Lehigh University’s Venture Fair Showcases Student Entrepreneurs
By Colin McEvoy on July 2, 2018
A startup seeking to “democratize the Internet” and help small pet businesses compete against dominating corporations online was the big winner at this year’s Lehigh University Technical Entrepreneurship Venture Fair.
The fair, which is the culmination of Lehigh University’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.
Sixteen potential businesses created by 15 students in the program were on display at the Venture Fair, which was held June 26 at the Wilber Powerhouse on the Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem.
“This is our second year holding the Venture Fair and I think it went extremely well,” said Marsha Timmerman, a professor of practice with the TE program and the organizer of this year’s fair. “A lot of great company ideas were on display, and the students have clearly gotten a lot of value out of the program.”
Two prizes were awarded during the event. The Chewsy Pet, a startup proposal by Marlena Sarunac which seeks to crowdsource the marketing budgets of small pet companies into a single united platform, was named the first place winner among the 16 presentations.
Second place went to Coclaire Industries, a proposed startup by Isaac Wellish, which seeks to help industrial companies prevent occupational hearing loss for their employees via a device that warns when decibel levels exceed a critical level and require hearing protection.
Honorable mentions went to Skate Easy LLC, by Deric Winston, a company seeking new innovations in skateboarding; and GoJoLax, by Julianne D’Orazio and Jonathan Mele, which proposes developing lacrosse products to help athletes excel on the field.
One student, Correll French, was involved in two different projects presented at the Venture Fair. They include CorrellTech, which provides aerial photography using drones, and Rock Armor Cases (proposed along with fellow student Chris Massey), which crates protective cases and accessories for guitars that can be used while the guitar is in use.
The participating students began the TE program in July 2017, progressing through 30 credits over the course of the year, Timmerman 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.
In addition to the masters program, Lehigh is seeking to start a 14-credit TE certificate program for people interested in the courses, but who are unable to make the time commitment for the full-year program, Timmerman said.
The judges for this year’s Venture Fair included Jordan Inacio, Lehigh University TE graduate teaching assistance; Keith Marin, Partner and Director of Operations at Red Giant Growth Advisors; Steve Melick, Executive Director of La Salle Center for Entrepreneurship; Stephanie Olexa, President of Lead to the Future; and Robert S. Thomson, Regional Manager, Lehigh Valley of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The law firm Lesavoy Butz & Seitz was the presenting sponsor for the Technical Entrepreneurship Venture Fair, and awarded one project a special prize package including an LLC registration, a working agreement document, and one hour of free consulting.
A second prize was a free trademarking application offered by Maenner & Associates. As the first place winner, Sarunac was allowed to choose which prize she wanted, but she instead decided to consult with Wellish so they could jointly decide between the two, Timmerman said.
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