Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

Teamwork: The Backbone of EncepHeal Therapeutic’s Initial Success

Thursday, June 22, 2017 10:32 pm

I, along with an NC State undergraduate student, are the first two interns at EncepHeal Therapeutics. Despite their small and young team, this company has already made great progress since they pitched their business idea just a couple of years ago. Their smooth and seemingly effortless progression is largely due to the Wake Forest University-affiliated science and business advisors who serve as mentors to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Science Officer (CSO), both who are under the age of 35. Some may think it to be a disadvantage to work for such a small company, but I would argue against this. Being an intern for an organization with a team of less than 20 members brings exciting responsibility with involvement in a variety of tasks. There is also a lot of visibility and the opportunity to closely collaborate with the other employees who are experts in their respective field.

On a weekly basis we have both business and science meetings that we are required to attend. More or less for everything else that the company is involved in, we are just encouraged to be a part of those activities and events. I think that both us interns are just so excited to be a part of this opportunity that we don’t even think twice about whether we’re going to attend something. We want to be familiar with every angle of how the company operates. It’s fairly easy to desire to be involved in all operations when we work under the leadership of such an amazing management team. The CEO and CSO delegate and oversee all of our tasks, but everyone is always in communication through email, phone-in meetings, and Google Drive. I think the communication between members of the management team is a huge strength that has been prevalent since the first day I started this internship. What helps drive this communication is that all of the work is transparent, with everyone having access to information surrounding the business and science aspect of the business. It’s easy to notice how passionate everyone is about the potential of this company. This is partly reflected by the constant welcoming of opinions on every matter discussed, without having only one person domineering a discussion.

EncepHeal Therapeutics is very team-oriented. As I mentioned before, there are weekly business and science meetings. The CEO and CSO are always present at both of these, so that they’re familiar first-hand with every decision made. Since this is a relatively young company, the management team consists of business advisors with extensive experience in the entrepreneurship realm, as well as a Chief Research Officer who has over 30+ years of experience in biochemical neuropharmacology. They give their expertise advice and knowledge in the meetings, but first listen to what the CEO and CSO have to say so that they too can learn to be independent leaders. Shortly after the meetings take place, the respective officer will email the team with a follow-up of what was discussed and what needs to be done moving forward. Google Drive is a very effective means to keeping everyone up-to-date with past, current, and future work. On the Drive are presentations that were given in meetings, financially-related documents like which venture funds would be best to contact first and why, organizational documents such as prioritization of tasks for the next week, etc.

Every task seems to be done in a timely manner, and this is partly due to the fact that there is no set 9am-5pm work day. For example, the other week the CEO and CSO were waiting on a response from a Program Loan they wanted to apply to. They were contacted two days before the application due date, and the CEO was away on vacation at this time. The application was already started at this point, but the additional information necessary for submission required the CEO to spend his vacation time finishing it up. At a professional level where everyone is busy handling so many jobs, it can’t be expected that everyone is going to be very reliable. To be a successful leader in a company, especially at a young age, you really have to know how to prioritize and sacrifice!

Stay tuned for how EncepHeal Therapeutics got funding to start the company and what the process looks like to continually support the pipeline of biotechnology organizations.

 

Higher Art Galleries week #4

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 9:45 pm

This week Higher Art Galleries has put all of our effort into creating a business proposal and content creation.

Our goal is to publish our content on a reimagined www.higherartgalleries.com that acts more as a hub for all things art and emerging art related, and less of a normal online gallery. As a result, our content will represent our new vision. The content will range from anything from an online video tutorial for painting techniques to our top 10 favorite art blogs. While our content will be honest and true to our core values as a brand, we want to expand our revenue stream to include paid advertising that we can integrate into our content and platform.

Since we have made a lot of changes to our business lately, customer discover is extremely important for us right now. Tomorrow (Thursday) we will be interviewing local emerging artists to test our hypothesis and narrow down our company vision.

Friday we have a very important meeting with a powerful figure who is an expert in the digital advertising and paid advertising field. We have conducted research on his area of expertise and have come up with a list of questions in order to get the most out of our meeting.

Next week I will have a full update on our customer discoveries and meeting recap!

Hurry Up and Wait

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 3:46 pm

The main challenge facing SimpullCork right now is responding to the office action on our patent. This is difficult to me as a founder because this process is largely out of my hands, given the fact that I am far from a patent attorney. At this point, I must trust that we have assembled the best team to respond effectively to our office action. I try to be as active as possible reading drafts and providing my input to ensure that our vision of the product remains constant through the whole patenting process.

In the meantime, I am focusing on our path forward after our response is filled. This involves researching the wine industry landscape and determining which path would best suit our company to introduce our product to the market. I am fortunate to have great mentors and advisors to help counsel me through this process, as well as use their personal connections to afford me the opportunity to ask questions to industry experts. Though we are in a phase of hurry up and wait, I am staying focused on the end goal!

Week 6 at P.S. Snacks

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 12:33 am

The biggest challenge facing P.S. Snacks currently is that we cannot meet our increasing demand. Since we are starting to sell in new stores, online, as well as at events; more and more consumers are becoming interested in the P.S. Snacks company and product. Though in theory this is a good issue to have, it is very difficult to deal with because it is a lot of “wait and see”. The solution to this issue is to move into a co-packer facility where they would produce our Cookie Dough for us, thereby increasing supply dramatically. This would also allow a few of us on the team to focus on other tasks that use our specific skill sets. Though we have found candidates for co-packing, with this change, we may also have to change our labels, packaging, etc. to cooperate with the co-packer’s policies and norms. All of these minute tasks take time as well as trial and error, but hopefully it is resolved in the near future so that P.S. Snacks can move into the next phase.

The key competitors for P.S. Snacks are other health-conscious cookie doughs or desserts that cater to dietary restrictions and allergies. Especially in the market we are selling in, these products are becoming more and more popular with new ventures being created all the time. We are able to compete with these products due to our unique ingredients and the genuine story behind the brand. Another group of competitors for us is brands that sell protein bars, nut butters, and other good-for-you treats. When doing a demo pitch, we combat these competitors by explaining to our consumers how our product is a great “any time of day” treat and meets almost every dietary limitation. Additionally, we have marketing materials that show the versatility of the product as well as the transparency of our ingredients. The P.S. Snacks products are very unique while also being something familiar (i.e. Cookie Dough) which I believe will beat our competitors in the long run.

WeWork Week 2

Monday, June 19, 2017 1:53 pm

My second week at WeWork was every bit as exciting as the first! I was put onto some new projects and got further involved on some existing projects. I’m learning more and more about how the companies works and have gotten exposed to some really inspiring people. I already find this experience changing how I will approach goals in my career.

Last Thursday my team had a team building dinner at Catch in NYC. Here I got to know all of my co-workers, who range in age from 22 to 26. I’m really grateful to work with such a young team because everyone is so relatable. Despite their young age however, these people are some of the most passionate and driven coworkers I’ve ever had. They all whole-heartedly believe in WeWork’s mission. Some of my team members forwent jobs at prestigious firms because they’d rather work at a company that puts community and wellness first. That idea really resonated with me, as the entire atmosphere here at WeWork is that of people who are authentic, and collaborative, yet entrepreneurially driven.

One of the things I love most about my day-to-day work here in Chelsea is how integral I feel to my team’s success. I’m getting to work on everything from sourcing clients to building proposals to editing final contracts. I’m really lucky that in just two short weeks I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn and fully understand the sales cycle from conception to close. In the coming weeks I hope to learn even more about the back end of sales — What methods do we use to source clients and how could these be better? What goes into our pricing model? What’re our margins? How do we keep clients happy and do clients typically purchase more offices after a sale – if not, how can we improve on that? In the meantime however, I’m getting to work on 3-4 major client proposals a day. These are reviewed by some of my team members and then delivered to clients (which typically are fortune 500 companies — a bit intimidating, check here to see a list of some of our past customers). My team needs me to help with this function because clients are reaching out so frequently that we’re inundated with requests. I feel like whereas some interns and friends in other jobs are getting an opportunity to learn by observation, I’m getting to learn first-hand, almost in a trial by fire fashion, which is a really exciting position to be in — and in my opinion, the best way for anyone to learn quickly.

I ‘m looking forward to learning more, developing more skills while improving on those I’ve already developed, and contributing more and more to my team in the coming weeks.

Higher Art Galleries week #3

Friday, June 16, 2017 5:22 pm

Higher Art Galleries has made tremendous progress this past week. We have had small successes (ex: creating Higher Art Galleries business cards that we can now give out to interested customers or businesses) all the way to much larger successes (ex: finding a printing partner in Brooklyn).

However, what we are most excited about this week is our redefinition of our company and what we sell/do. After weeks of contemplation and evaluation, we have decided our content creation needs to be our sole focus. Our plan is to be in the business of creating content above all else. Then, once we create content and gain a following, selling our product/products will be much easier.

There is no platform on the market right now that is a hub for emerging artists. Higher Art Galleries wants to be the fist. Our content will include many different resources for emerging artists and anyone interested in young artists. In addition, we hope to include native advertising in our content for an added revenue stream.

We want Higher Art Galleries to be so much more than an online art gallery. We want to be a one-stop shop for anything that relates to emerging artists. Whether what you want is an art related article, video tutorial, interview, or original painting, we want Higher Art Galleries to be the only website that can give you everything you need.

We have a meeting with an expert on content and distribution next week that we hope to gain insight from.

Look out for many changes in our site in the coming weeks!

More than Socks. More than Cancer.

Thursday, June 15, 2017 6:13 pm

Although Resilience Project took shape after my rebellion against standard issue hospital socks, it stemmed from something larger, something much closer to my heart than a pair of socks. Every family has baggage and mine is no exception. Beyond my mother’s battle with breast cancer. Beyond my parents’ divorce. Beyond my father’s recovery from a crippling drug addiction. Beyond my sister’s late diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, there is one story of resilience that has been perhaps the most formative experience of my life.

Ten years ago, after uncharacteristically beating my brother Eric, who is three years to my senior, in a game of pool, I went upstairs to find an empty bottle of antidepressant medication. Waiting on edge while my mom rushed home to take him to the ER, I remember struggling to understand why my brother, my own flesh and blood, would ever want to take his own life. He had been diagnosed with depression and psychosis, but I didn’t understand what that meant. To me, it felt like he was in a funk and should snap out of it; mental illness was too intangible for my thirteen-year-old brain. However, that changed when I visited him at the psychiatric hospital. Imagine walking onto a hospital floor of psychiatric patients around your age—some being physically restrained as they scream obscenities at hospital staff, some looking like overmedicated zombies, and imagine one of those patients being your brother. Imagine listening to him swear at your mother, insisting that she was not his real mom. This was the same brother with whom I had shared so many skinned knees, the same brother who had saved me as a toddler from walking into the street unaccompanied, and yet here he was, denying any affiliation with my family.

Gradually, the hospitalizations became less frequent as Eric worked through regular therapy sessions and found the medication that worked best for him. This was not a linear process, as many more painful experiences came before there was relief for Eric and our family. Now, 10 years later, Eric has earned a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University and is using his personal experience battling mental illness to help others. Once a teenager unable to separate reality from the permanent nightmare living inside his head, Eric has become a force for good in a world stigmatizing mental health.

Eric’s experience demonstrated that adversity takes many forms, and in some cases, it can literally be inside your head attacking from within. When my oncologist called me on that fateful Friday of October 8th, 2015, and described the significance of my PET scan showing continued growth of the lymphoma clusters in my chest, I was no less scared than any twenty-one-year-old, but overtime, I learned to cope because Eric had given me a mental model of changing from within. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, writes, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Resilience isn’t simply about perseverance, it’s about adaptability. Resilience Project isn’t about socks. It’s not about cancer. In my freshman year computer science class, the professor, Dr. Paúl Pauca, told us the following when talking about his handicapped child, “Years ago I made the conscious decision to count up on the things that he can do, and not down on the things he can’t.”

That child is Victor Pauca and he’s our first non-cancer patient. Resilience takes many forms.

UpDog Kombucha Week 2

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 2:20 pm

The first big task I’ve been assigned to at UpDog is to redo the website. Originally we had planned for a slight remodel, but after thinking it through, we decided that restarting from scratch was the best way to make sure that all the new features we wanted to be a part of the site were included in the new site. I’d done a little bit of work with graphic design before, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work on redesigning a full site, so I was exciting to get to work on creating a new page that is both informative and aesthetically pleasing.

 

In my head, creating a new website would be as simple as labeling tabs and inputting information. I didn’t realize the thought and deliberation that goes into exactly what is put on there ranging from information about the product, information about the company, and answers to many frequently asked questions. All this alongside trying to make the website look clean and put together seemed a little daunting at first, but has turned into a rewarding project to work on, as I can see my project grow each day.

 

The section I’m tackling first is the Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQs) and in doing this, I have been able to learn even more about the business, what goes into the product, and the benefits of kombucha overall. By trying to think ahead of the customer and drawing upon questions that people at farmers’ markets typically ask me., I’ve been able to piece together what other information will be important to feature on our new site.

 

Overall, I’m excited with the progress we’ve made on the site so far and I can’t wait to see the final product come to life soon!

 

Neighbor Week 3

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:12 am

The idea for neighbor has evolved over time but the core concept of peer2peer delivery came when I was studying abroad in Shanghai and realized how great but still chaotic the delivery system is over there. Labor is very cheap and due to this there a tons of delivery drivers on motorbikes delivering anything throughout the city for a very little fee. I was wondering whether this concept would work in more developed places but realized quickly that due to the higher cost of labor this won’t work unless people are not doing it as a job but on their daily commutes and errands.

However, with the increasing competition and the fact that a lot of stores already are on board of a couple of delivery system I thought it would be hard to go straight to city to try the p2p approach. In addition, I believe the user education aspect would be incredible expensive in a city. However, I thought colleges and closed eco-systems might be an interesting area to start and try the concept. This is where we are now.

The advantage with a university is also that we just need to talk to a couple of people to onboard every store since they are generally run by one entity even though they are different brands. In addition, another aspect of easiness is that students use meal plan currency and by being able to process the meal plans we save on credit card transaction cuts. However, all these advantages have turned also in quite some pain points. Yes, you need only get one partner at a school. But since this partner is big and powerful we have way less leverage and negotiation power as if we were talking to little stores individually. The same applies to the meal plan provider. There are about two large companies in the US that are providing the software to almost all universities. Getting them to allow us to use their API is more challenging than expected.

Lastly, let me give an update on the week. I have been the last week in Germany to figure out how we are setting up our entity here in Europe. In addition, I have visited potential areas of operations and met with interesting potential partners for a more global expansion. Further, our developers have completed the first major parts of the application and so far, we keep on track for our development schedule.

EncepHeal Therapeutics-Week 1

Monday, June 12, 2017 8:06 pm

It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans regularly use cocaine. It would not be surprising if you knew someone, either directly or indirectly, who has or is struggling with cocaine dependency. However, despite the high prevalence of cocaine abuse, there is no effective FDA-approved therapeutic treatment. Surprising, right?!

Let me try to break down as easily as possible how cocaine works in the brain…

Normally when we consume or engage in something pleasurable (e.g. eating an oreo!), we get a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine from neurons, our brain cells. We have a transporter (DAT) that will take back this dopamine into the cell and normalize levels. Cocaine acts by binding to this transporter and blocking its function, leaving elevated levels of dopamine swimming around in our brain, which results in a heightened and lasting feeling of pleasure. With consistent use, the chemistry of our brain changes and what used to give us pleasure is now dampened, thus requiring the intake of cocaine just to feel “normal.” Cocaine abusers will get an insurmountable craving to obtain the drug. Think of someone you may know, maybe during college, who used Adderall (also a psychostimulant). They were more talkative, focused, and energized when taking the drug, but then afterwards they “crash” and feel sluggish, inattentive, etc. In addition to the craving, deficits in executive function, attention, and working memory are also driving factors behind the drive to continue cocaine use.

Modafinil, commonly known as Provigil, is a wakefulness-promoting agent used to treat narcolepsy and sleep apnea. It has recently been investigated as a treatment for cocaine dependence because it binds to the same transporter (DAT) in the brain but is not a stimulant, is not addictive, and has few to no side effects. However, promising results from clinical trials are only modest. This leaves researchers wondering if maybe the chemistry of modafinil can be modified in such a way to enhance its effect in the brain, while still excluding any potential addictive properties or side effects.

This summer I will be working with EncepHeal Therapeutics, a start-up biotech company that will be testing modafinil analogues for the potential treatment of cocaine addiction. I will learn everything that relates to the drug development pipeline, from animal research experiments to the clinical trials phase. Some of my responsibilities will involve research on the market assessment, financials, and competition of EncepHeal’s core business practices, shadowing animal experiments, analysis of data collected, presenting pertinent scientific literature, and exploring ways to expand on the company’s mission to provide a comprehensive treatment for substance abuse. I hope to learn about the roles of each member in the company, the financial work required to start up and maintain a biotech company, and the steps involved in the drug development pipeline.

Potential cocaine abuse treatment coming your way! Stay tuned to learn what I learn.

 

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