Archive for July, 2010

Dan Roberts talks innovation

Full-time writer Scott Berkun interviews Dan Roberts about his first book, The Innovator’s Sourcebook. Roberts talks about the inspiration for his book, developing problem finding skills, and approaches to innovation.

In addition to being a first-time author, Roberts is founder of Sidestax, a KEC business.

Read the full interview here.


Chicago Startup Weekend: Taking Startups from Idea to Launch

Chicago Startup Weekend attendees had trouble reaching a consensus when asked about the best part of the event. That’s not surprising since the Startup Weekend attracts people from a variety of backgrounds—business managers, marketing gurus, developers, students, investors, startup enthusiasts and others— who work together to transform ideas into companies.

The Knapp Entrepreneurship Center sponsored eight IIT student entrepreneurs. Daniel Krieglstein, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at IIT and cofounder of the Knapp Center startup The JournalWiki, remarked, “Startup Weekend was a great place to find contacts. I met many graphic designers and business managers. This is the best place to find [software] developers.” The opportunity “to work on a different project led to fresh ideas about our own startup,” The JournalWiki co-founder Ed Madrigal added. For Ed Suda, an IIT alumnus and co-founder of Knapp Center startup eMotion, Startup Weekend was a chance to do something that he has never done before: “engage in a purely web experience—it’s amazing to see how quickly a unique web business can be created.”

The event began Friday, June 25th with pitches from some of the 85 attendees. The participants formed nine teams that solidified the concepts and created a business plan. The weekend culminated with presentations from each group.

The startups varied from AppTriumph, a website that allows college applicants to track their application process to Remnant Retail Space, an online marketplace for renting vacant property on a short-term basis.

One of the groups was, a hyperlocal marketing tool disguised as an adventure game. is the brainchild of Víctor Sánchez and Ramon Recuero, recent graduates of IIT’s Information Technology and Management program. Along with Raul San Narciso and Nozomi Yamawaki, they are currently working on, an innovative web application that enables users to create dynamic and media-rich web pages.

According to Startup Weekend judge Jonathan Pasky, “Chicago’s tech scene is really coming together, and the quality of the startups pitched this weekend [was] phenomenal.” As for us at the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center, it is difficult to avoid the temptation toot our own horn. Accordingly, our favorite takeaway from one of the Startup Weekend attendees was, “People were jealous that we are connected to the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center and get to work with Nik Rokop. We were excited to see that the Knapp Center has a great reputation in Chicago entrepreneurship community.”

To find out more about Chicago Startup Weekend, visit

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midVentures + IIT: Discover 6 Midwest incubators at our free July 29 reception

midVentures logo

The Summer 2010 Kickoff Reception & Incubator Panel is your chance to learn about the midVenturesLAUNCH conference and Midwest incubators IIT University Technology Park, TechNexus, Excelerate Labs, Sproutbox, Goldstein Caldwell and Sandbox Industries.

The Concept

On July 29, 2010, midVentures and IIT will present a Kickoff Reception & Incubator Panel. An invite-only group of Midwest leaders, startups, entrepreneurs and investors will learn about the organizations directly impacting technology startups in 2010. The Incubator Panel will offer invited startups an opportunity to learn more about Chicago and Midwest incubators have to offer. The Kickoff Reception also provides a 30-day notice to apply to midVenturesLAUNCH as an early-stage COMPETE or a later stage LAUNCH startup.


6:00pm Open Networking
7:00pm Introduction by midVenturesLAUNCH co-founders Jonathan Pasky and Geoff Domoracki
7:10pm Panel Discussion with:
Nik Rokop // IIT University Technology Park
Brian Luerrsen // Excelerate Labs
Jonathan Schuster // Sproutbox
Fred Hoch // TechNexus
Millie Tadewaldt // Sandbox Industries
Dar Caldwell // Goldstein Caldwell
8:00pm Open Networking

To attend the Incubator Panel, it’s free! We just need your name, and attendance is limited. Register.

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Entpreneur-in-Residence Phil Leslie featured in Crain’s Chicago Business

In a recent Crain’s Chicago Business article, Phil Leslie reveals the secret to ProOnGo’s success and longevity in the mobile market: “[We focus] on making money within [the] app, not at the initial point of purchase.”

Phil Leslie is the Knapp Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence. As such, he often works closely with and hires IIT students to work with him on mobile application development.


AwareNet: Helping You Help Others

In her diary Anne Frank remarked, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” and Shayok Mukhopadhyay, Yamini Girey, and Krishna Rao Vijayanagar (pictured below from left to right) couldn’t agree more.

AwareNet team from left to right: Shayok Mukhopadhyay, Yamini Girey, Krishna Rao Vijayanagar

Vijayanagar and Girey have recently received their master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT. Mukhopadhyay is pursuing his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Together they make up Coders Inc. and have recently won the 2010 Microsoft Imagine Cup People’s Choice Award for their project AwareNet, an online forum where non-governmental organizations, volunteers, donors and vendors can interact and share resources. The Imagine Cup competition is designed to empower students to use technology, innovation and creativity to help some of the world’s most challenging social issues as outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Vijayanagar and Girey became interested in the Imagine Cup Competition after attending Chicago Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist Krishna Kumar’s presentation at IIT in the fall of 2009. After teaming up with Mukhopadhyay, the three of them began brainstorming ways to increase enrollment in schools in rural regions. “We started looking for resources and realized it is difficult to find information to implement these ideas,” said Girey.

“Even if you want to start something, you’ll first have to find if someone already is doing such a thing over there and then you have to find volunteers and the resources. There isn’t a database or repository where you can go and easily find this information,” Vijayanagar added. Undaunted, the team saw the problem as a challenge and decided to build a social network “to connect people who are interested in volunteering or those who are already doing social welfare so that it is easy to find information and resources in a single place.”

“Putting such a platform on the Internet will enable people from all over the world to collaborate,” explained Mukhopadhyay. “Look what Wikipedia has become. Everyone contributed to it and now it is an indispensable resource. Why not do that for welfare?”

AwareNet, which is aimed at bringing together NGOs, volunteers, donors and vendors can be particularly useful in major emergencies, to enable organizations to better coordinate and plan rescue operations through AwareNet. Users can register and provide criteria about their wants and needs, research the available opportunities, and reach out to other users.

A unique feature of AwareNet is “Connectivity”, a project management tool. Using graph theory, Connectivity monitors communications between people to determine whether the task is heading in the right direction. As a result, Connectivity enables volunteers to be more successful in managing their projects.

The Coders’s work over the course of the semester came to fruition. Public support for AwareNet topped that of the other nine nominated teams in the national finals competition and led to Coders winning the People’s Choice Awards.

“We would like to thank the IIT and Georgia Tech communities, and our friends and relatives back home for supporting us during this event and helping us win the People’s Choice Award,” said Vijayanagar. “ We also thank Krishna Kumar, who helped us immensely at the competition and was a great source of guidance.”

To keep AwareNet sustainable, Coders Inc. wants to commercialize Connectivity to other venues, such as healthcare and information technology companies. The team plans to fully develop AwareNet in the coming months and commercialize the venture.

Visit the AwareNet blog for the latest details and you can also see their Facebook page at

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Method to the Madness: IIT Institute of Design’s Brains, Behavior and Design Group

When Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t,” he was onto something. Indeed, research in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics shows that our irrational behavior follows patterns. We don’t always make rational decisions or choose the option in our own best interest. We often overeat, text while driving, or fail to take advantage of our 401(k) plans. How do we actually make decisions? We rely on mental shortcuts to help us quickly evaluate information.

A group of six Masters of Design students from IIT Institute of Design took this concept to the next level during a year-long capstone project in 2009-2010.

Brains Behavior and Design Team

Nikki Pfarr, Ann Hintzman, Van Vuong, Miguel Cervantes, Jennifer Lee and Jerad Lavey wanted to explore how insights from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics could be used to design better products, services, experiences and business strategies.

Cognitive psychology is concerned with the study of memory, language processing, perception and problem solving. Some practical applications of cognitive research include ways to improve memory and methods to increase decision-making accuracy. Behavioral economics explores how social, cognitive, and emotional factors influence the way people consider trade-offs, options, and priorities when making decisions.

The IIT Institute of Design team has developed the Brains, Behavior and Design (BB&D) Toolkit to take behavioral economics findings out of the lab and apply them to develop robust and effective solutions. The BB&D Toolkit was created to help designers quickly understand and apply research on people’s irrational decision making. The kit makes decision-making concepts more accessible and actionable to the general population and provides a great new lens for the design process.

The BB&D Toolkit features several tools, ranging from Reference Cards that help explain basic behavioral economics concepts to Strategy Cards with ways to change user behavior. The toolkit is available for free download at

The BB&D Toolkit has also become the foundation of ongoing educational workshops. Having attended one of the workshops, I can attest that the tools have the greatest impact when introduced through hands-on engagement. Working with the toolkit helps embed this new information in your mind so that you know when and how to use it.

Upcoming workshops focus on the effects of loss and time on consumer decision making, along with new methods for designing more appealing offerings. The workshop is intended for designers, design researchers, industry leaders and others interested in creating more desirable products, services and strategies that really reflect the way people make decisions. The team is also developing online learning modules and group facilitation guides to give the hands-on value of the workshop remotely.

Be sure to visit here to learn more about the workshops and here to learn more about the Brains, Behavior and Design Group.

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iPhone Developer Contest – $500 Prize

IIT-KEC is pleased to announce an iPhone Developer contest sponsored by Fig1, Inc. and their client Shakespeare Squared, LLC.

Two winners, each awarded a $500 prize!

Each winner’s names will be listed in the app description in the Apple iTunes App store.
Show your family, friends and future employers what you did.

Contest Format

Current IIT students ONLY!

  • Pick 1 of 2 apps to build.
  • Students will have 3 weeks to build the app and submit it.
  • The apps will be judged by Fig1 and IIT professors.
  • The winning apps will receive a $500 prize (there will be 2 prizes available – 1 for each app).
  • Students can compete alone or they can work in teams (and split the prize).

Important Dates

  • Register by July 30, 10:00 a.m.
  • Contest begins August 2, 9:00 a.m.
  • Contest ends August 23, 6:00 p.m.
  • Winners announced by September 8
  • Winners will receive their $500 award at an IIT-KEC fall event (date TBD)

Materials/Information Provided

We invite you to take our app ideas and make them even better. Have fun! Be creative!

  • PowerPoint showing the screen details and functionality required. Some suggested data structures will also be provided.
  • Images for the app background and in app images, icons. Content needed for the app.
  • Contact person’s email to use for questions and to submit the app.
  • Server space, if needed.
  • UDID of judges so that the final apps can be loaded and tested.

Register Now

This is your chance to show potential employers what you can do!

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