The Hitchhiker's Guide to Dayton Tech & Startups

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Dayton Tech & Startups

Help KickStart a new Dayton Startup, Neet Seat

Finally. A place to store your things at the game or concert. Millions of fans each year attend games, concerts, and other live events but have no space for storage of personal items.  Coats, purses, hats, gloves, blankets, sunglasses, keys, wallets, phones, etc. are either stored on the floor, held in your lap, or placed in your pocket, leaving you feeling uncomfortable and inconvenienced as you take in the show.  

The Neet Seat is a first-of-its-kind device that easily slips over a stadium or arena seat and provides a place to store your items, keeping them clean and providing you a greater level of comfort as you watch. This patent-pending product is easy to install and easily transportable. Just fold it up and put it in your pocket.  So free your hands, relax, and enjoy the show – with the Neet Seat. 

Zach McHale, the founder of Neet Seat took home the $25,000 prize at this year's Flyer Pitch competition. He's now ready to take his business to the next level and is using KickStarter for market validation of his stadium storage solution. 

Neet Seat is on pace to exceed its $5,000 goal with just under a month to go in its campaign and under $1,000 left to raise. You can be one of the first to score this awesome product for as little as a $25 pledge on KickStarter. Zach hopes to start shipping in November--which is just in time for those who want to #GiveDayton this holiday season!

How to Slay a Giant

This post originally appeared on Marty's Turf blog on the website Gravely.


Marty Grunder, Owner of Grunder Landscaping. 

Marty Grunder, Owner of Grunder Landscaping. 

I often hear from smaller or younger landscaping companies who want to know how in the world they can keep from losing out on coveted jobs to the big guys in their market. They don’t have the big outfits’ advertising budgets or the instant name recognition that comes with them, and they don’t have their impressive operational facilities or seemingly endless fleets of trucks. How, they ask, can they possibly compete?

I understand their concern, but it’s worth remembering it was David who slew Goliath—a daring young guy managed to take down an armored giant by aiming his slingshot just so and hitting his opponent at his most vulnerable spot.

If you’re a smaller or younger company who wants to compete with the giants, you need to take aim at what they can’t do as well as you. Then find your slingshot and fire away.

Be responsive. When prospects call for a consult, get right back to them and—assuming they’re a good fit for your company—offer to come out that day. If they need a project done right away, work overtime to meet their deadline. If there’s a problem with a job, go to the property yourself to address it and move mountains to make it right. If a client calls you in a panic because they have a tree limb down in their yard and a party that starts in an hour, help them clear it and don’t charge them for it. The bigger a company gets, the harder it becomes to stay responsive and nimble. Use your smaller size, and the flexibility that comes with it, to your advantage.

Be personal. Cultivate your relationships with prospects and clients and show them they’re not just a name and a number to your company. Send them handwritten thank-you notes. Remember their interests and milestones. Maybe they mentioned in conversation their love for Ohio State football; work the team logo into your design plans. Come across a book you think they’d find interesting? Amazon it to them. Stop by on occasion to check in on them and their property. Cell phones and email are convenient but nothing can compete with the personal touch.

Be exceptional. Always exceed your clients’ expectations every step of the way. Look around at the jobsite where you’re working. Are there tasks that wouldn’t take your crew long to accomplish but would catch your client’s eye? Could you air-sweep all the hard surfaces, not just the ones you dirtied? Could you add seasonal color? Plant some bulbs? On a slow day, send your crew over to your top clients’ properties to do mini-cleanups. Taking these extra steps will cost you much less than it will pay you—not only will it earn you your clients’ loyalty, but it’ll also get you the best advertising of all: word of mouth.

Be confident. No small part of competing with the big guys is believing you can and making others believe in you. Dress neatly, keep your trucks clean, and deliver professional proposals. Hire a professional photographer to capture your work in the best light and feature the images on your website. It only takes a few impressive pictures and some flattering testimonials for prospects to form their initial opinion of you and for you to get your foot in the door.

Now go get your slingshots ready!


Marty's Turf is a monthly column written by Industry Business Consultant and Owner of Grunder Landscaping, Marty Grunder. Each month, Marty provides a piece of business advice for Gravely landscapers to help grow their businesses. For more information about Marty and his services, please visit www.martygrunder.com.

The Dayton Arcade Team Wants your Opinions!

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The series of announcements in April regarding the redevelopment of the Dayton Arcade were some of the biggest news stories of the year. The former shopping center is planned to be redeveloped over the next several years and become a hub for arts, entertainment, and innovation-- Check out Miller Valentine's website for floor plans & renderings of the space!

Our friends at Indigo Life are working with the developers of the Dayton Arcade to help them understand more about the community's interests & desires. This survey is an opportunity to directly engage in the redevelopment plans and impact decisions being made about the future of the Arcade.

If you haven't been following along, here are the series of articles that ran in April: 

 

Looking for office space in Dayton? Here's a solution.

Activated Spaces is now accepting applications for the Pop Up Office Project. This new program builds on the success of the Pop Up Shop Project, which was launched in 2011 to activate first floor storefronts. Selected Pop Up Office tenants will receive a short-term lease option for downtown office space, a small stipend to help offset startup costs, as well as professional services support from the volunteer team.

Interested business owners should fill out an application, which can be done online at www.activatedspaces.org, or downloaded and emailed to Jen Cadieux at cadieux@downtowndayton.org. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, August 25.

This round of the Pop Up Office Project will host up to three companies in recently renovated space on the eighth floor of Liberty Tower (120 W. Second St.). The Activated Spaces team has partnered with the ownership at Liberty Tower to remodel a traditional office suite into an open, non-traditional, collaborative space. Project supporter, Business Furniture, has kindly loaned office furniture to outfit the space as well as donated their time for space planning and layout of the Pop Up Office.

Started in 2011, the Activated Spaces Pop Up Shop Project has launched 24 new businesses (15 of which stayed open past their initial pop up period), filled approximately 21,000 SF of previously vacant space, and created 41 jobs. As this program continues to celebrate success, volunteers looked at other ways to continue to support downtown’s revitalization. Thus far, Activated Spaces has been focused on activating first floor, retail space by providing tenants with a short-term lease and below market value lease rates. Now the program will also activate office space through a shared office model.

Since 2011, more than 120 startups have launched downtown. Several recent initiatives and projects are building on this momentum, including Start Downtown, Dayton Startup Week, the plans for the Dayton Arcade, and partnerships between The Entrepreneurs Center, the Air Force Research Lab, and the Wright Brothers Institute. The Pop Up Office Project is envisioned as another resource that will help provide a supportive environment for the growing downtown startup community.

The Activated Spaces Pop Up Project is driven by volunteers from the young professional organizations UpDayton and Generation Dayton, with support from the Downtown Dayton Partnership and other community volunteers. Activated Spaces is part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, a strategic blueprint for the future of downtown.

Those interested in volunteering with Activated Spaces should e-mail activatedspaces@gmail.com.

Local Startup Semifinalist for $1M Prize

Local startup Skuld, LLC announced is officially a semifinalist in the 43North startup competition. The Tipp City startup are in the running for a portion of $5 million in startup funding to be awarded. The competition, in its fourth year, is part of the state of New York’s Buffalo Billions economic development effort focused on growing the economy of Buffalo. 

In 2015, there were 11,350 entries which took over three thousand hours to review. After changing to a stringent demanding data driven entry process, this year there were over five hundred entries and 134 companies advanced to the semifinals. Skuld was the only semifinalist from Ohio. More than a quarter of the semifinalists were from New York. 23 were from California and 9 were from Massachusetts.

Skuld, LLC is focused on disrupting the metal casting industry. They are the only company in the United States offering near net shape steel lost foam castings and are the only known company in the world offering this technology in stainless and low carbon steels. Skuld also offers thin walled ductile iron going down as thin as 0.070” which gives it the ability to use castings to replace stampings.

Their most innovative process is their Additive Manufacturing Evaporative Casting process. In this process they use 3D printing to replace expensive tooling by 3D printing a plastic form which is then vaporized during the casting process to leave behind an exact replica. They are presenting more technical details on this process at the upcoming MS&T Conference this October in Pittsburgh.

Mark DeBruin, chief technical officer, explained, “Current metal 3D printing technology has limited alloys and often unpredictable properties because you are essentially microwelding together metal powder. Our process allows nearly any metal alloy to be cast and gives standard properties. Yet, it still permits you to eliminate tooling and go from computer drawing directly to obtaining a part.”

Later in July, Skuld will have twenty-five minutes to pitch their business plan to representatives of the startup competition in hopes of advancing to the October finals. The top prize winner will obtain $1 million in startup capital while second place gets $600K and third through eighth places receive $500K. All eight top winners will also continue to compete for another $300,000 in follow-on financing.

We will continue to follow Skuld on their journey in the 43North competition!

July Dayton Startup Grind Recap - Eric Fulkert

The following post originally appeared on new Startup Grind Dayton Chapter Ambassador & Dayton Tech Guide intern Austin Rain's LinkedIn. Access the original post here.


Did you miss the July Dayton Startup Grind fireside chat with Eric Fulkert? That’s ok, we forgive you!

Who’s Eric Fulkert? He is the CEO of Campus Suite, a school communication platform and is also the COO of Soundstr, a hardware device that helps businesses pay fairer music licensing fees based on actual music usage. Soundstr recently landed $1 million in early-stage equity funding to support their endeavor to disrupt the music industry.

Eric’s been self-employed since he was 22 years old. He leverages that experience, as well as his knowledge of software and hardware ventures to provide insight and advice to startups that are navigating the path of technological entrepreneurship. He does this through Founder’s Institute in Cincinnati, advising startups and walking them through the steps of building a business that will last.

Now that you’ve got the run-down on his background, here are some highlights from the event:

Eric shared the importance of “knowing your customer’s customer”. If you know how your customer works and who they serve, you are better able to solve the problems they are facing.

He also spoke about managing remote teams. Campus Suite has numerous team members in several different countries. Eric spoke about the importance of clear communication and the tools that have helped his team grow. “With clear expectations and honesty, we have been able to build a great team”, he said.

Along those lines, he mentioned that it is “critical to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and then support that team once they are there”. He went on to describe how valuable it is to be available to your team. “If you’re not accessible, you won’t see the opportunities that are waiting there for you. If you make yourself approachable and accessible there are amazing things that can happen for all parties”.

In one part of his talk, Eric shared his opinion on the key quality of a successful entrepreneur. “Being comfortable with risk is by far one of the most important characteristics you can have. You are going out and putting it all on the line. If you aren’t comfortable with that risk, you probably aren’t fit for entrepreneurship”.

When asked to share a process that he practices every day, Eric highlighted BPMN (business process model & notation), a tool he uses to understand all businesses. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand business and technological processes. If you can map out a process from beginning to end, which helps you understand problems and find solutions to those problems, you will be golden.”

Lastly, what does the future look like for Eric? He’s eager to continue raising money for Soundstr as well as welcoming the fall cohort for Cincinnati Founder’s Institute. 

Also, a shout out to our venue sponsor - SparkBox, for providing a great atmosphere for the entrepreneurs and Dayton community attendees.

To check out our future events, click here.

Austin Rains, Startup Grind Dayton Chapter Ambassador

Meet the next generation of occupancy sensors

**The following blog post is from GreenSpace and originally appears at https://greenspace.blog/


The simplest, most affordable, and comprehensive package yet.

We decided that we’ve been sitting on this little secret of ours long enough. We are proud to introduce to the world our proprietary sensor! Thought our system architecture was simple before? We just upped the ante – unlike traditional systems that require multiple types of costly sensors, we’ve built an affordable package that is capable of every occupancy sensing function you need.

 

*Final aesthetic design still under revision process

How is this possible?!

Well, we can let you in on a bit of the magic. Our brilliant electrical engineer discovered a new sensor that has yet to be utilized in our field and immediately went to work. He found that not only is it able to track occupancy, but it can track the direction of traffic.

Thought your traditional sensors could do the job just fine? While they are able to detect movement, this application is actually very limited. Since it only detects movement it is unable to tell whether a person has actually entered or left a room, only that someone had entered its line of sight. Also, since they are passive, they are only active when someone is in motion. If someone is sitting still in a room, these passive sensors would not register movement and go into a “sleep mode” which results in incorrect occupancy data, leading to what are now unnecessary errors in analytics and frustrations among team members when seeking an unoccupied space.

Our new sensors are always active meaning they’ll never skip a beat in getting the data you need. We’ve leveraged the directional sensing to double as a people counter. By strategically placing them above entranceways, the sensor is able to detect when someone is moving into or out of the space and keeps track of the number of people still in the space. When there are multiple entrances, the sensors work in tandem with each other on the backend to ensure real-time accuracy. This capability also works with open office floor plans. Simply designate the boundaries of what you will consider to be the space and we can strategically place sensors to work in tandem to specifically cover the area.

As an added bonus, we’ve added integrated lighting control to our proprietary sensors as well! Your Facility Management Team still has control over timing and how they want it to operate such as some lights remaining on for the duration of the day, lights turning on 10 minutes before a meeting or turning off 10 minutes after, etc. Adding the integrated lighting control simply means that you no longer need to have a third party lighting control system, which is one less thing you need to check off your list. You’re welcome.

For more information on these innovative new sensors and our other products, visit www.greenspacemeetings.com or email us directly at info@greenspacemeetings. We look forward to hearing from you!

Smart Cities Accelerator Deadline Extended

The deadline has been extended to July 31st for the Singularity University Smart City Accelerator in Columbus, Ohio. The accelerator funds each team at $100,000 (in exchange for 6% equity) and will accept up to 10 companies.

 

The program is focused on startups that can push the $50M Smart Columbus initiative forward in the areas of mobility, connectivity, data analytics, infrastructure/energy and manufacturing/production.

Be sure to read the original, full press release below or check out their website for more information.


 

Singularity University Launches Smart City Accelerator in Columbus, Ohio in Partnership with American Electric Power and NCT Ventures to Support Entrepreneurship

Each of Ten Selected Startups Will Be Eligible For up to $100,000 in Funding

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF., and COLUMBUS, Ohio – May 8, 2017 – Singularity University (SU), a global community with a mission to educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges, today announced it is sponsoring a Smart City Accelerator, the first program of its kind, in Columbus, Ohio, the winning city of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The SU Smart City Accelerator will drive the next wave of innovation, providing participants with the exponential technologies, tools, global network of experts, mentors, and partners they need to ensure their nascent ideas and ventures for the smart city of the future come to market faster. The goal will be better functioning cities that transform how residents and communities work and live.  

 

The smart city-focused startup accelerator begins accepting applications May 15, 2017, and will bring innovators from around the globe to Columbus in September. The Singularity University Smart City Accelerator will be supported by SU in its first long-term program outside of Silicon Valley and sponsored locally by American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and NCT Ventures. Each of the 10 selected businesses will be eligible to receive up to $100,000 in funding from NCT Ventures.

 

“The SU Smart City Accelerator will attract innovators from around the world and amplify the successes Columbus already has achieved in becoming recognized as a global center of technology and innovation,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “I view the SU Smart Cities Accelerator as a mutually supportive partner and participant of Smart Columbus, and I look forward to working with Singularity University on this transformative initiative.”

 

“When Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge, Singularity University wanted to be part of – and contribute to – the innovation ecosystem here,” said Singularity University Vice President of Corporate Innovation, Nick Davis. “One of the primary goals of Smart Columbus is to support the local entrepreneurial environment, expose local corporations and entrepreneurs to cutting-edge ideas from other cities, and provide the foundation for a sustainable link between Columbus and other innovation hubs across the world.”

 

Startups, ranging from early-stage companies with a working prototype of their products to those beginning to grow their revenue, can learn more and apply online at su.org/sca. Singularity University Accelerators are differentiated in the market by their focus on exponential thinking and technologies, as well as by the commitment SU makes to supporting innovation over the long term.

 

“We are committed to giving the innovators and entrepreneurs who participate in this world-class accelerator program full access to our community as a living laboratory so that we can learn together what business models and technologies are going to make our cities better in the future for all people,” said Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, representative of the region’s business leadership and the entity co-leading Smart Columbus alongside the City of Columbus. “There is unprecedented investment and commitment by local and national industry leaders to demonstrate in Columbus what the future can be for mid-size cities, the most prevalent city size in the world. We are proud to have SU joining the team as we embark on this journey.”

 

The SU Smart Cities Accelerator will choose 10 businesses focused on one or more of the following:

  • Mobility
  • Connectivity
  • Data and analytics
  • Infrastructure and energy
  • Manufacturing and production 

 

SU will provide help accessing  Singularity University faculty and programs, identify mentors from large companies and startups across the globe to provide expertise on industry and technology, and assign mentors to the team for which their expertise will be most valuable. Other sponsors will facilitate  web services, legal support, financial services, and tax planning for the ten businesses.

 

With Singularity University’s support, Columbus will have the opportunity to integrate West Coast innovation concepts into its existing networks. Over the past decade, business accelerator programs tailored to the unique strengths of a given community have emerged as key engines for generating innovation, new businesses and new jobs.

 

“Bringing the Singularity University (SU) Smart City Accelerator to Columbus is a catalyst for innovation and technology in Columbus, and AEP is proud to be a part of it,” said AEP CEO Nick Akins. “In fact we so believe in the benefits of SU’s Smart City Accelerator that we are sending an AEP team through it. The vision of Smart Columbus is for this community to be a center of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the SU Smart City Accelerator represents a significant step toward the realization of that vision.”

 

"This accelerator will empower entrepreneurs to leverage breakthroughs in technology, from autonomous vehicles to efficiencies made possible by object awareness, to enhance lives and improve standards of living," said Rich Langdale, Managing Partner, NCT Ventures. "The Smart Cities initiative is more than a challenge. Civilization is at a turning point and Columbus has the opportunity to promote innovation and pioneer what it means to live in a smart city of the future."

 

Organizations to Benefit from Supporting Smart Columbus Accelerator

 

Partners and sponsors of the SU Smart City Accelerator can also benefit from getting involved beyond raising awareness and linking their brands to thought leadership and innovation.  Sponsoring companies can choose to develop new products outside their traditional - often slower - R&D processes and gain the help of outside experts and resources. They will also get a first look at the most cutting-edge startups as well as possible market disruptions these startups represent, helping them to formulate better strategies for their own futures. Sponsors and partners will gain full access to all accelerator classes and presentations from subject matter experts in all areas around smart city technologies and innovation. Companies outside Columbus will gain invaluable access to the city’s existing corporate, industry and academic expertise, while local startups will benefit by forging critical relationships with entrepreneurs and thought leaders from across the country.

To learn more about how local businesses, organizations and individuals can get involved in the SU Smart Cities Accelerator as a sponsor, partner, mentor, or by investing resources, expertise or other in-kind support go to su.org/sca.

 

ABOUT SINGULARITY UNIVERSITY (SU)


Singularity University is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build an abundant future for all. SU's collaborative platform empowers individuals and organizations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions using accelerating technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital biology. SU was founded in 2008 by renowned innovators Ray Kurzweil and Peter H. Diamandis and is partnered with leading organizations including Google, Deloitte, Genentech, and UNICEF. To learn more, visit SU.org, join us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @SingularityU.

 

About Smart Columbus

 

As the sole winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Smart Cities Challenge, Columbus was awarded funding and designated America’s Smart City; but more importantly it also won the coveted job as global teacher for cities around the world on how to “become Smart” by embracing the reinvention of transportation to accelerate human progress.  Columbus received a total of $50 million in the form of two grants: $40 million from USDOT and $10 million from Vulcan, Inc., a Paul Allen company. These dollars provide the seed funding for Smart Columbus, a region-wide Smart City initiative co-led by the City of Columbus and Columbus Partnership.  The City of Columbus, under the leadership of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, is the lead recipient of the $50 million and will administer the deployment of these funds for the duration of the grant period, which concludes at the end of 2020.  The Columbus Partnership, representing the Columbus Region’s private sector, is the lead implementation partner for the grant program and is responsible for the initiative’s Acceleration Fund, which is credited as a significant factor in Columbus’ winning of the challenge. The Acceleration Fund, which started out as $90 million now totals more than $360 million and is composed of coordinated and aligned investments by the private sector to complement, scale, and sustain Smart Columbus projects and programs.  This number will continue to increase as new partnerships are formed with companies like Singularity University to reach the goal of $1 billion by 2020.

 

About AEP

 

Headquartered in Columbus, American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 224,000 miles of distribution lines. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 26,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP supplies 3,200 megawatts of renewable energy to customers.

 

About NCT Ventures

 

NCT Ventures is a Columbus-based venture capital firm dedicated to providing a platform for entrepreneurs to succeed in turning their ideas into profitable business models through hands-on operational support. Over the last 20 years, NCT has helped build many successful companies across a variety of industries. NCT empowers entrepreneurs to develop disruptive technologies that improve market efficiencies. For more information, visit http://www.nctventures.com/.

Behind the Scenes of AFRL's Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program

This article originally appeared on wpafb.af.mil.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – For nearly two decades, Joe Diemunsch played a key role on teams developing the Air Force’s combat identification capabilities. Creating better sensors for pilots to automatically confirm their targets much sooner than could be done with the naked eye, provided a satisfaction the computer engineer thought he couldn’t top.

Until now.

As the first person to officially enter the Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program, also known as EOP, Diemunsch is in the midst of a one-year sabbatical from the Air Force Research Laboratory. Launched by AFRL last fall as another pathway to commercialization, the idea is that AFRL scientists and engineers will apply their skills, and possibly an intellectual property from the lab, to start or help grow a technology company.

It’s a perfect fit for Diemunsch, who had a dozen customers for his grass cutting service as a pre-teen in the 1970s and always dreamed of owning a business.

During the EOP’s sabbatical phase, Diemunsch is exploring the possibility of applying his expertise in an Air Force technology – deep learning algorithms used for automatic target recognition – to help farmers. His thought is to build a tool that an agronomist, a crop expert, would use with data received from sensors aboard a remotely piloted aircraft to identify nutrient deficiencies, disease, pest damage and weeds.

Armed with more precise information, farmers could reduce the guesswork and traditional blanket treatment methods that lead to wasted resources. The tool could also equip the industry to better deal with anticipated new rules limiting the use of phosphorus to address problems with algal blooms in lakes and streams.

“The underlying technology has a very big potential to impact the agriculture industry,” Diemunsch said.

Behind the program

In recent years the Air Force has increased its focus on commercialization – the practice of spinning technology into the mainstream – which has several upsides. It can leverage the private sector to make big strides in technology the Department of Defense might need in the future, promote economic growth across the country and provide a revenue stream to the Air Force.

To be eligible for EOP, lab employees must agree to pursue one of three avenues: consider the possibility of licensing Air Force technology; apply their skills from the lab in a commercial role that could help solve Air Force problems; or temporarily support a business already licensing Air Force technology.

According to Ryan Helbach, chief intrapreneur for AFRL, for those pursuing the first two avenues, the EOP is split into two parts. The first phase is a sabbatical, which allows AFRL professionals to retain their pay and benefits while laying the foundation for a business. That work includes feasibility studies, lining up customers and funding, developing a business plan and possibly the creation of prototypes. The second phase is the separation of the employee from AFRL, who is then free to incorporate the business and license an Air Force technology, if desired.

The third avenue involves AFRL paying its researcher, for a specific period, to assist a business that is already licensing Air Force technology. This mutually beneficial relationship provides the company critical support for its commercialization effort while exposing the researcher to scientific advancements it can bring back to the laboratory.

AFRL has modeled EOP after a program run by Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy for more than 20 years.

“EOP is part of a larger push by AFRL to embrace the lean business mentality that is so prevalent with startup companies, from clearly focusing on solving the customers’ problems, to embracing a fail fast approach, to getting early and frequent customer input and feedback,” Helbach said. “While there is likely only to be a handful of participants in the program over a given year, the dividends and benefits will pay off in the long term for the Air Force, local communities and the nation as a whole.”

The EOP includes a takeback agreement that provides the opportunity to return to AFRL within five years of leaving. Lowering the risk provides more incentive for scientists and engineers to commercialize technology.

AFRL employees have the option to take the sabbatical and return to work for a period of time before making the decision to separate. Diemunsch, for example, plans to return to his job within the Sensors Directorate before making his decision on whether to leave the lab, secure a technology license and launch a business. In addition to spurring commercialization, the program is expected to be a recruiting tool for the next generation of AFRL engineers and scientists, many of whom have been exposed to the entrepreneurial mindset, while providing new opportunities to the existing world class scientists and engineers at the lab.

“EOP is a groundbreaking opportunity for AFRL researchers,” said Air Force Technology Transfer Program Manager Keith Quinn. “It touches several key Air Force personnel and technology issues:  motivating new entrepreneurial-minded researchers; energizing current employees to expand their thinking about research; pushing AFRL technology into the commercial marketplace; and creating jobs and new small businesses.”

For AFRL employees who choose to license intellectual property from the laboratory, EOP relies on an official mechanism that has long since been in place.

Patent License Agreements, also known as PLAs, are facilitated by the Air Force Technology Transfer Program and its affiliated Office of Research and Technology Applications and its Partnership Intermediaries. Each year, the Air Force signs approximately 30 to 40 licenses, which contribute to maximizing the use of Air Force technology in the economy, creating new businesses and job opportunities and stimulating research.


Original article: Out of the lab and into the front office: Researchers boosting Air Force technology commercialization through new path to business ownership

By Joe Cogliano, AFRL Small Business Office and Mindy Cooper, Air Force Technology Transfer Program / Published June 14, 2017

Guest Post: Marathon training & innovation have a lot in common

By Ryan Helbach, Chief Intrapreneur, AFRL

A few weekends ago I completed my second full marathon, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. Since I had plenty of time to think during the race and training, I wanted to talk about some parallels between the marathon and my work as the Chief Intrapreneur for the Air Force Research Laboratory. With a marathon people only see or hear snippets of the full effort that goes into the actual day of the race. As folks that have done any type of endurance activity can attest, it is not just about the actual race but there is 5-6 months of training that leads up to that the actual event. People don’t see the ups and downs, the pain, struggles, and doubts, or even solitary beautiful sunrises. The race itself is actually nothing (yes 26.2 miles is nothing, just ask an ultra-marathoner…) more than one more moment in that long sweep to bring an idea to reality.

It is very exciting and easy to come up with new ideas, and I am approached regularly with great ideas about new projects or ways to make the Air Force or AFRL a better place. But what people often fail to realize is that the process of generating the idea is only 5% of the effort and that it is the fun part of the equation! It is fun to dream and imagine what could be but it is a long tough process to bring an idea to reality, to get to the finish line. It is the day in and day out, the sacrifices that have to be made in the trade-offs with other opportunities and ideas that have to be skipped or postponed.

One of those ideas that we have been working on for over 2 years is AFRL’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Program (EOP). The EOP supports AFRL’s technology transfer mission by providing entrepreneurialism to our scientists and engineers as a viable mechanism for maturing promising AFRL technologies into commercial products that benefit both national security and economic prosperity. As with any new idea there are lots of grueling moments fighting to keep the vision alive, there is doubt and low points where you think that the idea is going to die (or you secretly want it to die so you can move on to the next big idea). But it is the little victories and the constant belief that it is an idea worth pursuing that really brings an idea to fruition.  The program has formally been in place for a little over a year and we are starting to see some successes with the program.

EOP is just one option that we are pursuing to disrupt the paradigm.  We are working with entrepreneurs and college students to create companies founded around AFRL intellectual property, the AFRL Maker Hub will be turning 1 this fall, we are working with commercial technology accelerators, we are embedding our folks at startups and innovative companies, we are championing hackathons and open innovation challenges and we are creating new environments to expand who we work with and how we work.

The beauty of a marathon is there is a discrete finish line. With some many things we work on in AFRL there is no true finish line, as we are constantly learning, experimenting and improving. So we will keep introducing new ideas and we will continue to improve AFRL and the AF because if you are not pushing the boundaries you will be left behind. 


This post originally appeared on Ryan's LinkedIn. Ryan leads the intrapreneur movement within AFRL and created SHIFT AFRL within the AFRL organization, creating a more vibrant, energetic workplace; improving culture of ingenuity and innovation within AFRL; & forging a more interconnected 21st century workplace