Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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.

Higher Art Galleries week #8

Saturday, August 12, 2017 9:52 pm

I cannot believe summer is already coming to an end. The end of summer means that I need to go back to Wake Forest for my senior year, which also means that Higher Art Galleries will need to operate with the founders in different states for the first time.

After this summer, however, I am confident that we will be able to work via Skype and other forms of communication to keep our business up and running smoothly.

This summer was a summer of many changes for Higher Art Galleries. Two of the three founders graduated, and all three founders (Brooke, Zanny, and myself) had to juggle jobs and internships along with our jobs at Higher Art Galleries. While juggling everything was challenging, it showed us that we could have full time jobs, go to school, and still operate the business. It is our dream to one day not need to work additional jobs, but that is not a reality anywhere in our near future.

Right now, we are focused on giving our customer what they want in the most efficient way possible. We are streamlining and changing our website, artist contracts, and other forms of communication so that our company gives the customer what they want, which in turn gives us the income to help Higher Art Galleries grow and prosper.

Brooke, Zanny, and I were fortunate enough to carry out our entrepreneurship venture in New York City this summer. We were exposed to incredibly resourceful mentors and business people who gave us guidance and advice. We took what they gave us, coupled with customer discover, and created a more succinct vision of our company- one that delivers a product that is more personal and “niche.”

Our largest realization this summer was that our customer not only wants to buy art made by students from their university, but on top of that, they want the art to remind them of their university. From a social media marketing perspective this will help boost our reach and target market as well.

I have technically finished my Wake Forest Summer Fellowship, but I never really stop working on Higher Art Galleries. This summer has been full of changes in our vision (with a few sales here and there), but more than anything it was full or business discoveries that will help us in the future. If you are interested to see Higher Art Galleries’ changes to come please follow us on social media (handles below). It’s been a wonderful summer!



EncepHeal Therapeutic’s Business Meeting Example: Critical Decisions

Saturday, August 12, 2017 10:21 am

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the factors that contributes to the efficiency of the Chorus Model is the teams ability to decide early on the likelihood of success for a particular drug compound. They use what’s called a critical success factor (CSF), which basically is criteria for determining whether a compound reaches the threshold for certain qualities, or whether the compound should be modified/discontinued. In this way, the company doesn’t waste resources, such as time and money, on compounds that are more than likely to be unsuccessful at the later, more costly stages of drug development.

Our recent business meeting was also centered around developing a critical decisions plan, but with a slightly different approach. We do already have a model to determine what qualifies for a compound to move forward, so the next step was to assess various realistic scenarios and what decisions should be made, in the likelihood of a scenario taking place.

We split up the scenarios into categories of research & development, funding, personnel, government & policy, and license & patent. They were then categorized based on whether it was a best, average, or worst scenario. So for example, our lead compound, under the best scenario in research & development, would take a minimum amount of time (<2 years) using the current development plan, and we would be able to screen for not only cocaine but also for methamphetamine and other indications. An average case scenario for personnel, for example, would be that the company has to be run under multiple operational locations. Potential tasks to be taken in result of this situation may include doing board meetings in person, determining the function of each location, and meeting guidelines for certain venture funds that are location-specific.

By anticipating and addressing possible scenarios across a range of factors that play a role in drug development, we will be prepared to respond with utmost diligence. If there is imminent change to a certain policy issue, we will be able to modify our research & development plan to accommodate this scenario. This critical decisions task has given me insight into what the experts in both the science and business sectors of the company are thinking, when it comes to the success of the company. Based on my own background in drug development and from what I’ve learned so far in this internship, I have been able to contribute to this decisions meeting with the proposition of additional likely scenarios.

Stay tuned for an example of what goes on in our science meetings!

RLM Associates Week 6

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 11:55 am

This week at RLM we have moved to focus almost entirely on the software development. I do a few daily things like check book sales and run reports on marketing campaigns. So far the marketing is going as planned. We haven’t had to do much revising but we do have to keep up with all of the updates. We just came to another point where we could change campaigns if need-be but after reviewing everything we decided to continue with the current process.

For the software, we met with the company producing it a few times to see what they would need to get started and to see what format they would prefer the information to come in. The first thing we did was define the minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP will later fit into the completed software, but the MVP can be fully developed more quickly and will allow us to start working with the product in its early stages much sooner. Defining the MVP took a lot of going back and forth and editing, first for content, and then for clarity. Once this was completed we sent it over to the company we’re working with. We than defined the entire software but more generally. The company won’t dive right into developing this fully, as they are with the MVP. Instead they will begin by building and creating wire frames, which are visual representations of what the software will look like. This ensures that we are on the same page before they begin to put too many hours into the product. They will then add a voice over to the wire frames and the video will serve as a demo and a way of explaining to product to investors and users. Doing it this way then also gives us more time to perfect the final product. Defining the wire frame once again took a lot of going back and forth but we sent that over to them by the end of the week.

Thursday and Friday of this week I was tasked with bringing a new intern up-to-date. She won’t start working for a few weeks, but we wanted to have her ready to go for when I return to school. I organized all the information for her so it was self-explanatory and then also created a little cheat sheet of what each company was, what they sold, what we are working on for them, and what step in the process we are at for each. She won’t be back for a week and a half, at which point I’ll update her. She’ll have a week to transition before I leave, so we’ll be moving quickly but I think it will be enough time!

EncepHeal Therapeutic’s Drug Development Model: Part 2

Monday, August 7, 2017 10:17 am

As part of our weekly business meetings, I present to the team information about some topic that the other intern and I have been assigned. One example of this was looking into the developmental model that EncepHeal Therapeutics partly mirrors. The Chorus Model, an internal branch of Eli Lilly, takes the “quick-win, fast-fail” approach to drug development, shown in Figure 1, vs. the traditional model. The purpose of presenting on this model was to share the aspects of Chorus that serve to expedite the pipeline of drug development, in addition to the ways EncepHeal Therapeutics can capitalize and expand on these strategies.

Traditional vs. Chorus Model

Figure 1: Traditional vs. Chorus Model

The Chorus model differs from the traditional model in that instead of obtaining their proof-of-concept (POC) at the end of phase II, which typically costs about $40 million, they get POC at an earlier point. They don’t invest in the later, more expensive and larger clinical trials until they have data providing some proof that their compound(s) are likely to be successful in a larger population of patients. This is called their “lean-2-proof-of-concept,” with the premise of getting as many early-stage compounds to POC as cost effectively as possible. They don’t invest in any manufacturing and commercialization of the product until they have a validated mechanism of action for their drug candidate. This higher probability of technical success saves them a lot of money if, let’s, say, that drug candidate would have otherwise failed at a later stage for a reason that wasn’t elucidated at an earlier point. EncepHeal Therapeutics is looking to follow this approach. They have several closely related compounds that are going through pre-clinical testing and will be refined into newer generation compounds if there isn’t sound proof of concept, such as a safety profile that will likely translate well into humans.

By presenting this model to the the CEO, CSO, and a couple of business and science advisors, EncepHeal members can identify areas where they would like to differ from the Chorus Model, to be even more efficient along their drug development pipeline. For example, one alternative strategy that was discussed was the possibility of testing the lead compound in a very small sample of non-human primates (NHP), shortly following rodent testing. For a drug to become FDA-approved, various toxicology and safety studies need to be conducted, using two different animals. NHPs are typically the higher-organism chosen, due to the high likelihood of results being translatable to humans. However, this testing is very costly. The idea of testing a promising compound in a smaller-than-normal sample would allow a quicker premature confirmation that the lead compound is likely to be successful at later stages.

The opportunity to research ways in which EncepHeal is similar and different than other companies gives me a keen perspective into what makes biotechnology companies succeed and fail. There are plenty of biotechnology companies that start out okay, but then fail and crumble. To ensure that EncepHeal is not only successful but also efficient in it’s drug development strategy, it’s crucial to understand how other similar companies are run. At our weekly meetings we can discuss how we are and should model some of these strengths. For example, the operational efficiency within the Chorus Model partly lies with them defining what their critical success factor (CSF) is from the start, so that if a compound falls short of certain thresholds, it’s discontinued.

Stay tuned to learn how EncepHeal Therapeutics is modelling various strengths characteristic of the Chorus Model, such as determining the minimum essential criteria needed for drug compounds to move forward.


EncepHeal Therapeutic’s Drug Development Model

Sunday, August 6, 2017 1:35 pm

Traditional drug development models describe the process of taking a drug from the drug discovery phase to FDA approval in 8-15 years (Figure 1). In addition, it costs about $1 billion for the entire process. This daunting pipeline is partly due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies oversee the entire process, which requires the need for in-house chemists to develop the compounds, to clinical research teams that carry out the early- and late-phase clinical trials.

Drug Development Gap

Figure 1. Drug Development Gap

To lessen the cost and time, larger companies are now moving towards developing at the later stages of research, by conducting clinical trials. In this way, they can bypass the early stages that require laboratories to do the pre-clinical animal research, as well as all of the personnel required for those tasks. The approach of EncepHeal Therapeutics is to bridge the gap, as shown in Figure 2, between early research discovery and commercialization/mitigating risk. One of my tasks has been to look into the drug development model that other pharmaceutical companies follow and compare/contrast with the model of EncepHeal. Understanding what works with these new and upcoming alternative models will provide greater insight into how EncepHeal can modify and expand on their own model and be even more efficient.

By in-licensing modafinil analogues from NIDA, EncepHeal can skip straight to carrying out the pre-clinical assays and early clinical trials. Once proof of concept has been established, they can out-source their lead compound(s) to a larger pharmaceutical company that’s specialized in the later clinical phase stages. In this way, EncepHeal Therapeutics can use their scientific team that has expertise in those particular experiments, and leave the other tasks to better equipped external experts.

Bridging the Drug Development Gap

Figure 2. Bridging the Drug Development Gap

Stay tuned to learn more about EncepHeal Therapeutic’s drug development model, which can potentially cut the time and cost associated with the typical 8-15 year drug development pipeline, by half.

UpDog Kombucha Weeks 6 and 7

Saturday, August 5, 2017 5:10 pm

Things have been super busy at UpDog, which unfortunately led me to fall behind in my posting, so I’ve combined my thoughts and experiences from the past two weeks into one blog post!

After completing the website, I turned my attention to researching how to get the kombucha nutritionally tested. Getting the product tested would a huge step because it allows us to have concrete facts and figures regarding the nutritional benefits of the kombucha to share with customers. While we know that the beverage itself is low sugar and low calorie, customers are comforted by having a specific number to associate with that. Nutrition facts would also be a great addition to our bottles as they would allow for customers to more accurately compare our products with others and be able to see the benefits that UpDog kombucha provides besides just tasting good!

I ran into a few roadblocks with my research at first, as many places do not test fermented products. Once I found a couple locations willing to service kombucha, I had to run price comparisons to see which places make the most financial sense for a small company that does not ship their product. I’m currently in the final stages of deciding which organization to test with, and hopefully we’ll be able to add an accurate nutritional label in the near future!

Besides that research, I’ve continued my rounds of deliveries to both old and new locations. I’ve learned how to think on my feet and am now comfortable enough with our product and how we sell it to troubleshoot and work with customers without having to call one of the owners to clarify what my next step should be. I’m so grateful to be working in a small environment that allows me to be so independent and to take charge on my own sales and accounts.

Entering into my last week is bittersweet to say the least. While I can’t say I’ll miss the 4:45am wake up calls on some Saturdays, I will miss being able to be a part of a rapidly expanding small business run by two women who I greatly admire. I can’t wait to see what my last week has in store!

EncepHeal Therapeutic’s Financial Pipeline

Saturday, August 5, 2017 3:01 pm

It all began a couple of years ago in 2015, at the Neuro Startup Challenge, a competition hosted by the Center for Advancing Innovation. With the winning innovative idea to use modafinil anaologues for treating stimulant addiction, EncepHeal Therapeutics was given the opportunity to in-license these analogues, synthesized by a chemist from NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse). With the company now off the ground, next began the search for accelerators and grants to fund the initial seed stage of their business plan.

Accelerators are funded programs offered to startup business teams as a chance to win seed funding and gain mentorship to “accelerate” the initial stage of business development. EncepHeal Therapeutics was a finalist among 8 teams in the 2016 New Ventures Challenge, run by Flywheel in Winston-Salem. The 12-week rigorous program consisted of business professionals providing their expertise in product development, sales, marketing, and funding strategies. In addition to this came an average $50,000 per startup team.

With EncepHeal Therapeutics looking to start their pre-clinical studies in 2017, greater funds were warranted. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a government-funded program that helps small businesses with their research and development (R&D). The program is divided into three phases, with the first phase aimed at funding feasibility and proof of concept, phase II aimed at funding research and development, and the third phase for commercialization. At the end of April 2017, EncepHeal Therapeutics was awarded a Phase I SBIR grant worth $300,000 to begin its pre-clinical screening assays, which has recently commenced. To help expedite this pipeline to Phase II, EncepHeal will use the $65,000 awarded by the NC Small Business Program in May, 2017.

I began my internship with EncepHeal Therapeutics at about the time when their drug screening assays were initiated. This has given me a neat perspective at seeing how and what sorts of funding is sought out for the initial stage of their drug development model, as well as for the prospective milestones. Funding for the future stages will come from venture capital funds, investors, grants, and possible non-traditional funding sources. Stay tuned to learn more about dilute and non-dilutive funding!



Higher Art Galleries week #7

Thursday, August 3, 2017 7:11 pm

As Brooke, Zanny, and I approach the end of summer, we are rapidly trying to organize our business so that our day to day tasks can be completed without meeting in person.

Most importantly, that means we need a completed website, artist starter pack, and contracts for business partners from our legal expert.

This week we made great progress on our website. It is structured very differently from our previous website. The new site is more simple, sleek, and designed to get the customer to make a purchase more quickly.

We also worked on creating content such as blogs, Instagram photos, and newsletters. In addition, we created a Pinterest (which is an important social platform to be on in the art world).

This week our artists have been working on inventory for our site. It is our goal to have our new website up with our new inventory within the next 2 weeks. Once we complete that, we will make a social media advertising push to gain traction and better understand our customer.

This week we also created a calendar with important Wake Forest University dates (ex: move in day, parents weekend, etc.) so that we can strategically plan our social media campaigns following our launch.

Stay tuned for next week, my last week!

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.

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