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Students Showcase Entrepreneurial Products at Virtual Demo Day

By Kat Schneider on July 7, 2020

Alex Romanowski shows his product MycroActive during the Demo Day event held virtually on Zoom by Lehigh University’s Hatchery program.

The ability to innovate and stay flexible are essential qualities in an entrepreneur. Pivoting and reinventing was crucial for the organizers of Lehigh University’s Hatchery program and the culmination event dubbed Demo Day, held via Zoom July 2nd.

Demo Day allowed students to showcase products created during the seven-week foray into entrepreneurship offered through the Hatchery program. Products, of which there were 32 in total offered by a cohort of 37 students, ranged from a virtual microscope app to navigation apps for mountain bikers to an app designed to lessen disease spread in homeless shelters.

“We have been thrilled by the variety of projects this year and the real needs that are being addressed,” said Lisa Getzler, Executive Director of the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation at Lehigh University. “It’s a sign of how today’s student entrepreneurs see the world and shows a deeper commitment to projects that matter.”

For instance, Alex Romanowski and his partner Chase Mattingly created MycroActive, a product that uses a microscope shell in combination with a slide management and notation app to make the microscope experience more interactive than virtual microscopes and more affordable than traditional microscopes.

“The high cost of microscopes prevents their use in many public schools and kids are left without the wonder of seeing the world beyond the naked eye,” Romanowski said.

Typically held in a brick and mortar classroom, the weeks-long course was instead held virtually this year which brought with it a variety of new situations. Under these circumstances, the entrepreneurial spirit helped organizers meet the challenge before them.

“You need prototype thinkers to use the knowledge you have and to create but until you put it into action, you can’t be sure of what will work and what will not,” Getzler said. “We didn’t change the foundational approach, but we had to reiterate on the delivery.”

So to the whiteboard they went and made changes to the program that would still allow for the immersive and supportive environment that would foster creativity and allow for connectedness among classmates and instructors.

“So many things came out of this that we are going to continue to employ as we offer the hatchery program,” Getzler said.

In previous years, the Hatchery program was comprised of topical “nests,” where students were placed based on the subject matter around their ideas. For the 2020 cohort, however, students were organized into tracks based on their progress towards creating a new product or service. Track one included those students who did not yet have a product, while track two was comprised of students who had an idea but were in various stages of completion. Track three was organized for those in advanced stages of product development.

Using virtual platforms students learned from local entrepreneurs as well as from those who were able to speak from afar – thanks to technology. Speakers also included successful Lehigh alumni mentors, faculty, staff, and fellow students who offered advice on staying motivated and overcoming challenges.

“I’ve realized that it’s the amount of work that you’re willing to put in as an entrepreneur to grow your business and your program and when you hit speed bumps down the road it’s how much you can persevere through those that will guarantee your success,” Romanowski said.

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