

“This program is all about translating theory to practice, and the Venture Fair provides students an opportunity to showcase their products and companies to the public as they emerge from the academic environment to the entrepreneurial community,” said Michael Lehman, Professor of Practice with the program.

All 23 students who participated in the program had their projects on display. Among them was Willem Ytsma, a 23-year-old Bethlehem native designing a more efficient way to manufacture vinyl records, making them more affordable for small bands or music labels.

“I don’t think I’d have arrived at this idea with the Technical Entrepreneurship program,” said Ytsma, who majored in mechanical engineering and studio art at Lafayette College before joining the Lehigh program.

“It seems like a lot of people try to start companies after college and 99 percent of them fail,” he said. “But I feel like coming into TE before starting a company, I already have a sense of what’s a good practice and what isn’t, so if I were to start a company I’d know what to do and how to avoid the same mistakes others have made.”

Other projects on display included AlphaMutt LLC, which helps pet owners train and entertain their pets through innovative products; Cracked Spoon Company, innovative solutions for bakers, including edible cupcake liners; and Thorn Sports, an easy-to-use innovation for athletic shoes.

The participating students began the TE program in July 2016, progressing through 30 credits over 12 months. Lehman said the curriculum includes one-third skill-building, one-third entrepreneurial theory and product development, and one-third development of their own products and companies.

Students in the program learn by experiencing the idea-to-venture process in an educational environment that’s hard-wired to support the development of novel, innovative, and commercially viable technologies, Lehman said.

“The TE program helped me get in tune with my authentic self,” said Bernie Brown, 23, of Bethlehem, who started a company called Unite for Changes, a digital platform to connect and donate to a personalized network of nonprofits through an app and a physical “Unite” button users can keep in their homes.

“It helped me make decisions based on what I thought was the right decision, not what society was telling me to do,” Brown said. “It helped me break through the grips of society, to grab what’s inside of me and help change the world.”

The law firm Lesavoy Butz & Seitz was the presenting sponsor for the Technical Entrepreneurship Venture Fair, and awarded one project a special prize package worth over $2,500, including a one hour consultation with Buddy Lesavoy about the formation of an LLC and the preparation of an operating agreement.

The prize package was awarded to Cric.Map, a patent-pending cricket solution for cricketers designed by students Uddeshya Singh, Adam Weiner, and Ytsma.

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