Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

Author Archive

Excitement for the Road to Come

Thursday, August 24, 2017 7:04 pm

This summer has flown by as usual. I am proud of the work I have accomplished and am thankful for the many lessons learned, but the journey never stops. In ways, being back at Wake is easier for me to run my startups. Generally speaking, I am within closer proximity to my partners and advisors, but on the flip side I have less time on my hands. As I look forward this semester, I am anxiously waiting our patent response, excited about a new partnership, and will continue research and development of my most ambitious project to date. I’d like to thank the Entrepreneurship department for this fellowship and the constant support and mentorship they provide. This is certainly not the end of my entrepreneurial journey, but thanks for stopping by over the course of this summer.

Cultivating Culture

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 7:22 pm

In thinking about the “cultures” of the ventures I seek to develop, there is no simple definition, rather, the overall concept of evolution. I am reenergized through speaking to those who have a similar eye for innovation, and I highly value the pursuit of excellence, even when it means realizing I don’t have all of the answers myself. To that end, decisions are made based on consultation with my advisors or industry experts. While the power of the “gut feeling” should never be marginalized, I also find it extremely important to make informed decisions based on the best resources I have available. At the end of the day, I’m, along with my respective partners, are responsible for the direction of my companies, but I make these choices with careful consideration and never without the advice of those I am fortunate enough to have helping me along the way.

Teamwork is very important to me as a founder, but I also admit that each of my partners have unique skill sets and as such it would be trivial to insist that we always both contribute to every task. Since we share a similar vision, it’s easy to work independently to some extent without straying from our agreed objectives. The fact that I don’t share a physical workspace, or even live in the same state, makes some of our more collaborative tasks challenging and we have to work to make sure it isn’t an obstacle in getting things done the way we want them. I also make sure to review our progress as a team, so that we can decide how we need to adjust our respective tasks and determine who would be best suited for new ones. This affects the work environment because it places a great deal of responsibility on each of us- we certainly don’t want to let one another down and always strive to deliver more than expected.

Popping my Networking Bubble

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 4:49 pm

As I continue on my entrepreneurial journey, I am realizing more and more the power of networking. I believe that the average Wake Forest student believes they are either already building a solid network or at least have the skills to do so. However, as I thought about my own network I realized it was pretty redundant, generally speaking me and my close connections know the same people. This became troubling to me when I read an article with research suggesting that some of the biggest opportunities (whether it be ventures, jobs, etc.) of our lives come through our weak ties. So as I return to Wake for my junior year, I’ll return with a heightened sense of how can I “pop my own bubble” and expand my network.

The Power of the Crowd

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 10:33 am

Some of you reading this might think that this is so 2005, but it took me until second semester of my sophomore year to figure out how useful crowdsourcing can be. As an entrepreneur, I run into things all the time that I want for my company that I personally don’t have the skill to do. By using crowdsourcing, I can overcome my own limitations and knowledge gaps by relying on the collective intelligence of essentially the whole world on a pay-for-use basis. For example, Hannah and I needed an updated animation video for our Demo Day pitch. Neither one of us can animate things and we were in a time crunch, so we turned to Fiverr and within 48 hours we had the animation that we needed.

Crowdsourcing can take many forms, especially on a college campus, but more often than not it is seen as a compelling approach from an economic viewpoint. It maintains a task-based and project-oriented focus that accommodates the emerging rapid-cycle way of doing business, affording a particular degree of organizational agility. Thereby, it has the capability to fulfill growing demands for fast solutions to startup problems by leveraging the scale of the crowd. Crowds are not bound to a specific company, employer, etc. They are not defined by one specific role or tied to any particular structures. These crowds are energized by intrinsic motivations and driven by their individual desire to learn and explore. These intrinsic motivations can drive better and more efficient outcomes for the sourcing company.

Due to its plug and play nature, crowdsourcing gives entrepreneurs immediate access to enormous crowds of people, qualified to solve their challenges at low costs. At the same time, leveraging the power of the crowd takes advantage of the collective learning and knowledge in a given location that otherwise would not be possible to obtain. Despite benefits, crowdsourcing has limitations and the central risk lies in the expectations of the quality of the delivery. That is also why crowdsourcing is a perfect fit for startups, because it works best for the smaller, independent projects that startups need done.

Sophomore Startup

Monday, July 31, 2017 12:35 pm

In addition to working on SimpullCork this summer, I am also in the process of starting another startup that will focus on the development of products in various spaces. SimpullCork was my first startup and Hannah and I jumped straight in not really knowing what we were doing/ what we were getting ourselves into.

Now that I’m on my sophomore startup, I see why some people translate sophomore to “wise fool.” I know way more than I did a year and a half ago, but I still have a lot to learn. Building off what I’ve learned through work experience and my entrepreneurship classes, I am forming this startup slower than my first. I’m making sure those foundational legal building blocks are in place before jumping in head first. Now the challenge is how to book strap those essential blocks while still having a solid foundation.

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!

“But how?”

Thursday, June 8, 2017 11:49 am

Hannah and I founded SimpullCork on an idea and a rough prototype mock up. For about a year that is all we used to pitch and demonstrate our product because, quite simply, it worked. From very early on people began to ask, “but how does it work?” That was a question that we previously did not have an answer to and have spent the past two months pouring into engineering and industrial design to answer it.

Fit is extremely important to me and Hannah when choosing who we do business with. That’s why we spent many hours calling, emailing, and meeting with potential firms before we made our final decision of who we would work with. I believe all the up-front time and effort was certainly worth it in the long run. We ended up with a firm who shared our vision and passion for our product. They wanted us to be intimately involved in the design process, updating us regularly and asking for our thoughts and feedback.

We now have multiple methods of production for our product. We went in to the project only expecting one design, but are thrilled that others emerged through the process. Not only did this process yield engineering specs and drawings, but it also yielded data that confirmed our product does indeed make it easier to remove a cork and much more. In the immediate future, we are using this data to further our IP claims.

How the Nation’s Highest Court is Helping Startups

Friday, May 26, 2017 2:20 pm

This summer I will be working on three of my own ventures, all with unique intellectual property (IP) claims. I believe that IP protection is critical to innovation. Without protection of ideas, individuals cannot reap the full benefits of their inventions and subsequently focus less on research and development. The complex systems of IP and patent law have fascinated me ever since we filed our first patent on our EZ Cork technology. EZ Cork (operating as Simpull Cork) is an integrated loop system in synthetic cork which allows a consumer to open a wine bottle without the use of external tools and for the original cork to be placed back into the bottle and reused. Now that we are in the thick of the patenting process, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the US patent system. Recently The Supreme Court handed down a ruling that will affect all of us with IP claims, so I wanted to share.


The Supreme Court recently ruled on TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods which began as a simple patent infringement suit, but quickly took national significance as it called into question where cases like these could be tried. Until the Supreme Court’s ruling this week, patent lawsuits could be heard all across the country, giving companies the opportunity to seek out courts where the odds were tilted in their favor. This led to a kind of clustering, where a handful of federal courts became responsible for deciding a huge number of patent cases. One major example is the Eastern District of Texas, which is notorious both for hearing a lot of patent infringement cases and also for handing accusers big wins.

What Does It Means to Us

This ruling is a big deal, particularly for small companies. The court voted unanimously to say that patent lawsuits should be tried where the defending company is based, rather than in a court of the plaintiff’s choosing. Legal analysts say this decision could shift a huge number of cases away from “plaintiff-friendly” districts and toward more “neutral” venues where a defending company stands a better chance of fending off a suit.

Startups often worry about being sued by firms that simply hold a lot of patents, but don’t use them to manufacture any goods. These are called “nonpracticing entities,” or “patent trolls,” because their main source of revenue comes from suing companies for infringement and hoping they settle, rather than using their patents to create things. Trolls lose if the company it’s targeting calls its bluff — if it takes the nonpracticing entity to court and wins. This becomes more likely, analysts say, if patent cases can be heard in venues other than the ones that trolls prefer. If startups can spend less time and money on frivolous lawsuits, they can reinvest those resources into further innovation.

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