NUtech workshop helps build up business ideas

· 4 min read

NUtech workshop helps build up business ideas

Participants at the BMC workshop engage in tabletop discussions.
Participants at the BMC workshop engage in tabletop discussions.

Every business needs a well-reasoned and thoroughly researched plan to succeed and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — and its technology affiliate, NUtech Ventures — nurture aspiring entrepreneurs from business plan to startup.

To aid aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs, Sam Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, and Brad Roth, president and executive director of NUtech Ventures and associate vice chancellor for technology development at Nebraska, taught valuable skills in person and via Zoom with their Business Model Canvas workshop.

Workshop participants included faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, undergraduate students and community members. Nelson and Roth helped participants understand critical components for success, including value propositions, customer segments and relationships, channels, revenue streams, and key resources and activities.

“The BMC workshop was fun, informative, interactive and energizing for my entrepreneurship journey,” said Aria Tarudji, a post-doc researcher in UNL biological systems engineering. “I learned how to recognize the real customers of the business and how to fulfill their needs regardless of the business field. I think this workshop is a great stepping-stone for those starting their entrepreneurship journey.”

Temban Acha Billy, graduate student in chemistry, hopes to provide affordable electricity to rural areas in Cameroon through off-grid solar panels. He called the seminar “a thrilling adventure.”

“I learned how to narrow my thoughts and fit them onto a business model canvas throughout the course,” he said. “I also discovered that the business model canvas is a simple approach to convey our business concepts to potential investors. I created my first business model canvas with the assistance of coaches in this workshop.”

Faculty also plan to leverage concepts they learned in the course.

“As a fresh graduate from the N-ICD program and a new entrepreneur putting his hands to developing the AgTech startup RootzoNE Solutions, BMC provided a simple route to connect customer base, value proposition, and most importantly provided insight on handling finance of the startup,” said Arindam Malakar, a research assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources.

RootzoNE, founded by a team of researchers at UNL in 2022, identified a natural nanomineral found to enhance crop growth, reduce fertilizer loss and improve soil water holding capacity.

Bai Cui, R. Vernon McBroom Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and co-founder of PromeMaterials LLC, praised the course.

“I really appreciate that NUtech Ventures organizes training workshops, including this one,” Cui said. “These workshops provide valuable opportunities for scientists such as me to learn more about how to convert research concepts into business ideas. The lectures in this workshop shared the most critical knowledge for beginners, and the class discussions helped me to refine business plans. Also, the NUtech Ventures team has been supporting and encouraging me in the journey to commercializing some new material and manufacturing technologies developed from my lab, including 3D printing.”

Ellenna Divingnzzo, a sophomore software engineering major in the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, is also the founder and CEO of voyageducation, a startup working to “game-ify” the University’s Education Abroad safety orientation through a new 3D game called Globetrotter. Divingnzzo noted that she had a couple of tasks to complete before the workshop, including preparing an elevator pitch.

Divingnzzo remarked that the first session led to a valuable introduction to faculty who lead annual study abroad trips. Before the second workshop, participants were tasked with creating a simple slide deck, covering how the BMC components related to their businesses. Divingnzzo said Joy Eakin, entrepreneurship program manager at NUtech, provided great feedback about her slide deck, while Roth provided sage advice on intellectual property and Nelson offered help refining her value proposition statement.

The second workshop broke participants into small groups to pitch their businesses to each other and receive feedback. Dam suggested involving parents of the students who study abroad as key partners in Divingnzzo’s project.

“This was insightful feedback and I will be incorporating it into my business plan,” Divingnzzo said. “I discovered several new pitching techniques that I will certainly be using when I pitch for the UNL New Venture Competition in April, and I also made crucial connections within the startup community.”

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