TheFunded.com is a source for information on venture-capital firms. Entrepreneurs can rate and comment on their experiences with these firms. Avelo Roy, founder and co-CEO of eMotion, Knapp Entrepreneurship Center business, provided comments on TheFunded.com in this Crain’s Chicago Business blog.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
June 08, 2010 Volume: 156 Issue: 111
By John Flynn Rooney
Chicago Law Bulletin staff writer
A Chicago law student, along with a local lawyer and two other partners, has started an online business aimed at helping consumers seeking legal services find lawyers.
Nearly 500 consumers have used TheLawyerMarket.com since it was launched almost three months ago, said Richard Komaiko, 24, who just completed his second year at Chicago-Kent College of Law. About 150 Illinois lawyers have signed up at no cost for the site.
“People who provide legal services and and who need legal services should have a common place they can come together,” Komaiko said.
The website was designed for sole practitioners and lawyers with small firms, Komaiko said.
“A lot of solo practitioners and lawyers in smaller firms are literally spending half of every day searching for new clients,” Komaiko said. “The problem with this is you can’t bill for time spent searching for clients.”
Komaiko will work full-time this summer on the start-up venture.
Lawyer Beibei Que, 27, said she quit a job with a law firm to work full-time on the site. She handles legal matters and the website’s design.
“The demand for involvement became greater and greater,” Que said. “We’re seeing a lot of momentum.”
Que met Komaiko in 2006 when both were students at the University of Illinois. Que attended the university’s law school, while Komaiko was an undergraduate.
Komaiko and Que bounced ideas off one another and came up with the concept for the business, Que said. They then reached out to two friends, Stephen Kloder, a computer scientist, and Jiang Yang, who now has an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Kloder and Yang, the other two partners in the business, are also in their 20s, Que said.
When consumers contact the website, they are asked 10 to 20 questions to determine the facts of a case, Komaiko said. The facts of the case are then shown to lawyers who have joined the site.
“The consumer has to choose the lawyer he’s most interested in,” Komaiko said. “We will give the consumer the contact information for the lawyer he chooses.”
Lawyers or law firms pay a $30 fee when a user selects them, Komaiko said.
“We take ethics very seriously,” Komaiko said. “We are not selling clients. We are selling advertisement.”
Komaiko said he relied for advice on Chicago-Kent College of Law Dean Harold J. Krent and Nik Rokop, managing director of IIT’s Knapp Entrepreneurship Center while developing the site.
Krent said he tried to serve as a sounding board on various issues ranging from pricing strategy to potential ethical issues.
“The key insight to TheLawyerMarket.com is matching consumers to attorneys in an inexpensive way that permits both sides to gain information about the potential arrangement before any agreement is reached,” Krent said. “I am pleased that many of our students are entrepreneurial; Richard’s efforts have been notable for their creativity and breadth, as his success at the business plan competition attests.”
Komaiko acknowledged that helping to develop a business while attending law school leaves him little time for sleep.
But juggling both school and the business does have an upside, Komaiko said.
“Running a business, I think, allows me to have a better understanding for the course material,” Komaiko said. “Obviously, understanding the material helps me run the business in a more orderly fashion.”
While the site’s current focus remains on the Chicago area, other regions could be added later.
“When we feel we’ve made a really big dent in the Chicago market, then it’s time to expand,” Komaiko said.
This Chicago Tribune article discusses how clean energy startups could get financing from various sources. MagDrive, a company founded by two IIT doctorate students that worked closely with the Knapp Center, is presented as an example of being financed by state and local grants as well as private foundations.
Additionally, 58 percent of the 800 business owners surveyed by the nonprofit Small Business Majority reportedly support adoption of new energy policies and want their businesses to be a part of it.
Bob Geras, Knapp Center board member, was a guest on the June 11, 2010 Business Insanity Talk Radio show. Geras, the father of angel investing, is joined by Steve Miller of Origin Ventures and Marianne Hudson, director of the Angel Capital Association and the Angel Capital Education Foundation. Talk show host Barry J. Moltz leads them in a discussion on angel investing.
Please join the University Technology Park at IIT, Wexford Science + Technology, and the Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center for our quarterly networking event on Thursday, June 24th.
This quarter’s event will feature the Idea Shop™, a space recently opened by IIT on the lower level of the Technology Business Center. This 13,000 square foot facility will be the home of the Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO), where students from all disciplines collaborate in teams to solve real-world problems, some of which turn into entrepreneurial ventures through the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, which helps students take their ideas and products from the classroom to the marketplace. The Idea Shop™ includes space for scientific computing and visualization, engineering graphics, mobile app development, team-based idea generation and communication, and a state-of-the-art machine shop filled with rapid-prototyping equipment.
Connectiviity brings together the entrepreneurship community both within IIT and the greater Chicagoland area and provides the opportunity to network and share experiences with fellow entrepreneurs. Whether you are currently an entrepreneur or are considering starting a business, this event can help you make the connections you need to get your new venture started or grow your existing business. Come explore what the Knapp Center, University Technology Park, Wexford and IIT have to offer!
Refreshments will be served. There is absolutely no charge to attend this event, but registration is required.
If you ever wondered what it is like to be a spark plug in an engine, you should have been at the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center in September 2009. Around this time the Knapp Center began planning the first KnappLab iPhone App Challenge weekend, an opportunity for students to create a GPS navigation system for the IIT campus. “I want [the Knapp Center] to be a resource for whatever the students are looking for,” said Nik Rokop, managing director of IIT’s Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, within the university’s Stuart School of Business, and host to KnappLab, the mobile app lab.
â€œThe goal was to create buzz about iPhone development on campus,â€ said Nikhil Mandrekar, an alumnus of IIT’s business administration and applied science program who set up and until recently ran the app lab. Indeed, the weekend challenge generated significant interest from students and the IIT community, sparked discussions about using mobile applications to benefit IIT and led to the second KnappLab iPhone App Challenge. Not only did the second weekend challenge attract more students, it also brought in more people from the industry, including Mohan Vaze, senior technical leader at Roundarch, a digital consulting firm, and Phil Leslie, founder of the Chicago-based software start-up ProOnGo, LLC, and creator of the eponymous mobile expense reporting application. Whereas the first application was a map of the campus with information about the points of interest, the second application was more robust. The second application included dining menus, a shuttle bus schedule, IIT radio show and information about administrative buildings. â€œIt was an opportunity for industry professionals to see how talented our students are and a good way for students to be introduced to industry professionals,â€ says Mandrekar.
For instance, as the result of participating in one of the weekend challenges, Muyiwa Jimi-Salami, a third year IIT student majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering, got an internship at ProOnGo. Jimi-Salami is one of eight student programmers employed by ProOnGo.
The enthusiasm for mobile development spread throughout the campus. Michael Saelee, a computer science instructor at IIT, brought his passion for the subject when he taught a mobile application development course during the spring semester. The course teaches students how to develop applications for the iPhone and Android operating system as well as how to apply a variety of software engineering concepts. â€œBy the end of the course, students can develop their own applications, sell them at the iPhone app store and make millions,â€ said Saelee.
The applications students have developed so far have been impressive, many and varied. Although a 3-D game engine was not initially a topic in the course, Saelee decided to teach it after the class showed interest in the topic. Many students pursued the idea further, designing applications on the iPad, such as a game with fighter planes that allows a player to control the plane just by tilting the device.
Several students in the course were also taking an inter-professional projects course (IPRO) unique to IIT. As part of an IPRO and using the skills learned in the mobile application development course, one student designed an interactive trip planner for the Brookfield Zoo.
During the spring semester students had to use their own software or utilize the KnappLab. Recognizing the amount of interest application development was generating, the computer science department at IIT purchased 30 iMacs, as well as several iPads and iPod Touches, for students to use in the coming semesters. According to Saelee, â€œNext year, the possibilities are endless.â€
One of the students who took Saeleeâ€™s mobile application development course is Chris Curtis, who is pursuing a computer science degree at IIT. What did Curtis get out of the class? â€œWell, the short answer is I got a job,â€ said Curtis. â€œBetween the things I learned from Saeleeâ€™s class and coding at the KnappLab and the industry events I heard about through the Knapp Center, I became involved in the Day of Mobile and got an offer.â€ Day of Mobile is an annual mobile conference that was held this year at IIT and sponsored by the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center. A key part of the conference is Mobile Hackathon, an opportunity to design a mobile application and present it at the conference. Curtis won first place in the student competition with Sodexho Votes, an application that enables students, staff and faculty to vote via Twitter about the lunch menu and see real-time results showing the consensus. Curtis caught the attention of several recruiters, including one from Pathfinder Development, a software firm that does projects for startups. He currently has an internship developing iPhone and iPad applications for the company.
While undergraduate students at the main campus were developing their own individual applications, graduate students taking the software development project course at the Rice campus this spring were focusing solely on the IIT mobile application, working on features such as the inclusion of course schedules and university news.
An earlier foray into mobile development on the Rice campus led to the creation of Tourist Eye, a travel and tourism application that enables users to create custom tours and go on tours created by others. With the consent of the class, one student used the concept as the foundation of a company that took off in 2009. The Tourist Eye application is currently available for the Blackberry, iPhone and Android devices.
Recognizing the interest and talent in mobile development on campus, Val Scarlata, Information Technology Management instructor at IIT, pooled students from the KnappLab iPhone Challenge and the IIT mobile application classes and built a coalition. Together faculty and students in computer science, information technology management, and technical communication, in collaboration with the Office of Communications and OTS, are working on the official IIT mobile application for the iPhone and iPad. The university application will provide students and visitors with access to news, events, maps, course listings, emergency alerts and more. The application is scheduled to be released July 1st.
Opportunities for students such as working on the IIT mobile application are important because it puts students at an advantage in their job search. â€œStudents need to know the skills that are in demand and mobile development is really cutting edge,â€ says Scarlata.
Industry experts agree. In a recent interview with Reuters, Mark Suster, a partner with GRP, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm focused on technology investment, said, â€œI think itâ€™s really innovativeâ€¦ Any institution that understands [the unique issues of the mobile environment] is definitely ahead of most universities.â€ Indeed, few universities have yet to develop practical skill-based curricula that can be directly applied to the market.
With the announcement of IITâ€™s plan to provide iPads to incoming undergraduates, the opportunities for students can only grow. IIT is one of only three schools in that nation that has publicized its intent to give free iPads to all freshmen.
â€œWe are a university that wants to enable the thoughtful use of technology across all aspects of the curriculum-how it supports academic life, how it supports cocurricular activity, learning about what happens with Engineers Without Borders, being up to date with what is happening with an IPRO, what is happening in terms of lectures, when the next intramural game is,â€ says Gerald Doyle, Vice Provost of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid. â€œThe iPad provides a rigorous and easy means for alert notification, supports academic learning in and out of the classroom and lets students know what is happening around campus.â€
The iPad also provides faculty with a unique opportunity to create content and make courses more interactive. Andrew Howard, a biology professor at IIT, plans to use the iPad to deliver lectures and give exams. Of course, in true IIT fashion, students are not sitting on the sidelines. Already a group of students are working on Tabule, an application that facilitates communication and collaboration between students and professors in real time.
Click here to read a recent story on Reuters about the IIT iPad app class.
Is there a reason why an e-book reader has to be just black and white text? Dan Roberts, author of The Innovatorâ€™s Sourcebook and student at IIT Institute of Design, seeks to change the relatively static nature of e-books through Sidestax, a platform that has the potential to create a richer, more dynamic reading experience. At first blush, a Sidestax platform may look like your typical e-book. However, with just a tap of a finger, the content is supplemented with â€œstacksâ€ of related information, such as videos, blogs and discussion boards.
One advantage of Sidestax has over books and e-books is that it enables users to easily refresh their memory and catch up on the latest thinking on a topic. With Sidestax, users no longer have to go back and forth between their book and web browser to look up concepts only to forget how everything connects back to the book. Instead, Sidestax users can move seamlessly between the text and the additional layers of digital content. Furthermore, Sidestax enables publishers and authors to determine how interactive they would like the book to be to cater to the preferences of their target reader.
Roberts came up with the idea of Sidestax while he was writing The Innovatorâ€™s Sourcebook. While pursuing an undergraduate business degree at Ohio State University, Roberts became frustrated with the standard approach to learning entrepreneurship: â€œCome up with an idea for a company and weâ€™ll discuss venture capital on Tuesday.â€ While significant time was being spent learning business plan fundamentals, the time spent on innovation, the driving force behind entrepreneurship, was being shortchanged. The Innovatorâ€™s Sourcebook is the culmination of three years of research about how ideas are generated in the first place. After finishing the book, Roberts initially wanted to put together a packet of articles and other information for people to see more examples from which he was drawing the patterns and insights for the book. Roberts soon realized that there is no reason that the stacks of articles on the side of his desk couldnâ€™t be a hyperlinked e-book and the idea behind Sidestax emerged.
If a comprehensive, mobile, automated inventory solution that requires neither capital investment nor recurring labor costs sounds good to you, read on. Seeonic, a Minnesota company, delivers real-time information for managing inventory to reduce stock-outs and overstocks. SightWareÂ®, Seeonic’s RFID inventory collection device and antennae, automatically collects and analyzes real-time perpetual inventory at the consumerâ€™s point-of-purchase. SightWare transmits the inventory counts to Seeonicâ€™s Seeniqâ„¢ web service wirelessly. Seeniq recommends specific actions to eliminate potential stock-out conditions and creates analytical models to drive optimal replenishment.
Seeonic’s technology can be used to track jewelry, apparel, media, and other consumer products automatically. Its first client was Tomorrowâ€™s Mother, a maternity apparel company that became absorbed under TM Apparel. Tomorrow’s Mother used Seeonic technology to collect accurate inventory data and better manage its replenishment process all without sending a person to the stores.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers can gain deep competitive advantages using Seeonic’s Seeniqâ„¢ service. It is both economical and flexible because it is offered on a monthly subscription fee basis; no capital investment and no IT infrastructure are required. It is also a completely integrated solution from data collection to analyses. Furthermore, the SightWareÂ® modules require no external power; they operate on a long-life battery pack. Notably, the inventory count by Seeonic is more accurate, more timely, more granular and easier to arrive at than those provided by the POS system, a proxy for actual inventory.
Harley Feldman, President and CTO of Seeonic and IIT alumnus (CHEM ’69) presented Seeonic to angel investors at the bi-monthly Illinois Institute of Technology Angel Networking Event. The event was recorded on video and here.
Two graduate and four undergraduate IIT students were recently chosen among the Illinois Technology Foundationâ€™s (ITF) 50 for the Future, an annual award recognizing â€œIllinoisâ€™ most promising technology students.â€ ITF supports the development of a technology talent pipeline by fostering connections between students, academia and regional employers. The students chosen were Anne Shultz, Jonathan Sibley, Stacy Morton, Jeffery Chiles, Max Graziano and Omaditya Khanna. Their interests are many and varied.
Anne Shultz is a graduate student in the Information Technology and Management degree program specializing in information system security management. Her focus is on designing access for unstructured data, such as images or word documents, which exists outside a database. Shultz has recently published a paper titled â€œControlling the Emerging Data Dilemma: Building Policy for Unstructured Data Access” in which she proposes a strategy for organizing unstructured data. Prior to coming to IIT, Shultz was employed at New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, California, where she held a position in information security compliance and was deeply involved in the design and implementation of their data governance program. Interestingly, as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Shultz studied history of arts and visual cultures. Shultz became interested in writing policy, â€œjust because [she] enjoyed writing,â€ a task that other IT specialists avoided.
Jonathan Sibley recently graduated from IIT with a masterâ€™s degree in electrical engineering. He also received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from IIT. He interned at Underwriters Laboratories, conducting safety testing in electric machines, capacitors and thermal fuses, at AVL, modeling electric components and at IAV GmbH, working on diesel engine calibration. Among the highlights on Sibleyâ€™s resume is his extensive work as part of the IIT formula hybrid racing team, serving throughout his undergraduate and graduate career as team leader, project manager, and recently, graduate advisor. The IIT team recently competed in the Formula Hybrid International Competition, a design and engineering challenge for undergraduate and graduate students in which teams design, build and compete in an open-wheeled, single-seat, plug-in hybrid racecar. The IIT team earned the honor of the top GM Best Engineering Hybrid Systems Award for the level of complexity of their hybrid. Today, Sibley continues to work on hybrid and electric vehicles, albeit no longer as part of the IIT team, but at Chrysler as part of their powertrain electrification group.
Approaching environmental friendliness from another direction, Stacy Morton is pursuing her bachelorâ€™s degree in architecture at IIT. Specializing in urbanism and modern design, Morton believes that design is important but not sufficient for great architectureâ€” sustainability and integration within the city are key. To improve the sustainability efforts on the IIT campus, Morton has founded the Student Sustainability Committee. Mortonâ€™s interest in sustainability has also led her to work as the Assistant Implementation Manager at IITâ€™s Office of Campus Energy and Sustainability, researching, developing and implementing environmental technologies and practices on IITâ€™s campus. Moreover, Morton is an IIT Leadership Academy Scholar; she was awarded a competitive full-tuition scholarship for exceptional leadership potential. Not only does Morton have the opportunity to attend leadership seminars by invited guest lecturers, Morton herself leads seminars with Chicago high school students to improve their leadership skills.
Max Graziano, also a Leadership Scholar, recently graduated with a bachelorâ€™s degree in computer engineering. Grazianoâ€™s involvement on campus sparked his entrepreneurial spirit. Graziano demonstrated his leadership when he founded the IIT Quizbowl team, which competes in team trivia competitions with other colleges. He soon realized that the buzzer system that acts as digital referee for the game was outside the student organizationâ€™s budget. Using the skills and knowledge gleaned in his sophomore level circuitry class, Graziano started designing a buzzer system of his own. As he took more advanced classes, he reduced a design that took up eight circuit boards into a single chip. Moreover, Graziano realized the $600 equipment could be replicated with $2 worth of electronics. He is currently working on getting a printed circuit board made. Graziano will soon begin work at Epic Healthcare Systems, a medical records firm.
Like Morton and Graziano, Omaditya Khanna is also a Leadership Academy Scholar. Khanna is studying chemical and biological engineering at IIT. He is taking what he learns in the classroom and putting it to good use as an undergraduate researcher at the IIT Pritzker Institute for Biomedical Science and Engineering. Khanna works with Dr. Eric Brey, professor of biomedical engineering, on developing and optimizing a drug delivery system as a potential treatment for type 1 diabetes. Frequently, transplanted cells and proteins are rejected by the recipientâ€™s immune system. However, alginate microcapsules can acts as immune barriers to cell transplantation. Khannaâ€™s work on the alginate microbead drug delivery system has led him to co-author a published paper in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research. Indeed, Khannaâ€™s research has not gone unnoticed. He won first place at the oral presentation at the 2010 Chicago Area Undergraduate Symposium (CAURS), where nearly 200 Chicagoland area undergraduates presented their research. In 2009, Khanna presented at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) National Conference. He won second place in the undergraduate oral presentation research competition. Like many of the 50 for the Future recipients, Khanna has made significant contributions to the IIT community and beyond. For several years, Khanna has been a resident advisor, serving as a leader and peer mentor to first-year students living in the residence halls. Khanna has also spent several summers assisting medical students and attending physicians in providing healthcare to underinsured and uninsured patients and translating from Hindi to English on behalf of patients to doctors.
Like Khanna, Jeffery Chiles has been using his engineering prowess to the betterment of others. An electrical and computer engineering major at IIT, Chiles spearheaded an engineering outreach service project designed to show high school students the underlying concepts behind engineering. Chiles has been also heavily involved in student organizations, serving as vice president of Camras (Chiles is the recipient of a full-tuition Camras scholarship) and as president of Eta Kappa Nu, the national electrical and computer engineering honors society. While Chiles has always been interested in electronics, his interest grew during a systems engineering internship at Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor. Chiles had the opportunity to test equipment for a system that misdirects incoming heat-seeking missiles. A highlight of his experience was hearing Northrop Grumman employees tell of U.S. Air Force personnel who came back to thank them for working on equipment that saved their lives. Unsurprisingly, Chiles wants to continue studying electromagnetics and working on electronic warfare systems after graduation.
As remarkable as these students are, they all have one thing in common: they all study at IIT. From IIT students, one would expect nothing less.
Recently, a team of IIT Stuart MBA students placed 10th out of over 600 entries in the â€˜open-all schoolsâ€™ Capsim Management Simulation. Tony Castle, Vishal Jain and Shreya Matt were on the IIT team. Prior to coming to IIT Stuart, Castle graduated from University of Pittsburgh with a degree in mechanical engineering and joined the nuclear power program in the U.S. Navy. Jain received a bachelorâ€™s degree in electronics and telecommunication engineering from University of Bombay and then worked for several years as a software engineer for InfoSys Technologies. Similarly, Matt completed her undergraduate degree in India in electronics and communication engineering and worked as a software engineer at Goldman Sachs.
As part of the Capsim Management Simulation, Castle, Jain and Matt had to run a virtual company and make decisions in all aspects of management, including production, accounting, marketing, finance, quality control, human resources and strategy. Before competing in the open entry competition, all three students took an MBA capstone business tactics course with Dr. Goldhar,
professor of Operations and Technology Management at the Stuart Graduate School of Business.
The simulation reinforced key business fundamentals. Professors â€œcan tell us as much as they want about leverage—that you should not be overleveraged or underleveraged. Itâ€™s a concept in finance, but you really understand it when you see that itâ€™s burning you,â€ said Matt. Castle agreed, â€œIt reinforces concepts that you want to leave your MBA program knowing really, really wellâ€¦ I had a great MBA experience at Stuart. The simulation will really stick out as something that really drove home a lot of those concepts.â€
One of those concepts in particular is strategic competitiveness. Jain pointed out, â€œIt is not about just running the company, it is about how you beat the competition. Matt added, â€œIt really got us thinking, what is the competition doing? What possible move are they making and how can we position ourselves [to win]?â€ The strategic thinking led to impressive results. The best moment of the simulation? â€œSeeing the IIT name high in the rankings,â€ said Castle.