Monthly Archives: April 2012

Patents and Prototypes Web TV Show

Longtime friend of CSUF Entrepreneurship, Leardon Solutions CEO Joe Donoghue, suggests that we check out a live web TV show called “Patents and Prototypes” which will be broadcast at 6:30pm on Tuesday May 1.

The show will address the important aspects of patenting and prototyping your product idea. If interested, please click here.

And, you may want to check out the website at www.patents-and-prototypes.com

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
jjackson@fulleton.edu

Project Idea Contest

On YesYous.com college students have the ability to upload their projects, which can be almost anything, and then their fellow students have the chance to vote on their favorite project. At the end of the time period the three projects with the most votes win some prize money ($1,000 to first, $500 for second, $250 for third). CSUF is currently having a competition so you can see what this is all about.

From looking at all of these projects I can see that many of them are well underway. For example, the CSUF Formula SAE 2012 team is nearly finished. What that team has done so far is build a small race car for another competition that they enter every year. Mind you, this is not a toy, it’s a real race car that can fit an actual person in it and be driven around. I don’t think it’s street legal, it could be, but that isn’t the point. They have created a car and that is a pretty cool project. Not surprisingly, that project is in the lead as of the writing of this post.

Overall, it looks like the site is more about sharing than about the competitions. According to the founder:

Yesyous.com is a professional network for people to list their education, work, accomplishments, degrees, projects, and articles. Through Yesyous a lot of people will get the opportunity to show the whole world their value through their projects, articles, certificates, and awards.

Some of our creative featuress are:

1- Projects for people to list all their projects. Each project consist of ( details, pictures, videos, and PDF files) In this tab you upload everything you worked on [ for example your senior design lets say it is a Robot so you create a project called robot and you add pictures of the robot, videos about it, and PDF blue prints of the robot, and a whole description of the robot ]. this way companies can approach and hire people based on their work instead of the resume only

2- Education connections, this feature is for professors to add their students to keep track of their projects, accomplishments, articles, certificates, and awards even after their graduation. The professors will be always proud of their students and will be looking forward to see their accomplishments

3- Articles: This tab is to add all the articles that you are included in [ for example i had an interview in LA times magazine i copy the URL link and paste it in Articles tab ] This way people will be able to read all my recent news and keep track of it]

4- Certificates & Awards. A lot of people get a lot of those but they keep it at their home or office which make it so hard to see. Now people can scan it and let the whole world see their accomplishments.

It’s an interesting site and, as you can tell, there’s a lot more to it than is contained in this post. Basically, the main power I see in this site is that it can bring together people who like to create things. There is a definite networking aspect to this site and if you are able to make some new contacts than it is worth the effort.

And don’t forget to vote for your favorite CSUF project either!

Fullerton Chamber Hosts Export Speaker

The Fullerton Chamber will be presenting a program on Exports at the Fullerton Chamber on Friday, April 27 at 8:30 a.m. Students who may be interested in exploring this as part of a business venture are welcome to attend. Please have them RSVP Erin Haselton at ehaselton@fullertonchamber.com.

Here is some information on the program:

Presented by Jay Shaw, Export Experts.

· Discuss best practices
· Understand how to properly fill out a Certificate of Origin
· Learn how to do business overseas

Export Experts will offer this informative workshop for local businesses regarding the opportunities available in International Trade, both in exporting, importing, re-exporting, and more.

President and CEO Jay Shaw will discuss the “best practices” in regard to numerous government bureaus, agencies and departments with oversight authority.

These oversights can impact small businesses in Fullerton. Shaw will explain how small businesses might be at risk due to oversights, even if a local business does not claim to allow or make international shipments.

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
jjackson@fulleton.edu

Business Plan Competition Finalist: Astral Infiniti, LLC

Daniel Decker’s Astral Infiniti wins 2nd Place at CSUF Business Plan Competition 2012

Even though the 2012 Business Plan Competition is now over I think it is important for you to know about the second place finisher, Astral Infiniti, LLC. Here’s some information about this impressive startup:

Astral Infiniti, LLC was founded in response to the growing demand for clean, renewable energy products due to rising fuel costs. Their first product is Solar Deck 24-7, a solar powered unmanned air vehicle (UAV) designed to fly for an indefinite period of time. Operating at altitudes above commercial airliners, Solar Deck 24-7 essentially acts as a satellite without requiring a launch into orbit like traditional satellites. The vehicle requires no toxic fuel, no re-entry burn and introduces no orbital waste compared to traditional satellites. It provides continuous surveillance beyond traditional fuel burning vehicles and at a fraction of the cost.

Solar Deck 24-7 can replace traditional fuel burning vehicles that currently perform tasks such as: Surveillance for military & civil purposes, news & traffic monitoring, scientific research, and environmental data collection. With that in mind their target customers are the U.S. Military, NASA, and Telecommunications companies. The UAV market is projected to double over the next decade growing from $4.9 billion to $11.5 billion annually.

The strategy of a long life, high altitude UAV design is to utilize an energy storage device that provides a high specific energy (energy per unit of weight), but also converts stored energy efficiently to a usable form. The challenge then is to integrate these two characteristics in a way that will realize the optimum performance of the UAV.

The patented Solar Deck 24-7 design does just that by incorporating flywheel technology. It provides a distinct competitive advantage over the competition, which use fuel cells, lithium-ion or lithium-sulfur batteries as storage devices. Astral Infiniti has developed a conceptual design and performance model of the vehicle that shows feasibility. The approach can continuously carry a 300 watt, 40 pound payload over a wide range of latitudes between the U.S borders.

Astral Infiniti’s competitive advantage is expertise in the industry as well as the patent on Solar Deck 24-7’s design. The barrier to entry into the aerospace industry is the amount of initial capital required to build a prototype and bring the UAV to market. They are aware of this challenge and are actively seeking investment capital. Once acquired, the combination of their industry experience and the investment capital makes the profit potential of Astral Infiniti astronomical. A typical government contract is either fixed price or cost plus fixed fee. Fixed price contracts typically allow 15% to 25% profit margin while cost plus contracts allow 6% to 10% profit margin.

D. Kent Decker has extensive experience in marketing technology to the NASA and military communities and has an established network of contacts within the target market. On top of that, he has successfully written proposals for and managed numerous government contracts.

CSUF student Daniel Decker is in his final year of the MBA program here at CSUF, with a concentration in management. Professionally, he has 5+ years of experience in business development and direct sales. They strongly believe that their unique combination of experience, capabilities, and skills will allow them to successfully convey the incredible market potential that Solar Deck 24-7 represents.

Even though Tank Skinz ended up winning this competition I have a feeling that Astral Infiniti will be alright.

Focus on your core competencies

by: Atul Teckchandani

Years ago, the most successful firms were vertically integrated. If you go way back – to the 1930s – there was Ford’s River Rouge plant, which made everything that went into the automobiles it ultimately manufactured. The plant had a steel furnace, a tool and die plant, a tire-making facility, and a paper mill. It even had its own power plant and railroad. Even back in the 1980s, many technology firms such as Apple and HP did not just design personal computers, they also manufactured them.

Over time, this strategy has given way to one that emphasizes keeping your core competencies in house and outsourcing the rest. A core competency is something that a business sees as being central to its success. Prahalad and Hamel (Harvard Business Review, 1990) say that a core competency can be identified using the following three criteria:

  1. It provides access to a wide variety of markets.
  2. It significantly affects the perceived customer benefits of the final product or service.
  3. It should be difficult for others to imitate.

The article cites the example of Honda, whose core competency is its expertise in building engines. This fits all three of the criteria. First, this expertise has allowed them to build lawn mowers and motorcycles in addition to automobiles. Second, many consumers purchased Hondas because of its reliable and fuel efficient engines. Third, engines are arguably the most critical and complex components in automobiles and any advances in engine technology are not easy to imitate.

As companies have focused on their core competencies, they have become less vertically integrated. It no longer makes sense for Apple and HP to manufacture their electronic gadgets. Not only is manufacturing not one of their core competencies, there are other companies that can do it much better. Analogously, many companies no longer manage their own information technology resources – instead they hire a firm like IBM to do it for them.

For a firm, the consequences of deviating too far from its core competencies can be disastrous, if not fatal. For example, Cisco went on a spending spree in the last decade, spending billions buying firms such as Scientific-Atlanta (maker of the set-top boxes given to consumers by their cable providers), Linksys (maker of consumer networking equipment), and Pure Digital (maker of the Flip cameras). All of these acquisitions were intended to help Cisco get a foothold in the consumer space for network-related products. But the problem was that they did not fit with Cisco’s core competency, which is expertise in corporate networking. The result was that Cisco ended up shutting down its Flip division two years after it purchased it and its Scientific-Atlanta division has undergone many layoffs. While Cisco was once a Wall Street favorite, this strategy of acquiring firms that were only loosely connected to its core businesses was widely hammered by its investors and resulted in many profit warnings from the firm. Cisco finally relented and announced that it was going to refocus on its networking businesses.

What is interesting is that firms continue to deviate from their core competencies. Apple Computer recently acquired a firm (PA Semi) that designs processors. Since acquiring the firm in 2008, PA Semi’s processors have been designed into iPhones and iPads. But why would Apple want to get into the processor business? Many firms, such as Intel, Qualcomm, and NVIDIA specialize in making processors for many types of devices. In contrast, Apple’s core competencies have little to do with processor design. Apple is much better at building user-friendly software and aesthetically-pleasing hardware. These competencies have allowed Apple to enter the consumer electronics space, which has become a larger revenue generator than the firm’s computer business.

Another culprit is Amazon, who has been on an acquisition binge. They own numerous other e-retailers, such as zappos.com, diapers.com, drugstore.com and pets.com. They own firms that offer and distribute content, such as imdb.com and audible.com. They have also been launching their own subsidiaries, such as Amazon Local (which offers Groupon-type deals), A9 (which builds a search engine), Lab126 (which builds the Kindle) and endless.com (which is an online shoe retailer). Recently, they announced their intent to buy Kiva Systems, which makes robots that can be used to automate warehouses. Their acquisition strategy is virtually impossible to understand. Many of the online retailers they have acquired remain independent and continue to operate. Yet Amazon continues to let its own amazon.com site compete with them directly and even launches its own subsidiaries to further increase competition. The need to create another search engine seems highly questionable when consumers have few complaints with the current leaders in that space. And Amazon is definitely not in the robotics business. Many of these acquisitions seem to be of products and services that Amazon uses heavily. Kiva’s robots are used in Amazon’s warehouses. Imdb.com’s movie content is linked to amazon.com’s movie pages. But why purchase them outright rather than just purchase their products or services? More importantly, does Amazon have the ability to continue to allow these acquired firms to grow and thrive? Only time will tell. Amazon’s core competency used to be in e-commerce. But they have moved to become a content provider as well. Those are two core competencies that have little in common. Couple that with becoming a hardware provider and industrial equipment provider, and the result is significant lack of clarity as to what Amazon does well, which could be a sign of trouble ahead for the firm.

And herein lies the lesson for entrepreneurs: know what your core competencies are and focus on them. This means that a firm should have no more than a few core competencies. Build the capabilities to develop, nurture and enhance these competencies internally while outsourcing the rest. That is a business model strategy that has proven to work for all firms, big or small.

Dr. Atul Teckchandani is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, provides student advising and is involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship within Mihaylo College. He has a PhD in Business Administration (Management of Organizations) from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin.

Business Plan Competition Finals 2012

Despite the heavy rain we ended up having an extremely successful Business Plan Competition Finals! Thank you to all those that attended: the teams, CSUF students, the finalists, the families of the finalists, our prestigious panel and our sponsors. Without all of you this event could not have happened.

After all of the introductions, a raffle, some talk about the sponsors, another raffle, some information on how the presentations were going to proceed, yet another raffle, and an introduction of the panelists the presentations got under way. First up was SP ZAP, LLC, which is a technology concern. Basically, it helps businesses manage their forms more efficiently. In exchange for a yearly subscription companies will get to use their program which helps migrate information from PDFs to Sharepoint.

Then came Atral Infiniti, LLC, which is a company that has the patent for this extremely fascinating solar UAV. Their presenter said that the uses of his UAV were for surveillance, transmitting information, tracking the weather and that there were literally dozens, if not hundreds, of other applications on top of all of that. By the way, did I mention that this solar UAV could stay up in the air for months, if not years?

The final team to present was Tank Skinz. They actually have a really simple idea: create “skinz” for water heaters. Their reasoning is that water heaters are nothing more than this gigantic eyesore that mars what otherwise could have been a nice looking garage. But don’t think it’s just for guys with man caves (although they will be targeting this group with beer and sports themed skinz). Evidently, women would love to have something to cover up their water heaters too.

And then the presentations were done and, yeah, you guessed it, there were a couple more raffles while I added up the scores. While I was carrying the three a person won an Xbox360 with a couple of games and six months of Xbox Live for free. There were some other prizes but I was too caught up in my math problems to notice.

Finally, I finish and hand the scores over to John Bradley Jackson, our presenter and the Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship. In third place was SP Zap, LLC. Don’t feel bad for them because not only did they beat out dozens of competitors to make it this far they won $1,000 in cash and another $2,500 in in-kind services to help start their business.

After the applause subsided the winner was announced: Tank Skinz. As the first place winners they take home $3,000 in cash as a team and another $5,000 worth of in-kind services. Astral Infiniti, LLC took home the silver, along with $2,000 in cash and another $3,750 of in-kind services.

But before you knew it the final raffle happened. One of the members of one of our Top 7 teams, which win $500 in cash and $300 of in-kind services, won an iPad. Only after the iPad had been safely stowed away in the winner’s bag did the event start to wind down.

It was an amazing event and went fairly smooth considering the fact that this was the first time that we hosted an event of this kind. Mistakes were made, sure, but I think it was a great learning experience for everyone involved and I’m hopeful that at least a few of these teams will make a real go at starting their own businesses.

And for all the rest of you: if you are going to be attending CSUF next year start working on your business plans now because the 2nd Annual Business Plan Competition will be here quicker than you’d imagine.

Business Plan Competition Finalist: SP ZAP, LLC

Eugene Ostapkovich, creator of SP Zap, accepting his third place award during the CSUF Business Plan Competition 2012

Yesterday, we did a post revealing some information about one of our Business Plan Competition Finalists. And, as you may know we will be holding our first Business Plan Competition Finals this Friday, April 13th, at 1:30pm in SGMH 1502 (details). There will be some great prizes given away like an iPad and a Xbox 360. But the real draw should be the presentations that our finalists will be giving. To whet your whistle here is a sneak peak into one of our finalists’ business:

Our business idea started with the identification of a problem. How often, when browsing the internet, do you see the PDF or Word forms which you should download, fill-in, print, then scan, then send back? Or even worse, when you need to fill out a form which is not even available electronically and you need to go to some office and waste even more time and paper. And when you get to all those forms you can’t miss the fact about how ineffective it is.

We figured we can put our experience in Enterprise software, Business Process Management systems, Workflows and electronic forms to make a difference. We’ve chosen to meet the capabilities of the de-facto industry standard for electronic documents – PDF – and one of the most popular and most rapidly emerging enterprise content management and collaboration system – Microsoft SharePoint – to create a unique value proposition. That was the beginning of PDFsharepoint Forms’ success story.It is not only about the improved speed, accuracy, better security and cost savings from more efficient  form processing, it is a whole new way towards green IT and paperless enterprise.  The sustainability that both saves the money and making the world a better place. And because so many things, like HR forms, legal forms, IRS forms, accounting forms, invoices, purchase orders, compliance forms, contracts and many others can be done with this product it is just amazing how much impact it can create.

While providing easy-to-use, problem-focused solutions that deliver value and close to instant ROI, and helping to save resources and minimize costs for our valued customers, we are a truly feedback-driven, customer-centric organization, where every single opinion is heard and taken into account. The great customer service and focus on quality is always the priority for us.We are a relatively small company, but with global reach, as our customers and partners are all around the world from India, Saudi Arabia, UK, France, Switzerland, Canada, USA etc.  Social Media is among most important marketing channels for us. Our site is on top of Google search results for the relevant keywords. Users love our blog and find it very useful and informative.  We continue to offer free monthly webinars to our potential customers.

Our main product development is successfully finished, but we still continue to invest in R&D to further improve our technology and patent portfolio. We feel that staying on top of the emerging technologies and providing the best for our customers is the way to create a sustainable advantage and be ahead of competition. We plan to add more exciting features to our existing product offering, and roll out a new product, developed especially for the small business, later this year.

My name is Eugene Ostapkovich and I am a second year MBA student at Cal State Fullerton. My business partner Dmitry Ivahno and I are the founders of SP ZAP LLC and PDFsharepoint Forms. According to the Association for Information and Image Management one in two corporations are using SharePoint and, empirically, nearly all of them are using some kind of forms. So while PDFsharepoint certainly is a niche product the market potential is enormous. We believe, that despite the fact that the success rate of startup companies is typically low, we’ve managed to find a winning formula, work-through the rough edges, and mitigate the future risks. We are very glad that our ideas are meeting great appreciation and receiving such a positive feedback, therefore we have confidence that this business is going to grow and will be a huge success.

This is an interesting idea with a lot of potential. Come and see them present the idea live! (DETAILS)