David Pidwell Works with Students

As students entered Dr. Luke Pittaway’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class last Wednesday sporting backwards baseball caps, sweatshirts, and jeans, most people wouldn’t guess that a venture capitalist was the class’s guest speaker. David Pidwell, a two-time OHIO alumnus and partner at the investment firm Alloy Ventures, came to Campus to offer insight and critiques to student startup business ideas.  “Having someone of David’s stature engage with the students really makes the exercise tangible,” said Pittaway.  “Suddenly, they see the possibilities transfer from the classroom to the outside world.  It’s quite powerful.”

If students were not impressed by his sale of multiple billion-dollar companies, Pidwell’s first anecdote provided some perspective when he shared a favorite story about two former MBA students.  They had participated in a similar startup project at Stanford, and went on to found a company based on the ideas generated in the project.  The name of the company may be familiar—Google.  “You never know,” said Pidwell, “you could launch a “Google” and have great success.”Pidwell

Great success is what one of the teams is hoping for.  Alex Bradfish (’15), Thad Dixon (’15), Kelly Biederman (’15), Brady Cummings (’15), and Dylan Maloni (’16) pitched their idea for a device that integrates home systems wirelessly by using Wi-Fi to turn on the shower, start the coffee, and other home tasks.  “It’s pretty sweet that [Pidwell] is here listening to our ideas,” said Dixon, “he really guided us through the process to set up the product.  He made us think through every part of our plan.”

Mr. Pidwell holds a B.S. in electrical engineering (’69) and an M.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering (‘70) from Ohio University.  He continued his education at Stanford University and remains an instructor in the Stanford MBA program.  In addition to his responsibilities as an educator and investor, Mr. Pidwell is the Inaugural Entrepreneurial Fellow for Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and has founded several technology companies.

Consulting Fellows San Francisco Trip

Early this January seniors from Ohio University Consulting Fellows took their annual trip. This year brought them to San Francisco, where they spoke with OHIO alumni at Xactly Corp., Apple, Google, Facebook, Zynga, and Twitter. The seniors, Kathryn McDermott, Hayden Humphrey, Nicholas Ferrara, Kailey Copelin, and Nicole Byrne had the opportunity to tour the companies, ask questions, and network with current employees. They were also able to immerse themselves in an entirely new business environment.

Ohio University’s College of Business offers a great deal of resources with a corporate focus. Traditional working environments, however, may not be the perfect fit for all business majors. Hayden Humphrey, an Honors Tutorial College business major, recalls an experience doing an IT audit. A company representative told him and the other students, “I don’t know how you guys do this—it’s really boring.” The other students laughed politely, but Humphrey remembers thinking, “No, this is really boring. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to be in this type of environment.”

IMG_0326Consulting Fellows is one place to find an alternative; it provides students the opportunity to advise real clients on business and strategic issues and offers valuable networking through programs such as the senior networking trip.

“I joined because I have always been the person who is afraid of a cubicle life plagued by doing the same thing every day,” said Nicholas Ferrara, a management information systems (MIS) and strategic leadership major.

This trip expanded the students’ knowledge of possible workplace environments by immersing them in the laid-back but highly innovative world of social media, offering possibilities suited to a wider variety of students.

“It’s really interesting to see how different West Coast companies are from East Coast companies,” said Humphrey. “When you think about the types of companies that are on the East Coast, it’s a lot more financial services-oriented, insurance, Wall Street, a lot more fashion-oriented. It’s a little bit more based on who you are, how much you have, and what your rank is. The West Coast is a lot different: a little more idealistic, a little more how-can-we-change-the-world.”

Kathryn McDermott, an MIS and entrepreneurship major and managing director of Consulting Fellows at the time of the trip, was particularly struck by the difference in the everyday work environment. “It was just very relaxed,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a company culture you don’t usually see. You think of suits and business people but you go there [Silicon Valley] and these people are in jeans and flip-flops and t-shirts and its totally casual.”

This type of relaxed company culture is indicative of the high importance companies like Google and Facebook place on the happiness of their employees. Google makes an impressive profit margin, and spends this money by creating the very work environment that impressed the Consulting Fellows students. Employees can live anywhere in the San Francisco area and expect a Google bus, equipped with wi-fi, to pick them up for their commute. Once at work they can enjoy a fully equipped gym, an infinity pool, and food from restaurants and coffee shops, all free and conveniently located on the campus. Employees can even bring their families to visit, and dogs are always welcome.

Facebook adopts a similar approach. When asked about their favorite part of the trip, almost all of the students mentioned walking inside Facebook’s headquarters. “We’ve already been to four companies that day so nothing too special,” said Kailey Copelin, a sports management and MIS major. “So we walk through the building, and the first thing I notice as we’re walking through is this bank in the office building. And then we go outside and it’s like a town—they have a dentist, a barber, and an actual arcade. It was like one strip of tech Disney World. It was awesome.”

Humphrey, Copelin, McDermott, and Ferrara all report interest in working for the companies they visited, and recall advice from the Ohio University alumni they met. McDermott appreciated one reminder in particular. “Your first job means nothing about the rest of your life. If you hate it, work there for a few years, make the best of it, learn something from it, and move on,” one alum told her.

Overall, the trip reassured the Consulting Fellows that there are many possible paths to finding success. With relaxed expectations for starting out and a greater appreciation for the options they have to shape their careers, the seniors look forward to providing such opportunities to future members of Consulting Fellows. McDermott reports the group hopes to begin funding smaller trips to Cincinnati or Columbus for its younger members. Discussions about the next senior networking trip have also begun, with New York City mentioned as a tentative destination.

Article Written By: Hannah Koerner

APTE Summit – Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship

APTEAre you interested in Social Entrepreneurship? This exciting event is for you! A summit put on by The Ohio State University students aims to leverage business as a force for good. Profit, Purpose, Progress is this years theme. Social Entrepreneurs will share their stories, and you should be there to hear them on Saturday February 28th in the Wexner Center. Don’t pass on a great opportunity to network and share ideas. Below is the list of events:

  • 7 speakers who have been featured by The Huffington Post, CBS, Ashoka, and the Guardian
  • 5 exciting new social enterprises with innovative solutions and big visions
  • An Innovation Marketplace to meet social enterprises in Columbus
  • Networking with students and professionals in the Columbus area

Click here to register!

Spotlight: Faculty Member Michelle Ferrier’s Team Wins Hackathon

Michelle Ferrier, the Associate Dean for Innovation, Research/Creative Activity and Graduate Studies in Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, recently won a top hackathon prize with her team.

The Hackathon followed a summit on women news entrepreneurs and the challenges that women face in the news. The mission was to hack the problems that women in news face.

After laboring for a full day, almost nonstop, the group was between ideas. It was either troll busting or a virtual business accelerator. The virtual business accelerator would provide services to business founders that could not travel to a new location where accelerator services are available. This virtual accelerator was designed to give education and support to businesses in any community.

After a precious hour of discussion, the idea that won out was troll busting. This issue is one that affects women directly and across the board, particularly women in the public eye such as women news entrepreneurs. The internet trolls work to shut down both women’s voices and services online.

The diversity of the team highlighted the importance of the troll busting project. The issue of women being silenced is pervasive all over the world. The troll buster program can transcend cultural boundaries.

The idea had three levels of service

  1. A URL for when you are under attack. It will send an SOS message to followers to come “send love” to the people under attack on the news site. This allows supporters to flood the feed with positivity to overwrite the trolls’ attacks.
  2. The SWOT team approach is the second step. The goal would be to identify troll nests. This can be done through natural language processing to find the community of people using hate messages so that SOS messages can direct people to those feeds.
  3. The last level directs women to other resources online such as the legal and psychological services that may help to combat trolls and ways to find solutions to the problems.

Judges from companies like Google and the International Women’s Foundation judged the 9 teams that pitched the ideas in New York. Michelle’s team won one of the top prizes of $3000.

Three of the five original team members are continuing with the project. The next steps are structuring the project so that it is accessible to everyone and raises awareness and support. They will start crowd sourcing soon to raise money for this noble project.

Why should you participate in a Hackathon?

It’s emotional. You go through all of the emotions of being a startup in a very condensed amount of time. It is a very real way of experiencing what it means to take an idea from start to finish. It is a very powerful experience.

Another experience that is very beneficial is Startup Weekend. Check it out.

Preview: Stev Guyer

stevOn March 9, 2015, live performance innovator Stev Guyer will visit Ohio University as the next speaker in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Guest Lecture Series.  Guyer’s presence will take the series in a more artistic direction than previous speakers, who include Cameron Mitchell of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of reddit.com.

As founder of Shadowbox Live, Guyer has worked on the company’s 15 annual performances—which include everything from original rock operas to contemporary dance—as director and producer for over 25 years.  His work has made Shadowbox Live evolve into the largest resident theater company in America.

The company is heavily involved in its local community of Columbus, Ohio, collaborating on art exhibitions with the Columbus Museum of Art and donating almost $200,000 in tickets to local charities through Shadowbox Gives Back.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception in Baker Center Theater. At 7 p.m. Guyer will take the stage to begin his presentation.  Like past guest lecturers, he will hold a Q&A session after his talk to answer questions from students.

For more information on Shadowbox Live, visit their website at: http://www.shadowboxlive.org/

To see recaps and video of previous guest lecture events, see: http://bobcat-entrepreneur.com/2014/03/03/photo-recap-of-oureddit-wtpbook-tour/ or http://bobcat-entrepreneur.com/2014/01/27/cameron-mitchell-president-restaurant-company/